I know companies that have the most sophisticated WMS systems connected to excellent TMS systems to arrange their transports and handle their inbound and outbound Supply Chain. One would say an optimal scenario. But a look on their yards shows a different picture. Trucks are queueing up in front of the gate. Across their yard many trailers, either empty or full and are scattered around the yard.
Leading to major problems.
- A problem for the team at the gate. Their are getting all these impatient truck-drivers at their desk, asking when they finally can have access to the yard.
- A problem for the transport planner as he needs to know the status of the trailers whether they can be used for other loads.
- A problem for the warehouse planner, as he wants to prioritise just those loads that are still in a trailer somewhere at the yard.
- A problem for the jockeys as they are running around the yard like headless chickens to find just that particular trailer or truck that is needed.
- A problem for the finance manager as he gets all those claims from the carriers for the waiting-hours. Have they really been waiting that long or were they just early?
Summarised, a lot of time, effort and quality is lost in the black hole of the yard leading to unnecessary costs that could have been spent otherwise.
Now, what could be the problem? Definitely one cause can be the capacity of the number of docks. But will just extending the number of docks solve the issue? Likely not. More likely it is that all the arriving and departing trucks are on-site on particular times of the day and on later periods, there is a convenient silence across the yard.
So spreading truck and trailers by proper appointment scheduling already helps a lot. But not easy since we have to cope with traffic jams and other sorts of disruptions. Luckily the drivers nowadays have access to the internet so any deviations can be alerted immediately and the driver can change earlier made appointments themselves.
With proper appointment scheduling, companies can reserve slots for their own deliveries and pick-ups in the early morning or late evening, squeezing the number of free slots where the drivers can pick from. Already making a more natural split across the day. Other trucks need to pick their appointments from slots during the day.
Once the drivers arrive at the gate, the finance manager is also happy as there is direct control whether the driver is too early or too late so accessorial charges as waiting hours can be avoided. Arrivals and departures are directly be updated in the WMS and TMS systems, triggering either the warehouse planning and/or transport planning processes.
Additionally all the details of the drivers can be registered and even the driver can be screened against a black-list to avoid unwanted people on your yard.
The drivers are appointed to parking places or docks that most suit the loads they have to pick or deliver and the contents in the trailers is directly known. In case a load needs to be prioritised, the driver will get an instant-message on his mobile via the app that he has downloaded to create the appointment. In a sec he knows that he is up for loading/unloading and he gets the directions where to go to.
The jockey's life will also get easier as he does not have to run around searching, he can rely on a good inventory of trucks and trailers. As well trailer rotation, making sure that all the trailers will get a good utilisation will also improve as the algorithms can propose the best trailer to use.
Reading the above, it all looks so simple, but why is this not yet solved then? One of the reasons is that parts of the above functionality can be handled in either the WMS or TMS or even both. But one has the view of the warehouse, the other the view of the transports. Over time WMS and TMS systems have evolved to large mono-lithic systems with loads of generic functionality where sometimes one is better off with a niche solution with more specialised functionality.
Todays technology makes it possible that such systems can be designed as components that are built to connect to other systems but act in a homogenous manner as if all belongs to one system.
A good Yard Management solution will deliver a fast ROI. Not only because it is easy to implement, but much more of the benefits it gives to the gate, warehouse and transport processes.
So, if you need a solution to cater for the problems as listed above, make sure you look beyond the traditional TMS and WMS vendors and search for the niche solution that is designed to truly solve the yard issues.