Yard jockeys are tasked with some of the most difficult activities in the yard: moving trailers, managing the flow of the yard and maintaining inventory visibility are just a few of the jobs spotters are tasked with. Without the right technology in place, these are extremely manual, time-intensive workflows, full of guesswork and double-checking, are rife with error. But with a modern yard management system, yard jockeys can perform their tasks faster, cheaper and more effectively.

Let’s take a look at the many challenges that yard jockeys deal with every day, and how technology can help to solve them.

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Alleviate manual, time-intensive workflows

FourKites recently conducted a survey of 200+ top shippers, asking them which issues on the yard are most troublesome. For over 50% of respondents, it’s the manual nature of their organization’s operations that presents the greatest pain point, while other pain points include locating inventory and high costs.

Oftentimes, yard jockeys are tasked with searching the yard for inventory, with no real way of knowing where that inventory is. Considering the size of most lots, this is no easy task. Aside from the difficulty of the job, it’s also a significant waste of valuable time, costing organizations hefty overtime fees. Modern yard management systems negate this issue by providing dynamic, real-time yard mapping, showing the spotter exactly where their inventory is located. This translates into more moves per a day, and considerably lower overtime expense, not to mention the morale boost that comes with time spent more intentionally.

“Without a reliable system, [yard jockeys] often waste time trying to find lost trailers in the yard. The YMS, however, communicates with the yard jockey using mobile technology.”

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

The standard operation for a yard jockey to receive tasks is via radio, but there’s no reason the process should be so cumbersome. With an effective yard management solution, spotters can view task lists on a tablet (the same one used for the live yard map) and mark tasks as finished as they go. For those concerned about overwhelming the jockey with a huge task list, it’s possible to configure the list such that they can see a single task at a time, or even for multiple jockeys to receive separate task lists unique to their zone. This is all possible with the right yard management solution.

“A YMS greatly improves spotter move times and enables shuttle drivers to electronically receive, accept and confirm the completion of move requests, thus eliminating radio communication and pen and paper in the cab.”

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

Eliminate error-prone workflows

Typically, the process for finding the right trailer in the yard is a tricky one. Lack of visibility means most yard jockeys waste an abundance of time searching for the right trailer, and there’s still a chance it ends up being the wrong one. Sometimes, it’s the right trailer, but it gets dropped at the wrong dock door.

One of the newest innovations for yard management systems is the capability to confirm that the jockey has hooked to the correct trailer. Taking it a step further, it’s even possible for a YMS to tell them if they are dropping the trailer at the right dock door. All of these capabilities are available on a tablet in the cab of the shunt. Taking the guess-and-check out of yard jockey processes is a significant value-add when looking for the right YMS for your organization.

Leverage data to improve operations

There are some processes in the yard that abide by the old saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Without technology, tracking performance and finding blind spots becomes a lot more challenging. Modern yard management systems use cross-yard digitization to log every aspect of your workflows and figure out where improvement is possible. In your search for the best YMS for your organization, it’s critical to consider how the platform can help you work efficiently and continually improve operations. For example, selecting a YMS that maintains thorough metrics related to yard jockey efficiency, throughput, shift effectiveness and facility-by-facility performance will ensure that your organization is continually improving its operations.

“Automating the yard and creating better visibility into the operations in the yard, as well as the alignment of the yard with the warehouse and transportation, play a bigger role leading to the next generation of YMS solutions.”

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

I previously mentioned the ways a YMS can help ensure the correct trailer is brought to the right dock door, but that is really the bare minimum expectation. Advanced yard management systems will even make sure the dispatcher is aware of the nearest (or most appropriate, based on configurable guidelines) jockey for a given move, and they only dispatch those tasks that are most efficient. Even more advanced features, like route optimization have been incorporated into the newest YMSs, which ensures that, once the yard jockey has seen the task on his tablet, he is shown the shortest route for equipment pickup and dropoff. In this way, it’s possible to vastly improve efficiency using digitization that considers the unique needs of your facilities.

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Jockey efficiency is paramount to a well-oiled yard, and a growing number of facilities are investing in streamlining workflows in the yard. The process of optimizing your yard doesn’t have to be overwhelming; partnering with a provider that is invested in your success is key. At FourKites, we provide the tools for your organization to best serve some of your hardest working stakeholders in the yard. Learn more about Dynamic Yard and how it can help your jockeys make the most of every shift.

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