Retailers stepped up their game this year to avoid a repeat of the millions of missed deliveries they suffered last year. Some invested in more automation in the warehouse with robots and in the yard with more yard management systems (YMS), while others capped Christmas shipments to avoid being overwhelmed.
Fortunately, the 2014 holiday delivery schedule was not hit by a polar vortex as in the previous year. We made several recommendations for operational improvements to yard operators at retail distribution centers to improve order processing times and gain aggregate reductions in yard visit times for both trailers and drivers. Below I have listed some of the tactics they employed to reduce the latency in their supply chain execution:
- Permanently RFID tagged trailers can be automatically checked-in and checked-out using fast-path lanes. Dedicated or private fleets really benefit here.
- Capturing shipment information from transportation and warehouse systems and providing it to the gate before trailers arrive accelerates check-in. With this foresight, guards simply enter the trailer number to get all the advance shipment information pre-populated.
- By having information about the product being carried available during check-in, and knowing which doors are unoccupied, lets the YMS instantly assign the appropriate dock door. This shipment information also lets the gate guard direct drivers who are picking up loads.
- Given the drivers service hours are now regulated, driver wait times can be reduced by bypassing visits to the shipping office. By assigning the drop location for the driver and eliminating the need for a visit the shipping office is vital.
- Using an RTLS based yard management system eliminates the time taken to locate trailers to further drive down driver wait times.
Not all the above tactics need to be employed on day one. They can be eased in over time to make everyone’s jobs easier and improve the overall performance of the facility. We cannot control the whether, but we can accelerate execution to handle the next perfect storm of unexpected snow and peak demand.