As we kick off a new decade, there are a lot of discussions about how advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent automation and analytics can deliver new levels of agility across warehouse and distribution operations. However, supply chain leaders across many organizations – perhaps even yours – believe they are still years away from fully implementing such solutions, according to Zebra’s latest Warehousing Vision Study. For example, 77 percent of respondents agree they need to modernize their warehouse operations but admit they are slow to implement new devices and technology.
What can warehouse, distribution center (DC), transportation and logistics leaders do right now to facilitate measurable operational improvements as fulfilment volumes increase and delivery timelines shrink? Yard management improvements warrant increased investigation, and ultimately increased investment, right now.
For example, there have been many recent instances in which real-time location solutions (RTLS) and RFID technologies have been implemented to complement warehouse and transport management systems and automate larger, more complex operations. Active RTLS technology provides a better way to track the location of vital equipment than legacy systems and can even eliminate the need for manual yard checks. And by implementing RFID tags on trucks, it becomes easier to facilitate inbound and outbound scheduling, door-to-door moves and automatic parking assignments.
But these are just a sampling of the operational efficiencies you can gain almost immediately by increasing utilization of RTLS and RFID. Here are three more:
When a truck arrives to pick up goods, the number one goal is to turn it around as quickly as possible. Delays at the first stage of distribution can cause a much larger domino effect throughout the supply chain. To avoid disruption, you should aim to speed up the inbound processing of trucks at the gate by using RTLS and RFID guidance to highlight specific yard positions to drivers for live loading. When executed correctly, such intelligent parking assignments can also reduce travel distances between trailers and the dock door, which simultaneously decreases switcher fuel consumption and increases the speed of switcher productivity.
Yard Operations: End-to-End Management
Every yard has its own unique operations and backend systems, so it is crucial that a yard management system (YMS) can adapt to your individual needs and demonstrate enough configuration flexibility. For example, confirm that the YMS will enable you to easily modify report views, create forms for checking in trailers, set equipment pool thresholds and establish business rules that direct trailers to parking locations. It is highly important that YMS solutions include an industry standard API, and you should ensure that gaps can be filled between the Transport Management Systems (TMS) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to minimize the risk of business system silos and, therefore, data silos. Be sure to confirm the availability and user-friendly functionality when evaluating YMS options and know that the more advanced RTLS and RFID-equipped YMS solutions may increase yard throughput at a lower cost than other options.
Dock Door Management - Think about Your Workforce
The visibility provided – and logistics coordinated – by an RTLS and RFID-equipped YMS can empower you to synchronize your yard activities based on the demands of your warehouse operations. In turn, dock workers can be fully utilized, and trailers can be switched out in a timely fashion which helps to keep labor costs down. Business rules can also be configured within a more advanced YMS to plan trailer dock exchanges for a full shift of work (or even more) and instruct switchers on the order by which to pull and replace trailers from dock doors.
In other words, installing a well-refined YMS that utilizes RTLS, RFID and mobile computing technology will enable you to see, analyze and act on opportunities to immediately optimize yard processes and improve the efficiency of overall distribution logistics. Just be sure that the solution is scalable if you want to maximize your return on investment. While a simplistic YMS design may be sufficient today, you may require new system interfaces, configuration options as well as planning and execution tools as the velocity of your warehouse, DC and T&L operations increase in the coming years.
Need help identifying the YMS technologies you need to achieve a fully-automated yard management workflow? Download our most recent Yard Management Solution Guide.