The Case for Yard Management Systems, Part II

This is the second in a two part series on yard management. Last week we focused on how yard management can quickly move product through the distribution center. This week, we’ll discuss the role technology plays.

The Case for Yard Management Systems, Part I

The first step in shopping for a yard management system is identifying the gaps that exist for improving your yard operations. Do a little homework on the marketplace. The technology varies and so does the functionality. The outcome here is to identify the processes that could be improved and get a fair idea how much improvement may be possible for what cost. Keep in mind that you’re not selecting a system; you’re validating your views on what YMS can do for you.

It’s important to understand how the technology or process models within a yard system contribute to improvement, and therefore savings. You’ll need to answer questions such as “Does having real time location systems eliminate the need for yard checks?” The answers will help you evaluate a more realistic view of benefits.

For example: Yard checks are a good time to verify data integrity. Certainly, if you are doing yard checks using a printed sheet or manual log, YMS significantly reduces the amount of time spent on them. While current location is a critical data element in yard operations, it’s not the only factor. If one of your other requirements is for the YMS to feed dock doors systemically as they empty in receiving, then all data—not just the location—must be 100% accurate to capture the largest benefit.

Yard checks give you an opportunity to correct other trailer information and can also play a role in security by validating seal numbers on loads to ensure that the trailer has not been tampered with since arrival on-lot for unloading or since being placed in the yard after loading. Be sure to give the potential savings a fair evaluation.

But if the YMS does not prioritize the move tasks and present the work to the yard jockey in an order that supports your operations, then you’ll probably still be on the radio telling them which task to do first. Building a business case showing 100% cost savings for two-way communication to the yard jockey would be unrealistic. It’s easy to get caught up in the promises of the technologies.

Yard management systems can and do deliver hard and soft dollar benefits. In addition, they can be a key contributor to operational efficiency. Too often companies justify projects with information gathered at too high a level. Knowing your current processes, why they are performed, and the costs associated with them makes the job of evaluating the potential savings of YMS a much easier task. By peeling off the next layer to understand where you are, you’ll be able to build a more effective and accurate business case for YMS.

Mike Pujda is project manager for Raleigh, NC-based supply chain services consultancy Tompkins Associates.