Selecting a Yard Management System

Yard management systems (YMS) enable companies to connect to activity in the yard, on the docks, and at the gates—improving the flow of goods in and out of the facility. A YMS should be easy to use and quickly adopted by end users, recommends Nate Harris, president, Cypress Inland Corporation, a yard management software company based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Here are his tips for selecting the right YMS for your yard.

1. Identify the specific operational challenges you want the YMS to resolve. Don’t just list your requirements; determine the real-world issues you want to address, then understand the YMS features that will help solve them. Start by fixing what you know is broken in your yard, and you will quickly add to the bottom line.

2. Find a system that is easy to use. The yard is often managed by multiple entities with different interests. All parties—gate clerks, hosting services, warehouse managers, and third-party logistics providers—can adopt an easy-to-use yard management system that gets them working together and on the same page with information.

3. Look for a YMS that can integrate with existing systems. Integrating your YMS with proprietary or third-party systems—including transportation management and warehouse management solutions—can greatly improve operational efficiencies and boost information accuracy. Look for a provider that can verify the success of these integration projects.

4. Choose a provider with real-world operations experience. Software vendors that can write code are great, but those with transportation, logistics, and supply chain experience can identify with your issues, and offer or develop features and functionality to help. And they might just offer advice that doesn’t require a new software feature, saving time and money.

5. Find a provider that continues to evolve. Choose a YMS supplier that is committed to keeping up-to-date with current technologies, and positioned to be available for decades to come.

6. Ask for and check references. Who better to offer insight to a system’s performance than its end users? Ask them the hard questions: "What don’t you like about the system?" and "How quickly does the provider respond to support calls?"

7. Select a vendor that can accommodate your budget. Some YMS vendors offer multiple pricing models designed to help you procure a system quickly. Look for a model that helps you gain value without the need for a large capital expenditure approval, which can delay savings and efficiencies.

8. Determine the actual cost of your problems. Throwing $100,000 at a $30,000 issue doesn’t make sense. Find a vendor able to offer the right solutions to your challenges that don’t involve writing another or bigger check.

9. Seek out a highly configurable product. Some robust and fancy software programs feature rules that don’t make sense for your process. A YMS should translate your current processes into its software package, and not force you to adapt to its programming requirements.

10. Act now, don’t wait. Every major stand-alone YMS solution on the market today will add efficiencies and save money. Start saving time and money today by telling a YMS vendor your deepest and darkest yard management issues. Chances are, they have solved them before.

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