Within the geography of a supply chain the yard falls between a staged trailer and a loaded dock. It’s a critical transshipment nexus, like any port or rail/intermodal ramp. Ensuring visibility during these “jump” points is a primary concern for all food-grade shippers.
Historically, companies have prioritized transportation management (TMS) and warehouse management systems (WMS) to optimize various logistics functions from planning and procurement to asset and labor utilization. Yard management solutions present yet another opportunity for companies to increase visibility, enhance security, and reduce costs by automating detailed monitoring of trailers at a facility.
For example, a WMS tells a picker to pull SKUs for a particular trailer. A TMS guides that shipment to a specific carrier. But who’s in charge of tracking when a trailer begins unloading or loading and how long it idles in a yard before it moves? Who's tracking government mandatory information?
From a practical perspective, shippers or consignees that don’t know when a trailer arrives in a yard or whether a shipment is sealed and maintained at a proper temperature are leaving the door open to risk. Even a perishable shipment forgotten in a refrigerated trailer for 36 hours can arrive at a retail location in a different condition than if it was properly staged and le a facility right away - thereby compromising its shelf life.
Apart from safety and security, a Yard Management System (YMS) enables shippers to share pertinent information with other parties in the supply chain. There are myriad efficiencies to be gained as a consequence. On average it typically takes a trailer three days to complete a move - 2.5 days may be spent siting in a yard empty or loaded. So yard management solutions can greatly increase asset utilization, prevent demurrage charges, and reduce fuel use and carbon emissions with regards to idling refrigerated trailers.
Moreover, if a shipper reduces the number of trailers dwelling loaded in a yard it can eliminate transient inventory and associated carrying costs from the supply chain. A retailer might take a day worth of safety stock out of a store location if it has confidence turning trailers.
STRENGTHENING THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Businesses can operate pristine warehouses, work with talented core carriers, and manage inbound freight precisely down to the SKU – but if they don’t know where in the yard a shipment or trailer is located all of those other efficiency gains are moot. The consequences may be far worse.
The food supply chain is only as safe and secure as its weakest link. Yard management has never commanded the appreciation, attention, or investment that warehouse and transportation functions have. But with new safety regulations changing standard operating procedures and consumer confidence as fickle as ever, companies that fail to make yard management an integral part of their warehouse operations are risking a lot more than lost trailers.
"Certainly from a corporate perspective, it helps us get... a pulse on what's going on out in the field."