The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased pressure on shippers, freight forwarders and the industry as whole, and, unfortunately, highlighted many weak points in the industry. But for better or worse, COVID-19 has been a powerful driver for technological transformation in the supply chain this year, breaking these weak links and exposing gaps in the flow of information.
One previously overlooked area is the yard, a negative space between a warehouse’s warehouse management system (WMS) and a fleet’s transportation management system (TMS). When yard management is neglected, it can become a black hole for inventory and a hotspot for risk.
That’s why now, more than ever, there’s a growing need for digital yard management systems (YMS), which make supply chains more resilient and reliable in the face of 2020′s challenges — and beyond.
What is YMS?
YMS is software that oversees the movement of trucks and trailers in the yard of a manufacturing facility, warehouse, or distribution center. Used alongside WMS and TMS, digital yard management fills in the visibility gap in the yard, providing real-time information on the location and status of vehicles and inventory in the yard and allowing staff to move trailers from staging to docks to efficiently fill orders. In addition to eliminating the need for manual yard checks, YMS complements WMS and TMS while automating larger and more complex operations.
Features of YMS can include things such as intelligent parking assignments, radio-frequency identification (RFID), real-time location solutions (RTLS), local sensor data, connectivity within Internet of Things (IoT) networks, paperless workflows, and virtual inventory reporting.
Of course, YMS is not a new idea, but historically, it has been less visible than other IoT-driven technology solutions in the supply chain. But it’s a key place to focus: As inventory typically moves through multiple yards during the lifecycle of a shipment, inefficiencies or errors that happen in the yard affect the entire supply chain.
In fact, according to Talking Logistics, 80% of transportation delays happen when trailers and containers are at distribution centers and manufacturing plants, which costs organizations millions of dollars in inefficient operations, as well as excessive accessorial charges and transportation contracts.
What are the benefits of digital yard management?
The benefits of YMS can be the make or break for shippers who need to find time savings in their supply chains, as price is always top of mind. An efficient yard means the goods being shipped spend more time in motion to their final destination.
According to research from Talking Logistics, the benefits of yard management include “improved warehouse efficiency (e.g., labor/scheduling), improved customer service, reduced inventory, and reduced transportation costs (linehaul, detention, etc.).” YMS can also offer more precise metrics that allow facilities to avoid backups; improve driver turnaround times; provide contactless functionalities; take advantage of all available real-time data exchanges between RTTVPs, TMSs, and other transportation system data sources; and improve sustainability by lowering truck idling time, eliminating excessive fuel consumption, reducing empty miles, and eliminating physical paperwork.
Why is YMS surging now?
YMS is surging now because optimization in this industry is more important than ever before.
Although Talking Logistics’ research shows that just 8% of companies are currently using YMS, there has been an increase in yard management inquiries from clients this year, according to Gartner analysts Bart De Muynck and Simon Tunstall. The analysts found that companies are looking into YMS solutions to help close supply chain gaps like long trailer wait times, unproductive personnel numbers, poorly synchronized movement of goods, and ineffective dock planning.
Supply chain efficiency has become a critical differentiator for many businesses in 2020, especially e-commerce companies. Any opportunity to optimize is now on the table for rapid adoption, and digital yard management is a focal point for that modernization.
Additionally, because digital yard management eliminates person-to-person contact in the yard by monitoring things virtually and allowing for touchless operations, it can significantly reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.
What’s the outlook for YMS beyond 2020?
We predict the continued acceleration of the adoption of YMS and any other system that closes data or visibility gaps in the supply chain. Although it’s yet to be seen how digital yard management will interact with self-driving vehicles and other next-gen technologies, it is certainly providing a runway for a more connected supply chain.
The bottom line is that technology — especially any technology that focuses on greater visibility — is increasingly critical to the supply chain. It’s important to stay in the loop and not get left behind.
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