Food distributors have a pretty good handle on what goes on inside their warehouses. Now some companies are turning their attention outside to their warehouse yards, using yard management systems to bring order to a sometimes chaotic environment.
While many third-party yard management systems are available, Bozzuto's, a wholesaler based in Cheshire, Conn., has developed its own system for tracking trailers in its yards. Certain parts of the system have been used over the past few months but even bigger gains are expected by the end of the year.
For example, Bozzuto's has reorganized the yard at its main Cheshire DC with parking slots for all trailers, said Jerry Nappi, transportation manager. The “yard jockeys,” responsible for rounding up empty trailers and bringing them to specific docks for loading, punch the trailer's location into their onboard computer and do the same after arriving at the assigned dock, time-stamping the whole process. They also scan a bar code on the trailer to confirm it is the right one. This was all paper-based in the past.
Because of the automation, the jockeys' efficiency “has greatly increased,” he said. Bozzuto's can monitor the yard jockeys' productivity, such as how many moves they've made through the day and how quickly they made them. “So we can see whether we're overstaffed or understaffed,” Nappi said. Eventually, the process will be even more automated, with the system giving the yard jockeys all of their instructions.
The increased productivity of the yard jockeys has had a “snowball effect,” increasing the efficiency of the warehouse as well, Nappi said.
Yard management also helps drivers find their trailers after they have been loaded and staged for delivery in the yard. “In the past, the trailer could be anywhere in the lot,” said Nappi. “The driver would drive around looking for the trailer.” But now the driver knows exactly where the trailer is located.
The yard management system has begun to incorporate appointment scheduling for inbound backhaul deliveries. The backhaul driver, upon picking up his load, calls the warehouse with the information, which is fed into the system. “By the time he's back, he knows what bay to back into,” said Nappi. In the past, the driver would be directed to a backhaul area.
Change management has been the biggest challenge in implementing the yard management system. But as time goes by, “everybody's buying into it,” Nappi said. He is certainly pleased with the system. “I've been looking for this for a long time.”
Other food distributors have adopted third-party yard management systems. For example, last year, Price Chopper selected Retalix's system to synchronize yard and dock activities at its DCs, using RFID tags and readers. “The solution will help us quickly locate equipment, personnel and products anywhere in our yard, and will greatly reduce trailer wait times - all of which means higher supply chain visibility, efficiency and productivity,” said Dave Schmitz, director of distribution for Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y.
Yard management tends to be adopted by larger retailers that have more yard assets to track, noted Eric Lamphier, senior director of product management for Manhattan Associates, Atlanta, which markets warehouse and yard management systems. Moreover, appointment scheduling is the module within yard management that gets the most adoption “to get a level of visibility into inbound shipments,” he added.