The Yard Challenge
Increasing real-time visibility is key to achieving greater efficiencies in supply chain logistics management practices. Companies have made significant investments in systems and technologies to manage warehouses and track transportation assets, however, few realize that transportation delays often take place not on the road, but while the assets are still in the yards at distribution centers (DCs), warehouses, and manufacturing plants. As all goods often go through multiple yards throughout the lifecycle, any inefficiencies or errors in the yard are amplified as the effects propagate through the supply chain network. Some common yard management related challenges include lengthy gate check-in processes, multiple or redundant moves, time-consuming yard checks, delays, excessive detention/demurrage charges, unproductive administrative time due to ineffective communications, and the general lack of actionable information. The level of "pain" caused by a specific element depends on the nature and the size of the operations. For instance, delays can mean production down time for manufacturing operations, product spoilage if handling perishable goods, lost opportunities caused by stock-out for retailers, or credibility issues with carriers and customers. On the other hand, all of these problems can be attributed to the fundamental issue of lack of accurate, real-time information about the yard operations.
Although electronic documentation and process automation are common practices at warehouses and DCs, most of their yards are still managed with data recorded manually on paper or in a collection of spreadsheets. In a recent survey published by the Aberdeen Group, 58% of the companies surveyed still relied on manual processes to manage their yard operations. Not only is such practice labor intensive and thus costly, these companies typically do not have a good means to measure and improve the efficiencies of their yard operations, as the performance metrics are not well understood.
Closing the visibility gap that commonly exists in the yards has become the next imperative for any companies seeking to become best-in-class in their supply-chain logistics performance:
- Automated yard information collection – eliminating costly manual yard audits
- Real-time information sharing across all functions and with trading partners – increase visibility for geographically diverse organizations
- Improve communication – reduced unproductive administrative time
- Better asset and resource utilization - increase operational efficiency and reduce costs
- Enable fact-based decision making – provide actionable information for business process optimization and redesign
Among PINC's customers, a recent case study about results Exel, the North American leader in contract logistics, is getting from Yard Hound was published by the GS1 transportation and Logistics group. Exel deployed Yard Hound at their Southern California trans-load facility, and according to the study, the logistics company saw the system double gate throughput, and signicantly increase yard visibility. It has also eliminated manual yard checks and most documentation, while providing improved operational control. Administrative effort has been reduced by one third, leading to lower headcount requirements. And since the drivers spend less time waiting, they can spend more time driving and waste less fuel. Another important fact was that improved data accuracy and communications have enabled fact-based decision-making and issue resolution. Exel is also reviewing opportunities to move towards a multi-enterprise system, providing a platform for collaborative supply chain practices.