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yard management software all over the world, I’ve noticed detrimental operational patterns and noted the ways outdated YMS technology (or lack of YMS technology) have enabled these deficiencies.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. 

Here’s a use case for how this works with FourKites’ eDocs functionality, which enables gate guards to access electronic documentation for incoming freight: 

  • The gate module offers up-to-the-minute arrivals and departures, all from a single interface.
  • Comprehensive filtering allows you to see quickly which freight is arriving on time, early or late, as well as pickup or delivery information and many other filters you might use to manage exceptions. 
  • If your facility has multiple gates, you can drill down by gate for the most configurable view possible.
  • Dynamic Yard’s ability to integrate with virtually every TMS and WMS platform equals maximum processing speed and immediate data availability. Your most important systems will talk to each other seamlessly, with no manual efforts needed. 
  • The platform’s automated business logic quickly identifies the best spot for a trailer, meaning no more guessing and checking or wasted time between gate and dock. 

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

Time-consuming inspections

Completing an inspection is one of the most critical steps of the facility check-in process. And in traditional yards, inspections are lengthy and inefficient processes. Here is a breakdown of the standard check-in process, which can be slow, poorly documented and error-prone: 

  1. Trailer Arrival: The trailer arrives at a facility that requires inspections.
  2. Inspection Research: After the trailer arrives, a gate guard researches the type of inspection that will be required.
  3. Perform the Inspection: The gate guard picks up a sheet of paper, walks around the trailer and starts taking down notes on:
    • Status of the trailer
    • Seal status
    • Seal number
    • Temperature
    • Any damage to the trailer and more.
  4. Manually Update Inspection Log: After completing the inspection, the gate guard needs to go back to his/her desk, and update an inspection paper log.

The process of performing the inspection is where most mistakes happen. The gate guard might write down the wrong seal number, write an incomprehensible comment on the status of the trailer or – worst case – complete the wrong inspection!

Inspections with Dynamic Yard

Dynamic Yard makes inspections fast, easy and error-free. The gate guard is automatically presented with the right inspection steps based on the incoming trailer type. From here, the inspection can be completed entirely from the platform. And because all our mobile applications are Android and iOS compatible, the gate guard can use a mobile device to do this, or they can perform these actions from a web browser on a Windows device. 

The most significant advantage to using the mobile application for completing inspections is the ability to complete and document checks quickly and accurately as you are walking around the trailer. Instead of writing out each scratch, dent or broken seal, for instance, you can snap a picture from your mobile device, and attach it to the inspection! 

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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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