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How Digital Yards Can Solve Supply Chain’s Biggest Pain Points

Rafael Granato
by Rafael Granato on Jun 5, 2017 10:35:25 AM

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Most companies will admit that they are hampered by supply chain pain points, seemingly unsolvable inefficiencies that hold them back. Sure, they may have reliable warehouse management systems (WMS) that support the day-to-day operations within the DC’s four walls by tracking inventory and stock locations. And they probably also have a transportation management system (TMS) planning out the routes, optimizing loads, and orchestrating freight audit and payment.

But somewhere in between those two systems there’s a definitive “black hole” of pain points in their logistics that play a major role in these supply chain inefficiencies:

  • Delayed shipments to and from the warehouse
  • Lack of shipment and trailer visibility needed for efficient shuttling between plant and distribution centers
  • Inability to locate empties to meet outbound load schedules
  • Inefficient yard trailer management requiring higher spotter and shuttle spend
  • Gate congestion
  • Demurrage or detention charges
  • Truck driver detention
  • Inability to monitor operations for safety and compliance violations
  • Difficulty in reducing carbon footprint without negatively impacting operations
  • Lack of visibility when shipments arrive at destination facility

Independently, any one of these supply chain pain points can create major inefficiencies in the supply chain. Collectively, these problems can put significant roadblocks in the way of the manufacturer, retailer, distributor, or third-party logistics provider (3PL) that is seeking high levels of visibility and efficiency across their end-to-end supply chains.

That’s because your yard lies at the intersection between your warehouse and your transportation network. Often neglected—or thought about only after a problem happens—your yard is a critical logistics management link. In that capacity, it can significantly impact the overall efficiency of your supply chain. Whether a mid-sized firm needs a better way to monitor and measure the effectiveness of its yard activities or a large, multinational food service firm needs advanced methods of tracking assets across hundreds of locations, the end game is the same: removing supply chain pain points to find a way to transform the yard into a viable, valuable aspect of their operation.

As a 4PL company, East Coast Warehouse & Distribution Corp., specializes in the import/export of goods and direct delivery drayage, making them no stranger to pain points in logistics. A few years ago, it added PINC’s yard management system to its technology lineup. “It’s RTLS-based yard management and real-time tracking of every container at our facility,” CEO Jamie Overley told Transportation & Logistics International. “What this has allowed us to do is have more productive use of our yard management personnel.”

Today, East Coast Warehouse’s digital yard includes a GPS location for every parking spot or location on its 65 acres at the Port of New York/New Jersey. Those GPS locations have been instrumental in easing supply chain pain points once integrated into the company’s warehouse and transportation management systems. “We are now able to direct our yard personnel to go pick up container X at spot AB5 and deliver to door number Z, for example,” Overley explained in the article.

“Previously, the container was not in an identified parking spot but a general location,” Overley continued. “We are now more efficient in moving containers and able to reduce cost as a result of the yard management system. It also provides customers with real-time accountability of their product so they can understand the status of their container.”

East Coast Warehouse isn’t alone. Any companies that moves inventory through the supply chain realize that supply chain pain points like transportation delays often take place not only on the road, but while the assets are still in yards at distribution centers (DCs) and manufacturing plants. As all goods often go through multiple yards throughout the shipment lifecycle, any pain points in logistics, inefficiencies, or errors in the yard are amplified as the effects permeate the entire supply chain.

When Kraft Foods realized it needed to change the way it managed freight, the global manufacturer took a careful look at the yards spread across its multiple DCs. In particular, it wanted to provide real-time visibility of yard operations and find a more efficient way to spot and track trailers on their premises. To fulfill that need, the company selected PINC’s RTLS-enabled YMS. Using passive tags and yard trucks that are equipped with GPS-enabled RFID readers, the company can now identify trailers by their passive tags and record and report each trailer's position in real time.

The YMS leverages Kraft’s existing yard processes, and since only a handful of yard trucks are needed to support a large number of trailers, the approach is both cost effective and flexible, according to SupplyChainBrain. Additionally, putting RTLS on Kraft’s yard trucks allows it to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) for yard operations and address supply chain pain points in near-real time. The system has since been rolled out to multiple DCs. Kraft was able to experience a 50 percent reduction in truck and driver resources needed for yard operations during the first 12 months.

While corporations have made significant investments in managing their transportation and warehouse assets using transportation and warehouse applications, many now realize that without real-time, accurate trailer and shipment status information across their facilities, they aren’t getting the full return from their technology investments. Without a dependable yard management solution, the actual arrival and departure times of trailers, location information in the yard, and load status are not properly tracked, creating supply chain pain points that adversely impact each facility within the distribution chain.

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Rafael Granato
Written by Rafael Granato
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