What Is a Yard Management System? A Guide to Efficient Yards

by Vector | Mar 23, 2021 6:45:08 AM

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The global supply chain continues to pivot toward e-commerce. In turn, the end-to-end scope of many companies' supply chains can get incredibly complex. There are so many moving parts that the churn can make your head spin.

For example, yard management systems alone (which we'll focus on today) have taken on some of the language and technology of international airports! Maybe you're wondering what's going to keep everything moving? How about magic?

After all, the global supply chain is pretty amazing when you take a step back, isn't it? Heck, if you've worked in the supply chain industry long enough, you've seen a few rabbits get pulled out of the hat. (And to that, let's just say some shipments arrive on time, in ways that aren't quite explainable.) Indeed, some days it takes magic to keep shipments flowing in and out of a yard efficiently.

So, shy of employing David Blaine or Harry Houdini to manage your yard, how do you get the job done?

Well, considering that the average smartphone would make you or me seem like Merlin if we traveled back in time, the answer is of course technology.

That's what we'll tackle today: yard management system technology. Here's how we'll unveil this topic:

  1. What's a yard management system?
  2. What problems does a YMS address in a company?
  3. What are the benefits of a yard management system?
  4. Are there some common features to look for in YMS offerings?
  5. How can you tie it all together with the other kind of magic (Gartner's Magic Quadrant)?

Rest assured, there are best practices to every yard management system. If you integrate the key components of a successful and efficient yard management system, don't be shocked when (poof!) you and your team suddenly look like magicians. Say "Open sesame," and let's go!

What Is a Yard Management System?

First and foremost: no, the yard management we're talking about today doesn't involve a trip to Home Depot for a bag of Weed & Feed.

According to Rafael Granato over at Pinc.com, a yard management system (YMS) is "an application or [technology] solution designed to oversee the movement of trucks and trailers in the yard of a manufacturing facility, warehouse, or distribution center. Yard Management Systems are also being used to expedite transportation operations, keep drivers safe while moving inventory, and more efficiently manage carrier contracts and accessories fees."

In addition, according to a Gartner report by Simon Tunstall and Bart De Muynck, the yard management system is the critical interface (often missing) between the more common transportation management system (TMS) and warehouse management systems (WMS). As such, the overall goal of YMS incorporation is to integrate with your TMS and WMS. The result of tying these three management platforms together holistically is a higher degree of visibility in your supply chain.

In other words, YMS is like magic that opens bottlenecks.

What Problems Does a YMS Address?

A lot of supply chain industry insiders would agree that the final mile is perhaps the most complex step of any shipment. So when we talk about a YMS, that's what we're up against. In other words, when we discuss the issues that a YMS solves, we're talking about really rolling up our sleeves and tackling one of the supply chain's most notorious bottlenecks.

A YMS brings order to the chaos and lack of visibility inherent in a yard. You can probably picture what that chaos looks like, and perhaps you've even taken it for granted as simply the way it is.

Reality Check

Ask yourself: Does this really have to be the cost of doing business?

  • Long check-in and check-out processes
  • Unorganized traffic patterns
  • Lengthy idle times
  • Excess fuel consumption
  • Lost or damaged freight
  • Slow response times to customers
  • Excessive detention charges (and corresponding headaches)
  • Unproductive administrative time
  • Overabundance of paperwork

The industry was taking steps to improve overall YMS adoption rates. But when COVID struck, inefficiencies—and legitimate risks—came to the forefront of many supply chain discussions. For example, many companies asked, "How do we maintain social distance during the check-in process? How will we sign BOLs safely?" One of the more optimistic sayings we heard during COVID was, "Never let a crisis go to waste."

I believe we're seeing a shift in attitude. The entire supply chain industry is starting to see the obvious upside of YMS technology integrations.

What Are the Benefits of a Yard Management System?

The main benefit of integrating a YMS is streamlined processes throughout your operation. How? In short, increased visibility.

Without YMS, there's a blind spot outside the four walls of the warehouse. But with YMS—through the use of trailer tracking, RFIDs on packaging, and integration between your TMS and WMS—that gap in visibility is filled.

For example, common areas of improvement under a YMS include:

  • Confirmed trailer location and assignment allocation
  • Reduced truck idling time
  • Optimized movement of trucks and trailers between gates, yard, and docks (in other words, reduced empty miles)
  • Reduced reefer trailer and yard mule fuel consumption
  • Eliminated physical paperwork (such as BOLs and PODs) from operations
  • Minimized operational footprint in terms of the personnel and assets required for effective facility operation
  • Support of contractual agreements and automated invoicing
  • Enhanced operational capabilities and risk management portfolio in terms of promoting social distance efforts during COVID
  • Soft benefits of having a strong reputation among drivers and logistics partners

The drivers I know like to drive. They tolerate paperwork. And they dislike quirky or dangerous shipping docks. The reality is, if you can streamline driver workflows, the entire supply chain benefits.

Integration and Digitized Imaging Quality: What to Look for in Your YMS

As noted above, the primary goal when implementing a YMS strategy is to increase overall supply chain visibility. Thus, the key feature you should look for in any YMS is system integration with your TMS and WMS. The left hand must know what the right hand is doing. Everything must integrate in order to work effectively.

Another key defining factor of yard management systems is imaging software. Digitized imaging software is where the rubber meets the road in this evolution of logistics management systems. An industry leader to keep your eye on is a Silicon Valley software company named Vector.

Vector's digitized document software is considered the best in class. In addition, many of the top providers of yard management systems have already partnered with Vector to help streamline their logistics workflow.

Vector has taken bold steps toward expanding the reach of digitization with a call to join the eBOL Task Force. Their goal is to help continue further widespread YMS technology adoption across shippers, carriers, third-party logistics providers, and retailers to collaborate and create a new digital pickup and delivery standard.

Be Visionary: A Final Thought About Gartner's Magic Quadrants

We've talked a lot today about the practical and tactical magic of yard management systems. Integration between YMS, TMS, and WMS creates the visibility that's critical to success for your operation.

But the magic we're ultimately looking to capture is in one of Gartner's Magic Quadrants. Gartner's four magic quadrants provide a good thought exercise. The gartner.com website describes the quadrants as follows:

  • Leaders execute well against their current vision. They're well positioned for tomorrow.
  • Visionaries understand where the market is going or have a vision for changing market rules. But they don't yet execute well.
  • Niche Players focus successfully on a small segment. They may be unfocused. They don't out-innovate or outperform others.
  • Challengers execute well today or may dominate a large segment, but they don't demonstrate an understanding of market direction.

Where do you fit in? What kind of magic do you practice?

Niche Players and Challengers, by definition, each have a blind spot. But as we've covered today, we know where the future is heading. So let's take the right steps and integrate a YMS to get to the next level. Let's position ourselves as Visionaries. And let's strive to become Leaders as we step into a better tomorrow.

Let's make some magic happen.

This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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