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The State of Yard Management:
2021 Industry Report

The Last Frontier in Shipment Visibility

Download the full report to access additional findings, in-depth analysis and recommendations


In a recent survey of more than 375 supply chain professionals at Fortune 500 companies, FourKites found that 92% of respondents believe a yard management system (YMS) and an automated appointment management system could add value to their organization. However, only 25% of respondents are currently using a YMS, and less than half are using an automated appointment management solution.

Why the gap? What do the 25% YMS users know that others don’t?

Compared to transportation management systems (TMSs) and WMSs — both of which are now ubiquitous across the supply chain industry — there’s a general lack of knowledge regarding the benefits of a YMS. And while visibility into in-transit freight tracking has improved considerably in recent years as companies understand the critical importance of knowing where their freight is at any given time, the yard remains a black hole in many supply chains.

But companies are now realizing that they need better last-mile visibility into inbound loads to manage the flow of traffic for manufacturing and distribution sites. Disruptions such as COVID-19 have exacerbated the challenges of managing congested yards, highlighting notorious inefficiencies of manual operations.

In this report, we will take a close look at yard management and appointment management solution adoption across industries. While some organizations are ahead of the curve, the vast majority of companies are still not using these solutions. We’ll also illustrate the value of these solutions and provide you with comprehensive information that will help you make the right decisions when it comes to optimizing yard operations for your business.

Yards remain notoriously inefficient as companies waste time and resources searching for trailers and inventory poorly located in the yard. Lack of timely location of assets can lead to misaligned inbound processes, incomplete assembly, missed deliveries and spoiled goods.

Source: Gartner, Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations, Simon Tunstall & Bart De Muynck, 6 November 2020.

The Supply Chainaics Talk YMS

Yard management systems are evolving to address the ever-changing needs of the logistics industry. Discover what factors are influencing these updates and what’s next in yard management tech, such as improving facility throughput, optimizing check-in and inventory management with RFID tags, and enabling contactless supply chain operations.


Yard & Appointment Management Survey Overview

In December 2020, FourKites, the #1 supply chain visibility platform, surveyed hundreds of Fortune 500 shippers across a range of industries to discover the current state of yard management technology, and to develop a clear vision of the pain points today’s companies face in the yard.

Respondents were asked about the size of their yard, pain points, the technology they’re using, current processes and more.

Summary of Key Findings

  • 92% of respondents feel a YMS and appointment management technology would or could add value to their organization, though only 25% of respondents are currently using a yard management system.
  • Retail companies have adopted YMS platforms more than any other industry, with 41% having already done so.
  • When it comes to both yard and appointment management, the majority of respondents claim manual processes as their biggest challenge (55% and 52%, respectively).
  • 22% of respondents manage their gate processes on paper, while only 5% have taken steps to automate these processes.
  • 27% of respondents do not maintain any kind of yard or appointment performance metrics.

A key finding of the survey is a general lack of understanding regarding the value of a YMS, despite persistent pain points in the yard related to heavily manual processes. Interestingly, even as organizations undertake digital supply chain transformation initiatives, yard management is often the third priority after transportation and warehouse management solutions.

Gartner finds that improving yard operations was historically overlooked, even where there were well identified improvement opportunities. This was typically because of an overfocus on warehouse and transportation management processes, priorities and systems. 

Source: Gartner, Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations, Simon Tunstall & Bart De Muynck, 6 November 2020.

Survey Results

In this section, you’ll find unique insights into the state of yard and appointment management across industries, pain points by industry, and areas organizations have identified as opportunities for improvement.

Yard Management: The Last Frontier in Shipment Visibility infographic thumbnail

Survey Results Infographics

In this infographic, you’ll find unique insights into the state of yard and appointment management across industries, pain points by industry, and areas organizations have identified as opportunities for improvement.

Yard Management Landscape

What Technology Are You Using?

Survey respondents were asked if they use a YMS or a WMS.

Survey Findings

  • Across the industries surveyed, 41% of respondents have adopted neither a YMS nor a WMS. 34% have adopted a WMS, and 25% have adopted a YMS.
  • F&B and Retail represent the largest industry groups of both WMS and YMS users.
  • 41% of F&B respondents use a WMS, and 26% of F&B respondents use a YMS. 33% of Food & Beverage respondents use neither a YMS nor a WMS.
  • 68% of Manufacturing respondents use neither a WMS or YMS, representing the largest group of non-users. 14% use a WMS, and 18% use a YMS.
  • 50% of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) respondents have not adopted a YMS or WMS. 33% have adopted a WMS, and 17% have adopted a YMS.
  • 41% of Retail respondents use a YMS, while 36% use a WMS. 23% of Retail respondents use neither a YMS nor a WMS.
  • 42% of Paper & Packaging respondents have adopted neither a YMS nor a WMS. 26% have adopted a WMS, and 32% have adopted a YMS.


Many organizations are implementing WMS at a faster rate than a YMS, on average. The Retail and Manufacturing categories are exceptions in that more respondents use a YMS than a WMS, likely due to the high volume of shipments managed at Retail distribution centers and the complexity of Manufacturing yards.

Would a YMS Help Your Organization?

Survey Findings

  • 43% of respondents across all industries believe that a YMS would add value to their organization.
  • 38% said a YMS might help their organization. This figure represents the fact that the benefits of a YMS are not widely understood.
  • 19% of respondents do not believe that a YMS could benefit their organization.


Adoption of a YMS can depend on specific requirements, scope, volume or experiences, regardless of industry. For instance, companies that have suffered tangible losses from missed deliveries, lost inventory or high detention charges see the value in managing the yard more efficiently, as do companies that are closely tracking key performance metrics across their operations.

Supply Chainiacs Talk Digitizing the Yard

FourKites’ recent YMS Industry Report compiled data from over three hundred Fortune 500 shippers and 3PLs across multiple industries. These companies are collectively moving billions of dollars worth of product each year, and we’ve compiled their most useful insights into one source, answering your burning questions around why the industry has been slow to adopt technology in the yard and the untapped benefits of digitizing yard operations.


Learn more about the ROI of Yard Management Systems

Pain Points in Yard Management

From the gate to the dock, manual workflows burden every aspect of yard management.

The majority of survey respondents recognize that their processes are far from optimized, and they’re feeling the pain that comes from the resulting inefficiencies and lack of visibility. A YMS is an effective way of digitizing and automating these cumbersome yard processes.

Due to its smaller size compared to the WMS and TMS markets and the frequent lack of collaborative focus between transportation and warehousing operations, the yard is still often neglected and managed in a manual and/or reactive fashion. There are a large number of impactful opportunities, significant market changes and technology trends that deserve focus from forward-thinking supply chain leaders.

Source: Gartner, Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations, Simon Tunstall & Bart De Muynck, 6 November 2020.

What Are Your Biggest Pain Points In The Yard?

Survey Findings

  • 46% of respondents said manual processes were their biggest pain point
  • 21% listed locating equipment as their biggest pain point
  • Overall operational costs were a significant factor for 15% of respondents


Across all industries, manual processes and locating equipment in the yard were the top two pain points, followed by overtime costs. Higher labor costs were a bigger concern for respondents from the Manufacturing industry, likely because those yards are among the most complex and tend to involve more manual processes. Retail yards also tend to suffer from higher costs due to the volume of shipments handled manually.

All of these problems are symptoms of the same issue: a lack of real-time visibility. Yard management systems, especially next generation-YMSs that incorporate in-yard with in-transit visibility, address all of these issues with significant ROI and operational impact.

“With FourKites, we have all the information we need in one single reliable source, in real time. Knowing the variations of ETAs in real time allows us to better manage our inventories – even reducing the percentage of safety stock of some raw materials so we can change to plan for just-in-time production. This connection that exists between planning and reliable transit times allows us to be prepared for any change in volume, either up or down, and – above all – to attend to the urgency that we may have in production changes.”

– Fernanda Ongay, Transportation Manager at Constellation Brands, Inc.

Download FourKites’ Yard Management Industry Report to learn more about yard pain points by industry.

How Big Is Your Yard?

Yard size and load volumes are just a couple factors that can dictate decisions regarding software adoption. Organizations that use a TMS and/or WMS can benefit from the addition of a YMS to provide greater visibility, which enables gate, appointment, dock and spotter optimization. In a large yard, or in a very active yard, the time spent manually spotting trailers for loading or for inventory management translates into significant labor costs, which can be greatly reduced with improved visibility.

To understand the potential for process improvements through automation, we asked respondents how many spotters, how many dock doors and how many parking spaces they have in their average facility.


Yard sizes vary by industry and within industries, leading to a wide range of spotter use, dock doors and parking spaces. These factors play a role in the pain points experienced at any given facility, where consequences of limited space, manual operations, overtime costs and schedule rank high on the list of challenges.

Many companies focus on lowering transportation costs through a TMS or a WMS and don’t understand the potential for savings and efficiency improvements with better yard management, such as higher asset velocity and reduced detention fees. For yards of all sizes, yard operations are more than a cost center; they can be a strategic advantage, especially when integrated with the end-to-end digital supply chain.

Yard Operations Overview

In this section, we will focus on the primary functions of a yard and examine performance gaps where a YMS can streamline operations and add significant value to your business.

What Is a Spotter?

Spotters, also known as yard jockeys or hostlers, locate and move trailers between docks and parking spaces in the yard. Tasks are typically given verbally over radio and without reference to real-time yard locations. In a yard without a YMS, they are the link between the yard and the warehouse. Spotters follow extremely manual, time-intensive workflows, full of guesswork and double-checking, which can lead to costly, disruptive errors. By the time a spotter has finished a yard check, the data is often out of date.

A YMS eliminates the manual labor of tracking and locating trailers in the yard, and provides spotters with the dock door destination for each trailer.

Average Spotter Use

Survey Findings

  • 78% of respondents use 1-3 spotters
  • 12% of respondents employ 7 or more spotters on a regular basis
  • 10% or respondents use 4-6 spotters


Spotter use varies by yard type, size and volume. A YMS can provide insights to help determine what the spotter workload should be, how many spotters are required, and develop performance metrics to manage spotter productivity — not only at a single site but across sites.

Supply Chainiacs Talk Inventory Optimization

Inventory optimization is key to running a successful supply chain, and misplaced merchandise in the yard can be extremely costly. That’s where yard management systems come in. RFID technology allows users to identify where their merchandise is located in the yard, enabling instantaneous yard checks, avoiding misplaced shipments and keeping inventory flowing.


What Is a Gate House?

The gate house manages arrivals and departures of trailers in the yard. If the organization is using a YMS, it is the initial entry of a trailer into the system; if the organization does not use a YMS, the trailer is entered into the paper log or a homegrown system. The gate records the trailer’s arrival — either manually or using technology such as RFID tags with a YMS — and facilitates movement of the trailer to its appropriate place in the yard, be it to a dock door or to a parking space. When required, time-consuming manual trailer inspections occur at the gate during the arrival process, as guards inspect and record the results for each trailer that passes through the gates.

How Would You Describe Your Gate House Processes?

Survey Findings

  • 46% of respondents who do not use a YMS or WMS report having no formal processes for managing gate-in or gate-out activity, while 12% have “unmanned” gate houses.
  • 22% of respondents manage gate processes using paper documentation, reinforcing the highly manual nature of yard processes.
  • Just 5% of respondents automate their gates or are using an internal system.


The survey findings attest to a lack of digitization and optimization of gate house processes for the vast majority of respondents across all industries. The low adoption of gate management processes means that most organizations are spending far more resources than is necessary to manage loads on a first-come, first-served basis, leading to chaos in the yard — not to mention loss of visibility when it comes to carrier performance.

Download FourKites’ Yard Management Industry Report to learn more about gate house processes by industry.

Digitization is an important step in Dow’s journey toward the implementation of an end-to-end supply chain visibility strategy. Our strategic partnership with FourKites enables us to digitize and move away from a manual way of working to an integrated technology platform workflow.

– Kevin Nielen, Logistics Leader, Dow Chemical

Appointment Management Landscape

Appointment management (AM) solutions schedule and track the time slots in which carriers drop off and pick up trailers in the yard. While standalone AM solutions do exist, the latest generation of AM solutions are designed specifically for the logistics industry, and provide a common platform for facilities, shippers and carriers to collaborate and efficiently manage appointments. These platforms, which can be seamlessly integrated with a YMS, WMS and TMS to maximize value, offer:

  • Integrated appointment management, which lets carriers self-schedule appointments by viewing only the times that are available at a given facility
  • Synergies with dock scheduling — tied to the type of product, as well as dock location — to ensure dock doors aren’t being double-booked
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration between all stakeholders while providing a “single source of truth” for all appointment logs
  • Configurable workflows to eliminate unnecessary and error-prone manual work, so you can auto-book appointments and set rules to manage by exception
  • Increased real-time visibility, empowering you to reschedule appointments based on the realities on the ground

Despite these benefits, over half of survey respondents still handle AM manually via email and phone calls, or through standalone tools. These processes are not integrated with other solutions, such as a YMS, and must therefore be updated by staff manually when delays inevitably arise.

Survey Findings

  • 55% of all respondents claim manual calls and emails as their biggest pain point, 21% claim poor dock door utilization, 18% claim silos between appointment management and TMS/WMS.


Like yard management, manual processes was the leading pain point for appointment management across all industries. That points to a lack of automated processes, and the need for an endless stream of phone calls, emails and manual updates to keep up with  shifting schedules.

The other most pressing pain points — poor dock door utilization and siloed information — reflect a reliance on manual or siloed processes that don’t support easy communication among stakeholders. Adopting a dynamic appointment management tool that integrates with a yard management system and automatically updates schedules can solve for many of these problems in any industry.

“The automated reporting and tracking provides more accurate and real-time data, which allows Canfor to respond to customer inquiries quicker and with up-to-date information on their upcoming shipments that would have otherwise had to be manually tracked.”

— Bob Hayes, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Canfor

Would An Appointment Management Solution Help Your Organization?

Survey Findings

  • Nearly half of all respondents feel that an appointment management tool would benefit their organization
  • 33% of respondents are unsure of the value of an appointment management solution


While a significant number of respondents do recognize the value of an appointment management tool, there is still a large number who do not understand the ways such a solution could help them streamline operations.

The benefits of an appointment management solution are clear. Especially when integrated with your existing technologies, the latest generation of AM solutions facilitate collaboration among all stakeholders, enhance real-time visibility and eliminate manual, error-prone work. Looking for even more value? For organizations looking to increase the number of live loads they are able to accommodate, an integrated YMS/AM solution allows them to better coordinate and allocate resources, eliminating wasted time between loads and ultimately adding capacity.

Key Performance Indicators In The Yard

Tools like a TMS and a WMS collect and analyze data for transportation moves and warehouse operations, but there’s a missing link: the yard. Without gathering real-time data in the yard, it is impossible to measure performance, leading to inefficiencies and unnecessary operational costs.

Does Your Organization Measure Yard Or Appointment Performance?

Survey Findings

  • 27% of YMS users do not collect metrics or reporting on appointment or yard performance
  • 49% of YMS users track appointment metrics
  • 15% of YMS users track both yard and appointment metrics, while 9% only track yard performance


These results highlight how few organizations are measuring performance across their yard operations. That said, logistics is an industry historically slow to adopt new technology, so seeing 50% of organizations maintaining appointment metrics is indicative of a trend toward technological adoption and optimization.

“Like all carriers, we feel the acute pain of appointment management every single day. Our dispatchers manage an incredibly complex workflow, which involves managing scheduling and rescheduling across many different platforms. FourKites’ Appointment Manager, which is the first universal platform that integrates with all of our systems, would save our dispatchers approximately eight hours a week, and allow them to shift their focus to higher-value tasks.”

– Sanford Gruhn, Director of Sales at K&B Transportation, Inc.

Critical Yard Management KPIs

A modern YMS provides users with reports and analytics for effective KPI setting and measurement, and managers rely on those metrics to optimize processes and maximize utilization of yard and warehouse resources. When performance falls below expectations, managers can easily pinpoint which areas of their operation require intervention. Moreover, they can analyze site-level performance metrics to compare each facility’s operations, and share knowledge and best practices to get all sites performing at the same level of excellence.

The following are just a few of the metrics managers should be measuring and monitoring with their YMS:

Gate Metrics
  • Percentage and number of gate transactions by transaction type (arrival, departure, turn away)
  • Percentage and number of gate transactions by load type (drop, live, bobtails, visitors)
  • Percentage and number of gate transactions by equipment status (empty, loaded, partial, tapped)
Yard Jockey Metrics
  • Percentage and number of tasks by type (dock bump, manual move, pull, spot)
  • Trends of total idle time
  • Average time per task
  • Average number of tasks per driver
  • Driver breadcrumb tracking
Facility Metrics
  • Percentage and number of appointments by type (arrival, departure, turn away)
  • Detention time
  • Detention charge
  • Equipment dwell time
Carrier Metrics
  • Average detention
  • Average detention hours per piece of equipment
  • Percentage of on-time, early or late deliveries
Equipment Metrics
  • Average dwell
  • Actual dwell time for all equipment
  • Average delay for late loads
  • Percentage and number of equipment by load type (drop, live)
  • Percentage and number of equipment by equipment type (reefers, trailers and containers by size)
  • Number of shipments by day of week

What Are The Benefits Of A Yard Management System?

A basic YMS is a software solution designed to monitor the movement of trailers in the yard of a facility, distribution center or warehouse. Most yard management solutions offer minimal appointment, gate and inventory management functionality, while more comprehensive platforms also offer metrics, dock management and carrier tools. Today’s state-of-the-art YMS solutions can deliver in-transit visibility, as well as additional benefits like appointment management, dock scheduling and performance metrics to support continuous improvement.

The key benefits of a yard management system include:

  • Visibility: Enable effective inventory management, asset utilization and performance management by knowing where every trailer is located, even across multiple yards.
  • Process conformity: Establish consistent, well-documented, check-in and check-out procedures, making operations faster and easier for drivers and facility staff.
  • Velocity: Streamline operations with real-time visibility into asset location and status.
  • Cross-dock efficiency: Boost cross-dock volumes with a YMS and dock-door scheduling, WMS solution and workforce management.
  • Spotter efficiency: Spotters receive, accept and confirm moves via mounted tablets that eliminate errors and capture data for performance analytics.
  • Customer service: A single source of information eliminates the manual tracking needed to respond to customer inquiries on shipment location.
  • Carrier analysis: By tracking carrier commitments, on-time performance, wait time and unload time, it’s easier to make pivotal decisions about carrier choice and how best to optimize dock labor for speedy loading and unloading.
  • Carrier collaboration: Provide carriers with access to the YMS for real-time notifications.
  • Cost reduction: Slash expenses across the yard by managing appointments, dwell time and labor expenses.
  • Safety & security: Eliminate the need for workers to walk the yard, monitor drivers’ behavior and track moves of every trailer.
  • Process improvement: Transform inefficient manual handling into optimized, data-driven processes backed by KPI setting and measurement.
  • Appointment scheduling: Next-generation YMSs integrate appointment management solutions to replace time-consuming phone calls and emails.

Supply Chainiacs Talk Management ROI

The experts uncover significant sources of ROI seen from YMS implementations, such as:

  • Labor cost savings throughout the yard
  • Improved dock utilization and throughput
  • Decreased Spoilage
  • Reduced Detention

The next generation of YMS

In 2020, FourKites introduced Dynamic Yard to the market as the next generation of yard management solutions. For the first time, Dynamic Yard extends visibility beyond the chain link fence of the yard. Unlike traditional yard management solutions that show you only what’s in your yard, FourKites combines industry-leading YMS capabilities with in-transit predictive visibility and analytics so that you can proactively manage every aspect of your yard operations. With Dynamic Yard, you can track your goods from point of origin all the way to destination, and everything in between.

Now, facilities can be managed proactively and dynamically, enterprise-wide — and with a completely touch-free experience from truck arrival to departure. Mobile accessibility gives gate guards access to documents for check in/out purposes, and allows them to leave the physical vicinity of the gate house. Additionally, FourKites’ CarrierLink mobile app ensures that small carriers and owner/operators have access to the single source for load documentation.

FourKites’ Dynamic Yard could become a game-changing solution for us. Our existing YMS is limited when it comes to understanding the real-time status of our freight. FourKites took the opportunity to work with us to understand our need to optimize operations based on tracking and predictive ETA data. Dynamic Yard and its integration with FourKites’ visibility platform could be a real breakthrough that enables cost savings and significant gains in efficiency.

– Belinda Biddle, Customer Experience Manager, Transportation, GE Appliances

What sets Dynamic Yard apart from other solutions?

Scalability: Dynamic Yard offers scalable enterprise solutions for any organization, regardless of size – from the smallest up to multiple enterprise locations. No matter the size and number of sites, Dynamic Yard provides comprehensive reporting and metrics to make sure every site is performing to its potential.

Process Automation: Dynamic Yard automates the most basic functions of your yard, freeing up resources to handle higher-value tasks. These range from spotter task workflow automation, to automated alerting and report emails.

Multi-tenant Visibility: Using portals designed specifically for the needs of your carriers and individual sites, Dynamic Yard empowers your stakeholders to view changes, manage appointments and complete tasks with ease.

Robust Integrations: By integrating with your TMS, WMS and in-transit load visibility, Dynamic Yard provides the full picture of your operations, and serves as your single source of truth for centralized performance analysis and monitoring.

Easy, Rapid Deployment: With a 12-week standard deployment, FourKites has mastered the balance between deployment speed, meticulousness and time to value. Our team works with you every step of the way to ensure successful deployment.

ETA-enabled Process Optimization: Visibility into every aspect of your operations enables you to streamline your supply chain. By incorporating real-time, in-transit ETAs into your yard management, you’ll be able to react quickly to unforeseen obstacles.

Yard Management Buyer’s Guide

Who needs a YMS?

Regardless of other technology platforms you use, such as warehouse and transportation management systems, Garter recommends that yard management should be strongly considered by:*

  • Organizations with any size yard
  • Users with a high volume of supplier and customer shipments
  • Users who suffer from yard, dock door and throughput congestion
  • Users that operate a campus of yards, or who manage networks of yards to effectively deploy resources across their network

*Gartner, Yard Management Technology Trends and Selection Considerations, Simon Tunstall & Bart De Muynck, 6 November 2020.

5 questions to guide your selection process:

Does your organization:

  • Struggle to manage inventory and equipment in the yard? A solution with live yard visibility to your assets via a site-specific map provides accurate trailer inventory counts, current trailer status and efficient trailer movements.
  • Pay high overtime costs due to inefficient spotter operations? Yard spotter efficiency tools minimize truck idle time and streamline yard asset movements.
  • Want an effective way to communicate across the supply chain? Comprehensive communication tools align stakeholders across sites.
  • Want to manage and prove continual improvement across all yards? Metrics detailing performance factors, like dwell and carrier performance, help to drive continuous improvement, and deep insights guide strategic efforts.
  • Seek to improve relationships with carriers by empowering drivers? Carriers benefit from a YMS with self-service, automated appointment scheduling tools and integrated messaging, which replaces the traditional process of receiving endless check calls and replaces it with greater driver autonomy.


While only 25% of survey respondents have implemented yard management solutions, the overwhelming majority of organizations see the value these platforms could bring to their businesses. Despite this widespread acknowledgement of a better way of doing things, too many organizations hang on to manual practices or inadequate technology to muddle through as best they can.

Today, there’s a new and better way to move those manual processes into the digital age, transforming yard operations into a competitive advantage through increased visibility and efficiency.

Faced with ongoing supply chain volatility in consumer demand, capacity constraints, labor shortages and the ongoing pandemic, the need for enhanced visibility in the yard has never been greater. Today’s leading organizations recognize the costs of yard management blind spots and are increasingly turning to next-generation solutions that provide real-time, in-transit tracking, as well as in-yard visibility, to optimize their end-to-end operations and transform their yards into true competitive differentiators.

To learn more about next-generation yard and appointment management solutions, and the value they can bring to your organization, please contact us.

Start enhancing your supply chain today.

The road to stronger global supply chain management starts with FourKites. Contact our team to learn more.