26/10/2022

How to fill up a supply chain black hole

10/26/2022 | 7 min

 

By Gerry Daalhuisen, Tribe Lead Dock Scheduling & Yard Management

In recent decades, warehouses and transportation have gone through continuous optimization. The yard, sadly, has not.

Many yards are currently managed by spreadsheets or “the human eye,” pen and paper, or are heavily supported by cumbersome Excel spreadsheets.

That leads to:

  • Low levels of predictability and visibility
  • Extended dwell and waiting times
  • Peaks & troughs in utilization
  • Inefficient usage of labor
  • Delays and disorganization
  • Dislikes by carriers and drivers to visit the premises

Time is wasted in searching for lost trailers. Delivery issues arise as the next leg cannot be executed because the goods or the trailer are lost.

Altogether, this leads to negative business impact, including:

  • Costs for redeliveries
  • Receiving penalties for delays or missed deliveries
  • Damaged customer satisfaction
  • Reduced delivery reliability
  • Increased number of carriers that do not want to pick-up/deliver from an non-performing yard (or only against a higher price)

At the end of the day, the pick-up trailers arriving at the Cross Dock hub need to be unloaded, while the line-hauls need to be loaded for the next leg. Having good visibility on the whereabouts of trailers is key for optimizing these processes.

We’ve all experienced this — a driver waiting outside the yard is called into the dock, but nobody knows where the driver is parked, and a jockey needs to go and track him down.

Or this one — the purchasing department needs to confirm the receipt of high priority inventory held in trailers currently staged in the yard, but they lack the visibility to do so. 

In both of these cases and more, trailers and sub-contractors that are being held too long on the yard can charge accessorial charges like detention and demurrage fees.

That’s why some have referred to trailer yards as Supply Chain Black Holes. 

However, with the right technology, Yard Management Systems (YMS) can shed light on trailer and shipment arrival and locations.

But first let’s dive deeper into the specific challenges at the yard:

  • Manual intervention for dock managers

In case of changes to the plan, loading personnel needs to fluctuate between over- demand and under-demand when there isn’t full visibility.

  • Peak and idle times

Unbalanced distribution of truck arrivals throughout the day leads to enormous peak load times as well as periods of idling.

  • Impaired predictability

Due to a lack of information, loading and unloading resources cannot be planned in advance, and cargo can only be dispatched at short notice.

  • Overcrowding and standing time costs

Long waiting times lead to overcrowding and chaos on the company premises and cause high follow-up costs.

  • Inefficient communication

Cumbersome 1-to-1 communication, including language barriers, slows down both internal and external processes. 

  • Lack of transparency and documentation

Information on loading and unloading processes is neither available in real time, nor for controlling purposes, nor for evidence in the event of accidents.

  • Safety-critical processes

Inadequate information, communication errors, stress, and time pressure increase the risk of accidents on the premises.

Problems in the yard inevitably kick off a long-running chain reaction. Trailers that are late in departing the yard are likely to be late in arriving at the next hub or the retail warehouse, and will be late in arriving to the next shipper’s warehouse, and on and on.

This leads to massive inefficiencies and additional overtime charges all over the supply chain.

Eliminating the supply chain black hole

Dock Scheduling and Yard Management solutions are perfect tools to solve the “black hole problem” by providing full and real time transparency through collaboration between planning and execution processes, creating value by optimizing processes resulting in cost-saving initiatives, better asset utilization, and increased visibility for all parties in the supply chain. 

Unlike WMS and ERP systems, a YMS is not only looking after the processes within the four walls of a building. And unlike Transport Management Systems which mainly focus on road processes, a YMS provides the missing link between the four walls of a warehouse and the road.

The 360° approach of such a solution must be: Plan, Monitor, Move, and Check.

Plan: Dock Scheduling

By providing the ability to book time slots in advance, a higher predictability of supply is reached through an optimized coordination of flows, leading to a better utilization of resources, avoiding high peak and idles times as well reductions in demurrage and detention costs.

Both loading and unloading slots are being supported. Often at unloading, transports are arranged by the shipper and not all required info is available, leading to a specialized handling of unloading appointments.

Monitor: Real Time Yard Management

After the booked time slots, Real Time Yard Management coordinates the arrival and departure of traffic to and from the yard as the Control Tower. Due to the availability of predictive ETAs, any deviance to the planning is spotted and corrective actions can be taken.
When the transports arrive, their progress through yard activities can be tracked and managed, and (re-)prioritization of specific transports can be organized if needed.

Collecting the different statuses throughout the yard process help with future analysis and optimization.

Move: Extended Physical Yard Management

With real time yard visibility, supported with self-servicing check-in kiosks, sensors, and other IoT devices, the yard process can be followed with any exceptions quickly spotted.

Truck and trailer movement is more easily instructed by the yard, tracked, and traceable. 

With workflow automation, standard recurring tasks on the site can be automated, including communication, granting and revoking access, truck call-up, synchronizing information with other systems, etc.

Check: Analytics & Insights

With the data that has been collected, you gain access to extensive reporting and analytics, including: 

  • Focusing on the shortest yard-turnaround-time and adjust dynamically the process in case the turnaround time is increasing
  • Detention and demurrage reports to support the settlement process with carriers, providing information on idle rentals and trailer rotation/utilization
  • Providing inventory reports to illustrate which orders and/or goods are present on the yard either in the waiting queue or when used as temporary storage facilities
  • Carrier performance analyses for on-time reporting, waiting times, and yard turnaround times.

Relieving the bottleneck

By relieving the bottleneck, you will get greater predictability of supply through optimized coordination of truck flows, increased efficiency on yard activities using optimization and automation, as well as evaluation and measurement of warehouse productivity and supply chain performance.

This will in turn lead to greater simplicity in a fully automated real time yard, with hassle-free logistics, extended real-time visibility, automation of different visitor and logistic flows, achieving the status of a preferred shipper and becoming a “Shipper of Choice.”
Additionally, although the term “Shipper of Choice” provides the intention to focus on Shippers only, their Goods Recipient locations can strongly impact the overall performance of the carrier. In case the Shipper’s (Goods pick-up) yard process is highly efficient, but the Goods Recipient (Goods delivery) yard process is very inefficient, the overall result for the carrier is low and might damage the favorability of the shipper or the specific lane by the carrier. 

It is likely better to look at a “Lane of Choice” or “Corridor of Choice.” This can be accomplished by not only looking at the Shipper’s yard process but by providing the Goods Recipient the earliest possible visibility of the transports that soon will depart the Shipper’s yard and can predict the arrival at the goods recipient or, even better, integrate the yard process on the goods recipient side. Such a “Corridor of Choice” should mainly be initiated by the shipper as they are predominantly organizing the transports.

Upgrading analog systems — the future of yard management

Even companies that have already introduced a proper Time Slot Management capability to avoid peaks and troughs in their warehouse loading and unloading capacity can benefit from a better focus on their yard operations. 

Companies are spending large budgets for automating their warehouses and implementing a TMS with the goal of making transportation more efficient, but their yards are being ignored.

The challenges of recent years have highlighted more than ever the need to eliminate the supply chain black hole. And doing so has never been more accessible, with technology and automation making it more affordable and possible than ever to implement the process improvements on and around the yards.

Filling up and plugging the black hole in Yard Management is one step toward bringing transportation in sync with the world.

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