Operating a shipping yard is a delicate dance done within the greater supply chain management ecosystem. New containers come in, and they must be unloaded and placed strategically. Existing containers are located, loaded and shipped out. And in between shipping and receiving, yards have to manage access and security for each container.
Fortunately, a specific segment of fleet management software has broken off to address the needs of shipping yards. Yard management systems offer dependable support for optimizing operations and ensuring containers are effectively tracked and moved through.
But not all yard management software is the same. Some systems might specialize in warehouse management or be a better fit for smaller organizations, while others would be better for larger operations.
We've created this Buyer's Guide to help you evaluate which yard management system is right for your needs. We'll discuss the must-have capabilities and review key benefits you can gain from adopting yard management software. This guide should be used as a starting point to ensure you choose the best system for your operation.
In this guide, we'll cover:
What Are Yard Management Systems?
Common Features of Yard Management Systems
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Benefits of Adopting Yard Management Systems
Market Trends to Understand in Yard Management Software
Yard management systems are a combination of scheduling and inventory management tools. They automate and optimize the flow of inbound and outbound assets, helping yard operators more easily plan, execute, monitor and audit shipping loads.
The goal is to to start tracking inventory when it enters the gate rather than when it hits the dock for unloading. Detailed inventory tools go as far as classifying containers based on crucial characteristics such shipment type, load type, storage requirements and capacity, as well as labor and/or equipment requirements.
At the highest level, yard management software enables yard operators to:
Warehouse and distribution centers benefit greatly from these processes. Third-party logistics operations can also benefit from the transparency this software provides.
Yard management systems combine inventory tools, scheduling capabilities, task management and other features. Nonetheless, there are still some must-have features that most yard management systems provide. These include:
|Inventory management||Track trailers and their content. Know the number of empty trailers in the yard. Track employees as they enter and exit.|
|Dock management||Monitor the equipment, containers/trailers and schedule for a given week on the shipment dock.|
|Carrier scheduling||Work with carriers to set appointment times for shipping and receiving. Track the status of shipments to make daily adjustments as needed.|
|Task management||Manage the daily and weekly task requirements of the crew and each crew member. Monitor the status of shipments coming in and going out.|
|Gate management||Get a snapshot of everything coming in and out of the gate. Set alerts to notify operators when all or designated trailers arrive and depart.|
|Seal management||Record and track trailer seal numbers. Require validation for unsealing and resealing a trailer. Flag discrepancies with unsealed trailers.|
|Shipping optimization||Optimize packing and unpacking of trailers by ensuring they're being unloaded on the correct dock at the correct time.|
We've included a few screenshots of yard management software to give you an idea of what these tools look like:
Inbound scheduling screen
Highlights the organizational benefits of yard management systems. Each inbound shipment is labeled with numerical identifications and color codes. This information, combined with the additional details found in each arrival slot, provides a quick and easy snapshot for users.
Source: C3 Solutions
Inventory management screen
Maintaining an organized yard is key for a successful operation. Inventory capabilities give operators a bird's-eye view of their yard. With this view, they can assess their capacity, pinpoint any empty trailers and direct necessary jockeying on the fly.
Source: Yard Management Software
Trailer management screen
Yard management systems provide a holistic approach to your operation. You not only get a bird's-eye view, but you're able to drill down to individual trailers and other assets. This screen gives details on the inventory packed within a container, such as whether the inventory needs refrigeration, is highly perishable, or when it's due for shipping out.
Small operation. These buyers often work for single warehouses or third-party operated yards. They're likely moving from manual methods to more automated, dependable processes. Scheduling and inventory management tools should provide these users with a burst of operational efficiency.
Midsize to large operations. These buyers work for larger warehouses or distribution centers. They need scheduling and inventory management plus additional capabilities, such as gate management, so they can keep tabs on and set permissions for arrivals and departures.
Enterprise operations. These buyers are working for enterprise retailers, manufacturers or other large-scale business. They need all the previously mentioned capabilities, as well as specialized tools for trailer workshop management, shipping optimization and detailed operational reporting.
There are several ways yard management technology can benefit your business. Most will be specific to your individual operational pain points, but there are some general benefits you're likely to find, including:
Greater efficiencies. Adopting yard management software saves time previously spent on paperwork and manual data entry. Schedules can sync automatically with carriers, and notifications can alert all involved parties of updates in shipping status.
Improved productivity. Automating inventory updates will free up back office and yard jockeys to get more done in the day. Greater communication abilities will lead to more productive collaboration among team members.
Internet of things (IoT). Much of the efficiency and automation afforded by yard management systems can be attributed to onboard sensors and personal devices. These sensors and devices make up a connected ecosystem (i.e., the internet of things, or IoT) that records and transmits valuable performance data. This data will lead to greater operational efficiencies for yard operators.
Security. With advanced protocols and an emphasis on real-time inventory, yard management systems provide users with greater yard security than ever before. This can be seen in gate management tools that track everyone entering and exiting the yard, as well as seal management tools that track trailer codes and only allow designated personnel to retrieve the codes and enter trailers.
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