The Ultimate YMS Platform Buyer’s Guide

What do you think of when you think of a yard? Dozens of people running around trying to get things done? Long dwell times and mountains of paperwork barely organized in a way that would have made sense 30 years ago? Yeah, sounds about right.

Yard management is that subject everyone knows they need to address — but it’s always knocked down on the to-do list in favor of more pressing tasks. Now is the time to prioritize yard management as a key supply chain digital transformation initiative. A Yard Management System (YMS) answers the need for visibility and so much more. In a way, the yard can act as the watering hole that brings transportation and warehouse together.

But how do you know which YMS is right for you?

Really, the key is picking a solution partner that has the capabilities you need today and has the flexibility to adapt as your processes evolve over time. After all, the future could have dark warehouses or smart warehouses, autonomous vehicles, guard-less facilities, and more that will require an adaptable solution to avoid the headaches you’re
probably dealing with now.

In this guide, we’ll cover the importance of yard management software and what to consider before you buy.


Why YMS Platform Is a Big Deal

So what is a YMS?

Hold up.

First, let’s talk about what everyone in the logistics industry likes talking about — warehouse management systems (WMS). This software is a warehouse’s best friend and is responsible for warehouse task automation and beautifully organized processes.

Another logistics fan favorite is transportation management systems (TMS). These bad boys help optimize shipments, both inbound and outbound. Shippers can use TMS software to predict transportation needs and more.

However, there’s a giant gap that exists between these two systems — the yard. In fact, it has been such a problem, that the yard has been dubbed the “black hole” in logistics for many years.

Now, YMS software can act as the bridge between WMS and TMS software to give visibility across the board. Instead of a black hole, a yard with sophisticated — and integrated — management software can be the bridge between other software.


Super-quick Info Dump of YMS Platform Key Features

There’s more in chapter 3, but here’s the “just tell me already” version:


Dynamic Scheduling: Carriers can book appointments, create reminders for drivers, as well as change/modify appointments on the fly.


Digital Check-in: Drivers can check-in via SMS without having to get out of the cab.


 Yard Workflows: Automate processes and organize your yard for maximum visibility and efficiency.


Dock Door Management: Sync your dock door operations with the rest of the yard for smooth sailing.


Reporting and Analytics: Know what’s working and what isn’t with reporting tools that let you make informed decisions to improve the state of your yard.


Support, APIs, and Roadmap: An experienced YMS service vendor will have your back with quick communications, continuous API updates, product roadmaps, and more


Get best practices for reducing dwell time


How To Know if YMS Platform Will Benefit Your Facilities

First, picture a traditional, non-digitized yard management process:

Lawless inbound and outbound shipment processes. No one actually knows if a shipment will enter or leave the yard on time (because in most cases, everyone is too busy to constantly communicate). That is if the yard even knows where the shipment is in the first place.

Unsightly or missing shipment documentation. Paper documents such as the bill of lading (BOL) are a sea of confusion, mistakes, and unhappiness. Drivers and yard workers don’t always have the time to process BOLs correctly — and nobody blames them because it’s impossible to try and do everything at once.

People Management Complications. If someone calls in sick, you have a guard shortage, or there are too many hands on the same documents, something goes wrong. It could be just one missed shipment — but then — you have a cascading effect that causes bottlenecks and lack of visibility.

Unnecessary dwell and detention times. To the point where police would have handed out tickets for loitering if they could. It’s often due to inaccurate time estimates, asset management issues, and gate delays.

How Do You Know It’s Time To Ditch Traditional Yard Processes?

If your yard is anything like what we just described, then it’s time to bring your yard up to speed. Other key indicators that YMS platform would help your yard include:

  • Bad Google reviews of your facility
  • Frequent dwell time fees
  • High guard and welcome center employee turnover
  • Endless boxes of paperwork
  • High theft rates
  • Lack of yard visibility

If it’s obvious that your yard needs management, you aren’t alone. In the State of the Yard Report, 75% of respondents reported not having yard management software at most of their facilities.

Why Do I Need a YMS if I Have a WMS?

Yes, a WMS can help with inventory management, packing, shipping, and more. Some WMS softwares even have a yard management module that can be added on for extended benefits. So why bother with full-fledged YMS platform?

Trying to pretend that a WMS with an extra module is the same as a YMS is like trying to pretend your now room-temp coffee is an iced latte. It’s just not the same. The best standalone yard management software will have the following additional benefits:

  • Real-time notifications and alerts
  • Increased communication throughout the yard
  • Trackable KPIs
  • Streamlined and automated processes
  • Digitized documentation
  • Real-time yard visibility

Determine Your YMS Needs

So, a YMS can help you manage your yard effectively, but what do you need from your YMS partner?
To get some answers, ask yourself these questions:

What Do You Want To Achieve With Your YMS?

You can’t reach your goals with a YMS if you don’t know what your goals are in the first place. Do you want to reduce transportation costs, improve supply chain visibility, squeeze more capacity out of your existing network, or something else?

When you have a basic idea, you can create SMART goals to identify and track benchmarks on the way to yard management happiness. And yep, with most yard software, you’ll get analytics and reporting tools so you can see your goals progress!

How Will You Prioritize Must-have Features?

Based on your goals, you can create a list of features that a YMS must have to most benefit your yard. See the checklist below for capabilities that deserve a coveted spot on your list.

  • Dynamic Scheduling
  • Digital Check-in
  • Yard Workflows
  • Dock Door Management
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • White Glove Service
  • APIs
  • Roadmap

What is the impact of not having a YMS solution at your facilities?

A YMS platform can help prevent:

  • Excessive dwell times
  • Excessive detention rates
  • OTIF penalties
  • The cost and delays of hiring/onboarding high turnover positions like guards and welcome clerks

You’ll also reduce the amount of lost or underutilized trailers, and have a better chance at positive Shipper of Choice ratings. How will that impact your rate negotiations with carriers?

Well, you probably can imagine. Lower costs and a positive customer experience mean a more efficient, profitable, and pleasant yard. Who knows, the changes might morph bottlenecks into actual drinks clinking in celebration (one can only hope).


Wait! What About Other Tools?

You may be curious about tools such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and drones. And let’s face it, flying a drone is fun as long as it doesn’t glitch and smash to pieces.

That’s just it though, isn’t it. Drones are pricey and get easily damaged (or obliterated). Plus, you would need several in order to get accurate on-the-ground information since one little drone can’t supervise all areas of your yard at once.

RFIDs could be useful. However, RFID-enabled documentation can’t be read more than 30 feet away — oops. A completely software based solution is not only the most cost effective, it makes it even easier to manage and simplifies the process without additional hardware.

Schedule a FREE yard audit with Vector


Determine if What You Need Is What You’ll Get

If you have your list of must-have capabilities ready, awesome! Take
that list and compare it to what is possible within these features of
some cloud-based YMS platform:

Dynamic Scheduling

Change appointment schedules based on actual arrival times and view the schedule as it happens. Drivers will automatically receive updates — and so will you if a driver requests changes.

Digital Check-in

Drivers can share check-in data with the click of a button. No more physical handoffs, kiosks or decades old vacuum tube systems. Drivers can take a picture of their documents, share via SMS or even pre check through a simple mobile app.

Yard Workflows

See what’s going on in your yard without the need for manual checks and allocate resources appropriately. You’ll know where trucks are in your yard, their status, and more. Warehouse personnel can be notified of what trailers need to be moved and where to prevent bottlenecks and keep the supply chain moving.

Dock Door Management

Real-time tracking and visibility let you see if arrival is late, on time, or early so you can make adjustments and improve the efficiency of your yard and maximize space. This is like cold medicine for your yard — it reduces congestion for clearer dock door management.

Reporting and Analytics

You can use time-tracking data and other analytics for continuous yard management improvement. With this information, you can identify patterns and opportunities for optimization from check-in to check-out.


API’s give you the ability to integrate with other software and hardware systems you already have in place to make the experience more seamless for shipping clerks and drivers. Information can easily flow from one system to another so that there is less manual data entry for everyone.


A product roadmap gives you insight into the current and future features and capabilities of the YMS software. This usually includes a timeline so you know what to expect and when.

White Glove Service

From onboarding and deployment, to customer success and ongoing support – the purchase of software is the purchase of a partnership. Pick a partner that offers white glove service rolled into the subscription to ensure they are accountable to your facility’s success.


Find Your “Perfect Match” YMS Software Vendor

Once you know what you want, it’s time to identify potential YMS
vendors and evaluate their reputation and experience. Don’t settle for less than what you need.

Review Customer Testimonials and Case Studies

We’ve all seen client reviews and have probably written a few of our own. A company testimonial about a YMS is an important consideration; companies willing to invest their time in creating reviews have strong feelings about the benefits of the solution.

Ask the Right Questions

Here are some questions to ask a potential YMS vendor:

  • How many customers are using your YMS?
  • How many of those customers have a yard of yards view across all of their facilities?
  • Typically, how long does it take to get a facility operational?
  • How long does it take for the ROI pay back?
  • What is my total cost of ownership and time to value?
  • How much does support cost?
  • How much should I budget for onboarding in addition
    to the software costs?
Try It Before You Buy It

Sign-up for product demos and trials. Throwing money at a company and hoping they can provide what you need is just bad business. Look for a company that will let you try a demo to see YMS capabilities for yourself. Some companies offer yard audits and will help you build a business case and even commit that you hit specific achievable ROI metrics.

Keep Scalability and Future Needs in Mind

Ask how often the company releases updates and new features. A stagnant YMS is not a good thing. A YMS with an open or public API may give your business more room to grow as you can create new ways to manage your data without being stuck in preset lanes.

Evaluate Costs and Projected Savings

Do your homework by researching how much other companies have been able to increase their efficiency and reduce costs and pit that against the cost of the YMS service to see the value. Remember to consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for your existing technology and evaluate the savings of working with a vendor who can either integrate the YMS into your current management infrastructure or help you eliminate the use of separate applications for a more efficient management system.

Remember to evaluate the ease of implementation and cost effectiveness too! Will taking the time to get everyone on board really be worth it? Will this prevent a costly mistake like losing a trailer? The right vendor can explain the implementation process as well as what areas of operation you can expect to see positive results (and a nifty timeline wouldn’t hurt).


Prepare for YMS Implementation Like You Mean It

Just like shipping overseas, data migration onto your new YMS
platform doesn’t happen instantly. And of course, integration with your current software applications is a bit more complex than flipping a switch. A YMS vendor who puts their customers first will handle all of the grunt work, but you’ll need to know how long it will take so you can plan for a smooth process.

Training and Change Management Strategies

Even if the vendor has data migration and integration under control, you’ll still need to know what training materials they provide so you and your team can make the most of your shiny new software. If you are given additional training materials, schedule training times proactively and make it fun so your team actually tries! Create handy cheat sheets with detailed instructions and best practices to reduce user error and give your team confidence around using the product.

Incentives for attending training are nice, but you could also throw a party or make training days “wear your fave shirt” days too.

Post-implementation Support and Optimization

Find out if the vendor you opted for offers training and continuous support. Some vendors will never charge you for implementation, training, and ongoing support — others will hit you with additional fees that ultimately outweigh the cost of the original product. If you know ahead of time how your vendor can and will support your organization going forward, you can plan for success.

Consider the TTV, Not the TV

Time to value (TTV) means the time it takes for your YMS to actually start paying off once it’s fully functional. This is a crucial point to evaluate because you must also let the other execs know what’s up.

So, what do you look at when talking TTV? The YMS vendor is just as important as the software itself. A delayed onboarding process — or no real onboarding process at all — can really put a wrench in your plans.

Ask the vendor about their onboarding plan, experience in working with facilities of comparable size, and what hiccups they could see arising and how they would handle them. Lastly, make sure the cost of professional services — like onboarding — aren’t adding on additional costs that impact your TTV.

Collaborate With IT and Stakeholders

Keep everyone updated so expectations can be set and met on time. Key stakeholders expect results, so make sure you share the TTV and progress toward your SMART goals so they keep smiling

See if Vector YMS Platform Is Right for You

Choosing to upgrade your yard with a YMS platform is the right call, but you want to make sure your chosen vendor has your back. At Vector, you get what you see, which includes all of the capabilities you need today coupled with white glove customer success, training,
and on-going support.

Curious to see why other enterprises select Vector? Contact us to schedule a demo and see why leading brands trust Vector Yard Management Solution to elevate logistics operations across their facilities.


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