The end-to-end logistics network represents a big investment for companies — as well as a key source of competitive advantage. Over the past few years, ongoing volatility on both the demand and supply sides has clearly demonstrated the need to orchestrate every aspect of logistics with extreme precision, in real time, to maximize both service and asset utilization.

One often-overlooked logistics asset is yard operations — the physical space outside warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities where inbound and outbound shipments are handled. In addition to static fixtures like gates and loading docks, the yard also includes dynamic elements such as trucks, trailers, shipments, and personnel.

As companies work to optimize their end-to-end logistics networks, they can’t overlook the potential value — both strategic and financial — of this complex and cost-intensive space. By optimizing the tracking, scheduling, coordination, and management of all these fixed and moving parts, companies can reduce costs for increased profitability, while also improving service to drive future revenues.

As more organizations realize the value of yard optimization, the market for dock and yard management solutions is growing. Valued at $3.1 billion in 2021, it’s projected to grow to $7.82 billion by 2030, reflecting an annual growth rate of 11.26%.

Recently I hosted a LinkedIn Live event called “Innovative Yard Management Use Cases,” where I talked to Chris Russell, Senior Director at Blue Yonder, who works with our parent company Panasonic Connect on its forward-looking solutions strategy. I asked Chris about the current and future state of yard management — and about the evolution of Blue Yonder’s capabilities in this area.

Recognizing the Enormous Value of the Yard

Terence: Is the yard representing a “blind spot” in organization’s supply chains?  

Chris: We have talked to many, many of our customers. They may have the inbound part of logistics covered with our Transportation Management System (TMS), and warehouse operations are covered with our Warehouse Management System (WMS). But when it comes to the yard, it is kind of a black hole. Things tend to get lost – to disappear.

One big challenge is automation. It is a heavily manual process in the yard, and it’s a critical link in the supply chain. There’s also a lack of visibility. What we find, when we talk to customers, they just don’t have visibility to what’s going on in the yard.

Terence: Is lack of efficiency and visibility significant?

Chris: This is a missed opportunity for cost savings. Most companies these days, especially in the logistics space, are looking to eliminate costs, and they are embracing automation to do that. So, if we can automate these processes in the yard and provide this visibility, it will reduce costs dramatically.

There are a lot of labor costs tied up there. There is a lot of time tied up there. Just think of the dwell time for a truck coming through the gate, or a live load coming in to be unloaded. If you don’t hit those numbers, you’re going to potentially get demurrage fees and other penalties. At Blue Yonder, we have gone through the business case, and it seems to be a very big number. There are some big opportunities associated with yard optimization.

Terence: Please let us know more about yard digitalization and optimization.

Chris: Digitalizing the yard can maximize the return on just about every asset, from improved truck and inventory productivity to increased labor efficiency. Yard optimization also pays off in terms of better customer service, which drives repeat business and future revenues.

Yard optimization via advanced technology is really about enabling much more efficient business processes, so it is going to help your customers. It is going to increase the efficiency of turns in that distribution center or that facility. It is going to reduce bottlenecks.

Blue Yonder: Leveraging Innovation To Realize That Value

Terence: What is our approach to help our customers realize this strategic value?

Chris: The answer is innovation. Today, Blue Yonder is delivering its powerful yard management capabilities as an intelligent, microservices-based solution that sits on top of Luminate® Platform. Instead of being an add-on or extension (the typical approach to yard digitalization), Blue Yonder’s Yard Management System is a fully functional, enterprise-level solution that integrates with Blue Yonder’s industry-leading WMS and TMS solutions, as well as third-party systems.

The Yard Management System eliminates the element of data entry and instead enables real-time tracking via advanced technologies in partnership with Panasonic Connect. We are excited about the opportunity to combine Blue Yonder’s software leadership with hardware innovations and edge technologies from Panasonic Connect — including cameras, vision systems and image recognition capabilities that will automatically read and track yard assets, without human intervention.

Terence: Let us drill down for the audience how it works.

Chris: There are really three elements of our Yard Management System, and the cool part is that we are using a combination of vision systems and artificial intelligence (AI). First, we have these smart cameras that read trailer IDs as trucks travel through the gate, into the yard and to the dock. That data is shared in real time, so manual scanning, data entry and paperwork are eliminated. Blue Yonder’s advanced machine learning (ML) capabilities will help those cameras become continuously better and faster at reading trucks and containers.

The second piece of Blue Yonder’s innovation is that this is an all-new, microservices-based solution that leverages the strength of Luminate Platform and our partnership with Snowflake for data management. That not only enables end-to-end systems integration across logistics and a centralized data repository, but it also means you can manage 15 yards simultaneously. You can have one shipping and receiving office that manages all those operations, seamlessly and in real time.

The third innovation we’re delivering is end-to-end orchestration of the supply chain, from manufacturing through transportation, through the warehouse and out to the retail store. We are plugging the hole in the end-to-end supply chain that’s represented by yard operations today. So if you are using Blue Yonder for transportation management, warehouse management, and/or order management, we are integrating it all the way through. Now there is no longer this black hole in the yard — and there is a lot of power in that.

Terence: What is the result of combining the strengths of Blue Yonder and Panasonic Connect?

Chris: Our vision is that the Yard Management System will digitalize and automate every aspect of yard operations in real time, including gate management, yard operations, carrier workspace, appointments scheduling, and analytics and reporting services. It is a dramatic change from the current slow-moving, cost-intensive manual processes that fail to deliver the speed, accuracy and efficiency required by today’s logistics teams.

We are excited to be involved in this initiative to transform the yard, as just one part of Blue Yonder’s effort to create the supply chain operating system for the world.

Any new technology can be many different things. It does not have to be just software or just hardware. Our customers want instated solutions that solve the business challenges. The way we are approaching the yard, this combination of hardware and software, is a new technology, and like any new technology, the real power of it is the new business processes that it is enabling.

That’s the real power of the Blue Yonder Yard Management System: an innovative approach that enables better business outcomes for our customers. For more information contact us here.