Yard Management System: How Technology Helps Increase Yard Efficiency

Yard management encompasses various activities that oversee the movement of incoming and outgoing freight within a facility, such as a manufacturing plant, warehouse, cargo terminal, or distribution center. It involves tasks like organizing truck movements within the yard, scheduling and conducting loading/unloading operations at docks, and tracking and relocating assets.

To illustrate this, let’s consider a common scenario: a carrier needs to pick up a load from your warehouse. This process involves several sequential steps:

  1. Scheduling an appointment and confirming it with the carrier, which may also include verifying vehicle details.
  2. Upon the truck’s arrival, the driver checks in at the gate, undergoes security checks or verification processes, and is directed to the parking lot to drop off the trailer.
  3. The guard notifies the manager and/or the dock team about the truck’s arrival.
  4. Once a dock becomes available, a spotter is instructed to retrieve the trailer and move it to the designated dock door. Meanwhile, the cargo is being prepared for loading.
  5. Dock workers load the trailer with the intended goods.
  6. The spotter transports the loaded trailer to the parking area, where the driver connects it to the truck.
  7. The truck checks out at the gate before leaving the premises.

Although seemingly straightforward, each step involves potential pitfalls that can lead to delays and disruptions.

Yard management systems (YMS) are software solutions designed to automate these processes. Rather than manually planning and tracking daily yard operations, a YMS streamlines scheduling, monitors equipment and goods, and provides real-time information to facilitate more effective decision-making.

YMS can be integrated with other software systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), transportation management systems (TMS), or warehouse management systems (WMS) to achieve enterprise-wide visibility and control. Integrations with these systems will be discussed in upcoming sections.

Implementing a YMS addresses the main challenges of yard management, enabling efficient operations. By automating tasks and providing real-time insights, a YMS enhances scheduling, equipment monitoring, and decision-making, ultimately improving overall yard management effectiveness.


Yard management challenges

Logistics companies face common inefficiencies in their yards, often resulting from manual operations, as reported by approximately half of the respondents in the 2021 Yard Management Industry Report by FourKites.

Gate operations take too long and result in queues

The manual check-in and check-out processes in busy yards often cause significant delays for trucks entering or leaving. This leads to situations where guards manually verify vehicle information, make phone calls to notify the dock team, and create long waiting lines that spill onto neighboring streets. This not only wastes time and fuel for drivers but also results in detentions, shipment delays, and dissatisfaction among carriers. Additionally, the inefficient tracking of cargo on paper further exacerbates these issues, as it is time-consuming and lacks significant value.


Dock activities and personnel are hard to schedule

Optimizing loading dock operations is crucial for achieving maximum efficiency and performance in yard activities. However, it is also the most vulnerable aspect, prone to disruptions. Therefore, it is essential to create a well-structured schedule and adhere to it consistently.

Manual scheduling poses challenges due to the numerous factors involved in optimal planning. Considerations include accepted trailer types, freight categories (such as refrigerated or oversized), package types (palletized or non-palletized), required equipment for loading/unloading, estimated loading/unloading times, dock and warehouse capacity, and staffing requirements.

Transportation is known for its potential for unexpected issues. Even minor delays or missed appointments can throw off a meticulously planned schedule. Without real-time information and visibility into dock activities, it becomes challenging to promptly address disruptions and restore order.

Staffing is another critical concern. Inefficient personnel planning can result in staff shortages, leading to delays, unfulfilled tasks, and costly overtime. On the other hand, overstaffing can result in idle workers and unnecessary labor expenses. Achieving optimal allocation of human resources and avoiding both extremes is a delicate task that manual scheduling alone struggles to accomplish.

To overcome these challenges, leveraging technology-driven solutions is highly beneficial. Real-time information and visibility provided by automated systems enable proactive management of disruptions, while advanced scheduling tools optimize resource allocation and minimize staffing issues.

In summary, prioritizing efficiency in loading dock operations requires meticulous scheduling and a proactive approach to address disruptions. Technology-driven solutions play a crucial role in streamlining processes and achieving optimal resource allocation.


Yard checks and locating assets are time-consuming and can result in losses

While managing assets may not pose significant challenges for smaller companies with limited territory, it becomes a complex issue for those overseeing large yards. Whether handling their own fleet or third-party trucks, it is crucial to have precise visibility of the trucks’ locations and the ability to locate required inventory easily.

Tracking equipment is vital for efficient operations. Not knowing the availability of equipment, which truck needs to be loaded next, or even if it is present in the yard can lead to chaos. In the retail industry, 47% of respondents identified this as their primary concern.

In many cases, trailers need to be parked, and yard trucks are responsible for moving them to the appropriate dock. However, conducting manual yard checks to track equipment is time-consuming and prone to errors. By the time the check is completed, the information may already be outdated.

Managing inventory is another pain point that often results in delays. Poorly organized inventory can lead to schedule disruptions, overtime, and even product spoilage, particularly for perishable freight. However, facilities operating on a cross-docking scenario may not face this issue.

Furthermore, the inability to have a comprehensive overview and failure to utilize yard-generated data are additional concerns in yard management.

To address these challenges, Yard Management Software (YMS) provides solutions. YMS software offers features such as real-time asset tracking, automated yard checks, and inventory management. By leveraging YMS software, businesses can gain better visibility, reduce errors, and make informed decisions based on comprehensive data.

In conclusion, managing assets, tracking equipment, and organizing inventory are significant challenges in yard management. YMS software provides valuable tools and capabilities to overcome these pain points and optimize operations.


Optimization opportunities offered by YMS implementation

Similar to other technological advancements, a Yard Management System (YMS) offers several key advantages, including automation, synchronization, and real-time visibility into yard operations. By implementing a YMS, businesses can effectively organize and manage various yard processes, starting from gate entry to loading/unloading activities, and up until departure.


Gate management

Security requirements and check-in/check-out procedures can vary among different facilities. However, the gate management functionality of a Yard Management System (YMS) can streamline the process, making it faster and reducing errors caused by human intervention.

Optimization begins with the use of handheld mobile devices instead of stationary computers or paper journals. This eliminates the need for guards to walk back and forth between the guard shack and the truck cabin.

The next upgrade involves implementing a self-service portal at the gate. While it may take slightly longer than a fully automated system, it is significantly more efficient than manual operations. The self-service portal is connected to the appointment management module, enabling visitors to enter their required information and receive a ticket indicating where to park or which dock to proceed to. This integration reduces labor costs, organizes truck movement within the yard, and improves communication by eliminating the need for phone calls.

Another option is an automated gate system, utilizing RFID technology. It verifies arriving and departing equipment by comparing the information received in advance from the shipper/carrier. This system grants access only to approved vehicles and prevents unauthorized trucks from leaving the facility.

YMS facilitates the maintenance of an accurate and comprehensive log of gate activities as part of tracking and security systems. Additionally, the integration of RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology enables immediate scanning of incoming and outgoing goods, supporting the inspection process and enhancing security measures.

It is important to consider the specific gate management requirements of your business and select the YMS gate functionality that aligns with your needs.


Dock management

Efficient organization of dock operations is crucial for increasing facility throughput and avoiding congestion, delays, and detentions. Dynamic and effective scheduling is particularly important for cross-docking models to minimize turnaround time.

Implementing an appointment management functionality is the first step towards improvement, replacing inefficient emails and phone calls. The solution should enable carriers and shippers to view available time slots and self-schedule or reschedule appointments.

Within a Yard Management System (YMS), pre-arranged appointments are seamlessly integrated with the dock scheduling feature. Considering various constraints such as trailer types, freight categories, equipment requirements, and staffing needs, the system creates a schedule that assigns trucks to specific dock doors for loading or unloading. Prioritization options can be configured to manage urgent loads first.

Granting carriers access to the YMS allows them to receive necessary notifications and instructions, facilitating coordination among all stakeholders. Real-time updates on trailer and shipment status enable proactive monitoring and prompt response to potential disruptions.

Integrated carrier apps can further enhance efficiency by providing access to digital load documentation, saving additional time in the process.

By implementing these features, businesses can streamline dock operations, improve communication, and achieve timely and effective management of the entire process.


Asset management

Yard Management Systems (YMS) offer increased visibility and automation for tracking assets such as equipment and cargo, making it easier to locate and handle them efficiently. Real-time location systems (RTLS) utilizing RFID and BLE technologies are more effective than GPS, providing greater accuracy, enhanced security, and longer battery life.

In brief, RFID tags and BLE beacons attached to items store their information and transmit it to the system when scanned by a reader. BLE beacons can even monitor temperature for sensitive products and send alerts if nearing expiry. Unlike barcodes, multiple tags can be accessed simultaneously by the reader, even when they are out of sight. This enables the system to track the exact real-time location of each item.

In yard operations, the management of yard trucks and their drivers constitutes a significant cost. Advanced YMS solutions improve efficiency and reduce related expenses by optimizing trailer movements.

The system automatically assigns tasks to spotters based on the location of yard tractors, minimizing travel times when moving trailers or inventory to dock doors. Spotters receive, accept, and confirm these commands through mobile devices in their cabins, replacing traditional phone or radio communication.

With YMS, customized alerts can be set up to promptly address potential problems or prevent them altogether. These issues may include emergencies with hot loads, underutilized leased equipment, unproductive spotter time, late departures or arrivals, detention charges, or damaged trailers.

Automated asset tracking also enhances safety and security by reducing or eliminating the need for manual checks. This eliminates the need for workers to conduct inspections or search for missing assets by physically navigating the yard.

Overall, YMS with automated asset tracking improves operational efficiency, safety, and security, offering real-time visibility and proactive measures to address challenges in yard management.


Reporting and analytics

Utilizing data for informed decision-making and gaining a competitive advantage is crucial in today’s business landscape. However, the information collected in the yard is often overlooked and left untapped. With a Yard Management System (YMS), you can leverage raw data to generate actionable insights and improve operations.

YMS enables you to create custom reports that provide a comprehensive view of your daily operations in a user-friendly interface. By monitoring performance metrics, you can identify areas that require attention, uncover optimization opportunities, and make well-informed decisions regarding carrier selection. Here are some key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can track to gain a better understanding of your business:

Gate Metrics:

Percentage and number of transactions by transaction type (arrival, departure, turn away)

Percentage and number of transactions by load type (drop, live, bobtails, visitors)

Percentage and number of transactions by equipment status (empty, loaded, partial, tapped), and more.

Spotters Metrics:

Percentage and number of tasks by type (dock bump, manual move, pull, spot)

Average time per task

Average number of tasks per driver

Trends in idle time, and more.

Carrier Metrics:

Percentage of on-time, early, or late deliveries

Average detention time, and others.

Equipment Metrics:

Number of shipments by the day of the week

Dwell time by equipment type

Average delay for late loads

Percentage and number of equipment by load type (drop, live)

Percentage and number of equipment by equipment type, and more.

By analyzing these metrics, you can gain valuable insights into gate operations, spotter performance, carrier efficiency, and equipment utilization. This data-driven approach helps optimize your yard management processes, enhance decision-making, and drive continuous improvement within your operations.


YMS integration options

To fully leverage the value of your YMS, it is essential to establish seamless integration with other software systems you use. This integration ensures reliable data exchange, improves accuracy, and reduces the need for manual data entry.

YMS can be integrated with business management systems like ERP, WMS, and TMS. Most YMS vendors offer open APIs that enable two-way data flow. Incoming data from WMS or ERP can include purchase order information, while the TMS can share estimated time of arrival (ETA) or vehicle details. Data sent to WMS can include inventory updates, and to TMS, it can provide appointment information.

For smooth data sharing, it is important to connect your YMS with standalone solutions that offer specific functionality. This can include appointment management, dock scheduling software, gate security systems, or business intelligence tools. If you have existing systems in place and do not plan to replace them with a comprehensive YMS, integrating them will ensure a cohesive workflow.

In certain business models where constant communication and data exchange with partners like carriers, shippers, or 3PL companies are necessary, integrating your YMS with their systems is beneficial. This enables seamless information sharing on orders, appointment scheduling, updates, and more.

Utilizing mobile devices, tablets, and portable scanners within your YMS can greatly expedite operations and improve communication. These devices can be used across various yard processes such as gate operations, dock activities, yard checks, spotter moves, and more.

With the increasing adoption of IoT devices like cameras, sensors, telematics devices, and drones, integrating them with your YMS provides automation, enhanced control, and a wealth of data for analysis. This enables you to automate more processes, gain deeper insights, and optimize operations in your yard management.


Main YMS providers

There are several popular standalone yard management software solutions available in the market. Here is a brief description of some of them:

PINC: PINC is a highly scalable yard management solution that offers automation across gates, docks, and the yard. It focuses on sensor usage and provides robust reporting options to support analytics.

FourKites: FourKites is a well-known provider of various supply chain instruments and has partnered with leading brands like Walmart and Coca-Cola. Their emphasis is on end-to-end real-time visibility. FourKites offers a strong appointment management system, flexible integrations, and easy deployment.

C3 Solutions: C3 Solutions provides two separate modules: C3 Reservations for dock scheduling and C3 Yard for yard management. C3 Reservations is a powerful tool that allows users to apply multiple constraints to the scheduling process, attach documentation, set up notifications, and operate through a mobile app. C3 Yard is configurable, allowing users to choose the required functionality and customize alerts, user access, business rules, exceptions, and more.

Yard Management Solutions (YMS): YMS offers a comprehensive suite of modules, including the Gate Module, Appointment Schedule, Dock Module, Spotter Module, Yard Check Module, Eagle View for yard visibility and asset tracking, inventory management, and reporting. Their website also provides an estimated calculation of potential savings with their YMS.

Please note that these are just a few examples, and there are other yard management software providers available in the market. It’s important to evaluate your specific needs and requirements before selecting a solution that best fits your organization.


Main approaches to YMS implementation

When considering implementing a yard management system (YMS), there are various approaches you can take:

YMS functionality as part of WMS: Many Warehouse Management System (WMS) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers offer yard management capabilities within their platforms. This can be a convenient option if you already have a WMS in place. However, the level of visibility and customization may be limited compared to standalone YMS solutions.

Separate dedicated tools: If you have specific needs or want to automate certain yard operations, you can opt for standalone software solutions that focus on specific functionalities like appointment management or dock scheduling. These tools can be integrated with your existing system to fill the gaps in functionality.

Standalone YMS solution: Choosing a comprehensive standalone YMS solution from dedicated vendors, such as the ones mentioned earlier, can provide you with a complete set of yard management features. These solutions are designed specifically to address yard management challenges and offer high levels of customization and visibility.

Custom development: For businesses with unique requirements or specific operational models, custom development of a YMS can be an option. By partnering with an experienced software development company, you can create a tailored solution that maximizes efficiency and meets your specific needs.

It’s important to carefully evaluate your requirements, budget, and long-term goals before selecting the most suitable approach for implementing a YMS. Engaging with vendors, conducting thorough research, and consulting with industry experts can help you make an informed decision.


The future of the yards

The global digital transformation is impacting various industries, including logistics, and yard operations are no exception. While yards have traditionally relied on manual processes, the introduction of automation is becoming increasingly inevitable. The integration of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, and autonomous vehicles is set to revolutionize the yard environment. What might sound futuristic is swiftly becoming a reality as companies recognize the numerous benefits and conveniences offered by these advancements.

Drones equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanners can serve as Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS). They can efficiently survey expansive areas filled with densely packed goods and swiftly identify the precise location of required inventory. Yards, with their controlled environments, are ideal for implementing self-driving vehicles that can automate repetitive and monotonous tasks performed by yard tractors.

Companies like ZF and Knorr-Bremse are actively developing autonomous vehicle concepts aimed at reducing operating costs and enhancing security in yard operations. Additionally, there is the story of Outrider, a startup that successfully secured $118 million in funding to automate yards, marking another significant step towards the digital future.

Overall, the integration of IoT, drones, and autonomous vehicles in yard operations showcases the transformative potential of these technologies. By embracing automation, companies can streamline processes, increase efficiency, and unlock numerous benefits in the logistics industry.



Contact us


    I agree with Privacy Policy