When it came time to choose a new yard management system (YMS), Dot Foods, a $5.5 billion food-service redistribution company headquartered in Mt. Sterling, Ill., was looking for something that would act like the "brains" of the yard, much the way a warehouse management system directs activities inside the distribution center.
"Oftentimes, yard management is thought of really as providing more or less inventory for what's in the yard and/or basic moves," says John Long, senior vice president of warehousing.
Such simplicity, however, would not work for Dot Foods' complex operation. Dot Foods receives more than 100,000 products from about 700 manufacturers and then consolidates and ships them to food-service distributors, convenience store distributors, and retail distributors. ("We distribute to distributors," explains Long.)
To handle that complexity, Dot Foods needs a YMS that's able to help it direct traffic in the yard and prioritize which purchase orders (POs) go where.
Previously, Dot Foods had used Navis's YMS for its operations. But Navis had decided to focus its attention on containers at the dock as opposed to trailers in the yard and had gone into a "desupport" mode for its YMS product. As a result, Dot Foods needed a new YMS provider.
At first, it was not able to find a solution that could provide the management level it needed. However, International Business Systems (IBS) was looking to develop a yard management system for its Dynaman suite, and Dot Foods liked the idea of working with the company to develop the system.
"It was probably a year-plus of joint collaboration efforts with their team on site working hand in hand with us," Long says. "That was the only way both parties thought it would be successful."
Dot Foods has rolled out the YMS solution at two of its nine distribution centers (one in Mount Sterling, Ill., and one in Vidalia, Ga.) and is in the process of planning the remainder.
"It really directs the flow in our yard," says Long. "The easiest example is if the yard is full of POs, the yard system will help us prioritize, based upon our needs and timing, what POs need to be placed where. But it's not only about prioritization; it's also about efficiency—which door is available and is closest to the putaway for that product, as an example."
Dot Foods also uses the system to manage, prioritize, and assess which empty trailer would be the best one for an outbound load, according to Long.
"Trailers are a dynamic asset and an expensive asset, especially as the majority of our trailers are multi-temp," Long says. "So as we are trying to manage our asset base as cost effectively as we can, it was imperative for us to have a robust system in place."