Supply Chain and Logistics Technology: YMS moves beyond the lot
April 01, 2014 - LM Editorial
On the prowl for technology solutions that will help streamline their transportation and distribution operations, many companies are tapping into the power of yard management systems (YMS) to help close the supply chain gaps that exist right in their own backyards. In return, these savvy shippers are alleviating long trailer wait times, reducing unproductive personnel numbers, and improving dock planning.
These systems, which most of the time are folded into a logistics operation’s warehouse management system (WMS) or transportation management system (TMS), help synchronize yard operations, orchestrate loading dock activities, and streamline gate check-in.
Using the technology, shippers can track and control the movement of trucking assets; optimize labor resources as they move equipment within the yard; manage shipping and receiving dock doors and parking spots; drastically cut driver detention time; and continuously adjust priorities throughout the day according to receiving and shipping volumes.
Over the next few pages we’ll explore the functionalities of YMS and its use in the field, and then hear from one shipper that has realized significant benefits beyond the lot from its YMS investment.
Keeping tabs on trailers
According to Dwight Klappich, research vice president for Gartner, the size of a shipper’s yard often dictates its YMS needs.
“For a yard with 100 to 200 parking spaces, yard management probably isn’t much of an issue,” says Klappich, who adds that smaller shippers generally just use the “lightweight” YMS options included in their WMS. “However, a DC with 6,000 spaces will be more interested in running a more robust YMS.”
Right now, Klappich says that he’s seeing slow but growing interest in YMS by large yards—many of which want to use real-time locating technology to track trailers while they are onsite. PINC, TrackX (formerly Fluensee), and Zebra Technologies, all offer some variation of this capability. Klappich says that a yard with 250 or more parking spaces is a prime candidate for such solutions due to the complications that can arise when all assets aren’t easy to locate or track.
“YMS also helps shippers fine tune their dock and carrier appointment scheduling,” says Klappich. “So, it’s no longer just about getting a carrier to a dock door, it’s about getting that vehicle in and out of the yard quickly and efficiently.”
Steve Banker, director of supply chain solutions for research firm ARC Advisory Group, says that some of the growth in YMS is being driven by the introduction of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination outbreaks to prevention. And while the law was enacted in 2011, Banker says the transportation-related FSMA recommendations are just now beginning to surface.
Recommendations around truck security, food exposure, and vehicle cleanliness are all being considered, Banker states, and compliance with the new rules could be made easier by YMS. In particular, Banker says that the task management functionality that exists within both WMS and YMS could help shippers create new ad hoc steps to prove, for example, that a truck was cleaned properly or that food wasn’t stacked in a way that would contaminate the items on the bottom of the load.
“As a result of these new rules, food and beverage distributors, farming companies, and other entities that deal with food,” says Banker, “may have an increased need for YMS in the near future.”
Beyond the lot
When it comes to YMS, Joe Vernon, senior manager at research and consulting firm Capgemini, says that he’s fielding more requests from retailers and third-party logistics firms who want standalone YMS—not just the varieties that come packaged as part of a WMS or TMS.
Intent on gaining better visibility of their yards, these firms are seeking more robust features like virtual inventory location and real-time tracking. “They also want to expand their warehouse visibility to show more of their supply chains,” says Vernon. For some shippers, that could include being able to “see” a truck while it’s in the repair shop or viewing current vehicle inventory in a freight forwarder’s yard.
To achieve that goal, Vernon says YMS will have to be able to blend yard management with carrier shipment status messages (or “214s”). By entering a location name like “LA Freight Forwarder,” and other pertinent details, shippers will be able to see what transportation assets are available or in motion, where those assets are located, and how quickly they can be mobilized or delivered.
“It will be one source visibility,” says Vernon, “without the need for a proprietary trailer management web portal.”
With many shippers still using spreadsheets and phone calls to monitor the movement and storage of trailers in the yard, Vernon expects more of them to make the switch to automated yard management solutions in the future.
Klappich concurs, saying that YMS capabilities will expand over the next three years to five years to include command center-like oversight of multiple yards. “A few leading edge YMS providers are focusing on this,” says Klappich, “and finding ways to build more logic into their systems.”
The YMS of the future may also be able to monitor the movement and storage of time-sensitive assets as they sit in the yard, according to Klappich, who sees a time when refrigerated trucks that are about to run out of diesel are quickly identified and prioritized using a YMS.
And while demand for such capabilities isn’t huge right now, Klappich says larger shippers are seeking solutions that “go beyond just managing the parking lot.”
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