One of the reasons why we’ve heard that folks don’t want to implement a YMS system is that it will slow down the gate process, or the “through-put” as it is sometimes referred. And guess what? They may be right and that can occur for some operations. However, this is typically true only for operations that are not collecting nearly enough information about what is visiting their yards. Yes – it may take a little extra time to collect this data, but the overall savings achieved when gathering good information and applying good process right at the start of the visit provides much greater overall savings in terms of time, organization, visibility, and efficiencies. Plus, there are several best practices that can be implemented in order to reduce the gate check-in time.
Let’s explore which best practices can be utilized to balance the gathering of good information, while also keeping the throughput up to speed. Please note that when we say, “gate check-in”, that also covers other check-in processes, like walking into an office with paperwork, utilizing a kiosk for self-check-in, and so on.
Let’s begin with the standard best practices for saving time at the gate, or office, for entry to the operation. These practices should be adopted by all operations, regardless of technology, resource, or capital availability because they are easy to do, and make a real impact.
Some operations will want to gather 5 pieces of information for every inbound to the operation. Things like – Trailer SCAC, Trailer ID, Load Type, BOL # (or Order Number, Pickup Number etc. – whatever is the identifying key of the delivery or pickup), and maybe the condition of the unit. Other operations will want to record 20-30 pieces of information at the gate instead of just 5. These additions may be driver name, driver’s license number, tractor number and vehicle license plate, trailer license place, trailer type, trailer length, trailer condition, seal number, route numbers, more load detail, origination, and destination information and more. The time it takes to record 5 fields compared to 25 fields is simple math… about 5x longer. We recommend finding the right balance between good, detailed information that is helpful to have in the YMS system, and the speed and efficiency for your users to process arrivals and departures quickly at the gate or in the office.
Yard management systems today typically come with a tool to pre-populate visit information before it arrives – often called an appointment system, or dock scheduling system, or more generically, just scheduling software. If this tool is available and used, the majority of the information about any visit is already in the system when the unit arrives. Now, the check-in personnel (either at a gate or inside an office) already has 90-95% of the information pre-filled out in the system. The process from there may be to check that the seal is intact, that the unit is not damaged, and they can quickly arrive the asset into the yard.
These systems may be pre-populated with that information through a variety of methods, including integrating with another system like a TMS, WMS or ERP system, manually inputting the scheduled visit by an inside clerk, or maybe the carrier or customer is accessing the system to schedule themselves to your operations yard.
No matter which is used, the appointment is scheduled and created through one of these processes, and now that the information is in the yard management system, many minutes can be saved for each arrival. If 3 minutes are saved per arrival across 120 arrivals and departures a day – that translates into 6 hours of savings. Kind of crazy right? 6 hours is a LONG time. So, keep in mind that gaining efficiency through utilization of an Appointment or Scheduling system is critical to cutting down on the time spent in-gating and out-gating inventory.
Sticking with the easiest to implement for any operation, we call out this seemingly obvious method to help with gate/office check-in throughput – providing an easy to use, accessible, and intuitive interface for performing these tasks.
Too many times we have seen slow, hard to read, hard to understand systems that your personnel are expected to use to record this information hundreds of times a day. If the program and interface, and device are not up to par, everything is in jeopardy. When we say everything, we mean everything. For example – the data recorded will not be as accurate. Without accurate information, you will not have good visibility as to what is at your operation, without knowing general yard inventory information (how many empties, how many loaded, what load types, etc.), you don’t know what is available to bring to the doors – both on the receiving side and on the shipping side. Without that information, you won’t meet order and delivery deadlines, and without meeting deadlines, you might as well not have a system at all.
One more point – if the process is painful for your staff, they may not stick around very long. In a nutshell, we can’t stress enough the importance of having a good, easy-to-use tool in order to arrive and depart assets to your operation quickly and effectively.
For example, setting up automatic entry and exit systems. Gates with technologies like automatic arms or roller fences that are triggered when certain assets arrive (probably owned or dedicated assets) will allow for your own assets to enter and exit without ever stopping. Sometimes your vehicles have a tag that triggers the gate, or sometimes the drivers have what amounts to a garage door opener type device that they can use to trigger it open. This is often best paired with a completely separate entrance to the property, or at least a second lane at the main entrance so that your fleet is not stuck waiting behind any other vehicle. If your property, infrastructure, and budget allow for it, this can help cut down on in and out process times by many multiples.