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Seve CarneraSolutions Consultant, FourKites

Last week, we examined pain points in the yard specifically for carriers. For those carriers delivering freight, the first encounters they have in the yard occur at the gate. What happens at the gate sets in motion the rest of the workflows in the yard, but more often than not, gate attendants aren’t given the tools they need to do their job effectively. From paper logs to potentially dangerous human contact, gate attendants are a pivotal part of any yard, serving as gatekeepers and organizers alike. 

Having implemented yard management software all over the world, I’ve noticed detrimental operational patterns and noted the ways outdated YMS technology (or lack of YMS technology) have enabled these deficiencies. In this post, we will address the key pain points for gate attendants – namely paper-based processes and the time-consuming inspection process – and how yard management solutions can help fill the gaps. 

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Paper-based, manual operations are the enemies of efficiency

In a recent survey of over 300 supply chain professionals, we found that 23 percent of respondents managed gate guard operations using highly manual, paper-based processes. And 31% of respondents operate on a first-come-first-served basis with no paper trail at all. 

The inability to digitize this information at the beginning of the freight’s time in the yard makes it that much harder to maintain accurate visibility into its location for the remainder of its time at the facility. For this reason alone, there are immense productivity gains to be realized by implementing a digital solution for gate-in processes. 

Survey Results of Guard House Process AdoptionWhether an organization decides to automate gate-in or digitize gate guard operations, it’s important to select an agile yard management system that can grow with your organization, and that can address your pain points at every stage of growth. Enhancements like automation of key processes may sound intimidating for your organization right now. But if in five years, your organization has grown and you need to improve throughput in the yard, you will avoid the stress, time and money of switching YMS providers if you choose a scalable YMS now. 

In many cases, companies can start using these YMSs as nonintegrated solutions to automate mostly manual processes, and to very quickly increase visibility to yard operations and their equipment. 

– Gartner’s “Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations”, November 2020

By digitizing your gate processes, you not only leave a trail of data for long-term examination and record-keeping, but you are also investing in the reliability of your data. When incoming appointments are swapped or changed, a YMS has the ability to inform the gate attendant in real time, assuring stakeholder alignment and efficient use of employees’ time.

Once the carrier reaches the gate, the attendant can decide to use a mobile device to meet the driver, or drivers can access check-in kiosks, where shipment information can be entered accurately and securely. Documentation, meanwhile, can be kept in a centralized, accessible location for every stakeholder (or just the ones you want seeing your data), and you eliminate the need for the exchange of hand-written paper forms for good. 

Gartner has identified increased interest from end users in automating this [gate] process to speed up the check-in process and to keep drivers safe through social distancing. Some systems support both manned and unmanned environments, and can act as the communication point with the driver, provide on-site instructions and register the load as on-campus or within the yard.

– Gartner’s “Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations”, November 2020

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I’ve seen firsthand the power a modern YMS has to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of gate guard activities. Arriving trailer after trailer is tiring business, and human errors are understandably inevitable. What a yard management system aims to do across all yard operations is to minimize the opportunity for error and provide a reliable, centralized source of information for all supply chain stakeholders involved in this critical work.

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