arrivals, the problem can escalate. “When drivers are not
held accountable, they know that even if they’re late, [the
receiver] would never do anything to deny the freight. So
they show up at the end of the day and [the facility] still
accepts the load because it’s important inventory,” Braun
Automating the check-in process changes all that.
When drivers use smartphone apps to notify the yard
of their arrival, the facility can capture the data and
use it to track their performance over time and generate scorecards for drivers or companies, C3’s Braun
said. Armed with these records, a DC manager can
go to a supplier and show it that Driver X habitually misses appointments or that the company’s trucks
arrive at unexpected times, whether it’s too early or too
Often as not, that will bring an end to the behavior.
“When you put this discipline in place and hold people
accountable, they tend to fall in line,” Braun said.
Tip 3: Prioritize deliveries to avoid backups and waiting
lines at dock doors. To prevent peak period holdups, it
helps to prioritize and “pre-assign” trucks to certain docks
in advance of their arrival, said Eric Lamphier, senior
director for product management at software developer
Manhattan Associates Inc., which offers a YMS as part of
its supply chain application suite.
Among other advantages, sorting out dock assignments
ahead of time allows facilities to deal more efficiently
with vehicles with special handling needs. For instance,
a truck carrying temperature-sensitive goods may have
to be sent to a “chilled” or “frozen” dock, instead of an
ambient-temperature dock. Another might need to be
directed to a dock door that’s equipped to handle cargo in
floor-loaded boxes instead of on pallets. A third truck may
be doing a “live unload,” dropping off just a portion of its
cargo before heading to a different site. “These are unique
scenarios that you need to route differently through the
facility,” Lamphier said.
Prioritizing trucks is particularly crucial for companies
whose operations rely on just-in-time (JIT) deliveries.
“Nobody wants a buildup of product, either in the building or in the yard,” Lamphier said. “But neither does anyone want a large buildup of drivers outside, honking their
horns and wondering when they can drop off a load.”
Tip 4: Keep your robots busy. For a growing number of
companies, setting priorities has become more than a mat-
ter of seeing that a truck carrying frozen foods is sent to
the right dock or that a vehicle with raw materials urgently
needed for production gets bumped to the head of the line.
These days, they may also have to factor in the technology
used at the dock itself.
For that, they have the robotics revolution to thank.
“Robotics is coming online like a freight train,” said Eric
Breen, director of the 4Sight Systems logistics software
suite at Assa Abloy Entrance Systems. One result is that a
number of facilities have equipped certain of their warehouse docks with high-speed robotic material handling or
loading equipment. To get the most from these expensive
assets, the facilities will almost certainly prioritize deliveries to keep those docks as busy as possible, Breen said.
Tip 5: Augment human performance with computers
in the yard. While automated equipment and robotics
can go a long way toward streamlining yard operations,
companies can realize even greater gains by augmenting
human performance with technology tools, according to
Matt Yearling, president and chief executive officer of Pinc
These tools could be anything from wearable devices
to the technology Pinc may be best known for—flying
drones that allow users to identify distant assets as the sen-sor-equipped aerial vehicles hover above the yard.
Among other advantages, drones can help fill in a conspicuous visibility gap for companies that track the end-to-end movement of their freight: the time that trucks spend
in the yard. Businesses have sophisticated systems in place
to monitor the whereabouts of vehicles while they’re on
the road, “but [trucks spend] a vast amount of time idling
at the source or destination, and people lose track of that,”
As for other ways facilities are putting technology to
use in the yard, some are installing automated kiosks at
their front gates, replacing the guards once posted at the
entrance to check drivers in with radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners. Not only can these self-service
kiosks make check-in faster and more accurate, but they
can also eliminate language barriers that might otherwise
exist between drivers and gate attendants.
Long dismissed as a simple expanse of pavement, the DC
yard is now being seen as an untapped opportunity to gain
operating efficiencies through the magic of automation.
With the growing use of smartphone technology, robotic
loading equipment, and automated kiosks, that vision is
fast becoming a reality.