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In some ways, the supply chain can be likened to a symphony orchestra, with each section – woodwinds, strings, brass, percussion – contributing and adding its part to a harmonious whole. A “section” of the supply chain orchestra that’s often overlooked is yard logistics. Many people don’t give it much thought, with greater attention given to functions such as warehouse fulfillment and freight hauling.

Yard LogisticsIn a live orchestra performance, the symphony flat-out doesn’t work if an instrumental section is removed. A bass player in a rock band, the unsung hero behind the flashy lead guitarist, is another good analogy. Take him away, and everyone thinks, “Man, something is seriously missing.”

And so with yard logistics. It’s a critical link in the supply chain, managing assets such as trucks and trailers, cargo containers, and chassis that move goods in and out of a warehouse or factory. Put another way, it’s the connection point between the warehouse or factory and the transportation network.

Like any other functional area in supply chain and order fulfillment, yard logistics has a history that shows a progression matching advances in technology. We’ll take some time to unpack this topic. Along the way, we’ll demonstrate how digital innovation, including artificial intelligence, is revolutionizing the efficient operation of yard logistics.

The Evolution of Yard Logistics

In the mid-20th century, yard logistics involved manual processes, including handwritten records to track assets and 100% manual labor for loading and unloading shipments and cargo. As supply chains grew more complex and transportation volumes increased, the need for more efficient systems and processes drove the beginnings of innovation.

From Paper-Based Systems to Spreadsheets

Businesses naturally use the tools that are to hand at any given time, based on the state of the industry. So paper and clipboards were the predominant method of record-keeping for yard logistics from the middle of the 20th century onward. Naturally, it’s a system prone to errors from manual data entry, as well as being inefficient and labor-intensive.

As spreadsheets came into general usage in the late 1980s and the introduction of Microsoft’s dominant Excel program, they made their way into the hands of yard logistics teams as a tracking and management tool.

The advantages of spreadsheets over paper-based tracking of yard operations include a greater ability to organize and access data for sharing among and between functional teams, and to create custom reports.

But there are drawbacks. Information and records stored in spreadsheets still tend to reside in data silos, and like paper-based systems, they are prone to input errors. There’s also an inability to provide real-time updates, and it’s not particularly scalable.

Believe it or not, in 2024, we’re still kind of in the paper-based era. Some professionals in warehouse operations still refer to yard logistics as the “black hole” of the supply chain, due to a lack of visibility and data sharing with other operational functions.

Technology Begins to be Leveraged in Yard Logistics

In the 1990s, companies such as Manhattan Associates, SAP, and YardView introduced the Yark Management System (YMS), a major step forward in terms of automating yard logistics operations. In essence, a YMS provides tracking of yard assets (trucks, trailers, containers, and chassis), tracking of inbound and outbound shipments, dock/bay appointment scheduling, and access control at the gate. It gives yard operations teams a holistic view of the entire dock-to-truck process at a warehouse or factory facility.

However, the adoption of YMS has not been nearly as widespread as other types of logistics software, such as warehouse management systems (WMS) and transportation management systems (TMS). While 56% of companies surveyed by Peerless Research Group in 2022 were using a WMS and 26% were using TMS, only 7% had deployed a YMS in their operations. This figure actually dropped from 2017, when it was 17%.

In the 2000s and 2010s, with the growing use of RFID sensors and tags for asset tracking, utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, this technology began to be leveraged in both warehouse and yard operations. Tied into the use of existing assets such as cameras, this added a greater degree of visibility into the flow of equipment and vehicles in and out of facility yards.

Intelligent Systems With AI: A Game Changer for Modern Yard Operations

While the introduction of the YMS was a major step in expanding the capabilities of yard operations, the use of advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-based systems represents a huge leap forward.

The power of AI enables companies to greatly optimize gate and yard operations, significantly reducing operational costs. It also promotes more sustainable logistics — and environmental compliance — by substantially reducing truck dwell time through greater efficiency and streamlined processes at the gate and into and out of the facility.

By leveraging existing cameras and sensors on yard assets, AI-based solutions can more accurately track the movement and status of trailers and containers. A central system accessible by yard managers enables data-driven decision-making on things like resource allocation, managing yard traffic, and dock/bay scheduling.

Real-time visibility helps avoid mismatches in loading dock availability, which can cause hours-long delays as drivers cannot access their assigned spots, causing congestion and operational inefficiencies.

Integration With Existing Software

Importantly, AI-based yard logistics systems are not a replacement for an existing YMS, but rather an augmentation that seamlessly integrates and works in tandem with it. AI-based systems transcend the capabilities of a traditional YMS, offering a comprehensive, real-time update system.

AI-based yard logistics also integrate with WMS and TMS systems. They act as a central hub to coordinate the movement of vehicles and goods into and out of a facility, syncing this flow with production and transportation schedules.

AI-Based Yard Logistics from EAIGLE

EAIGLE is a pioneer in AI-driven logistics solutions. It offers an end-to-end platform that empowers yard operations managers in retail, manufacturing, and third-party logistics (3PL) to leverage vision data to overcome security, transportation, and operational challenges.

EAIGLE’s solutions address yard operations in two primary ways:

1. AVAC™ (Automated Vehicle Access Control)

AVAC™ leverages vision data from existing gate security cameras to collect vehicle data to quickly register and validate incoming and outgoing vehicles. This provides a high level of security by ensuring that only the correct vehicles are granted entry and exit. It also facilitates a seamless traffic flow as the validation process happens automatically, reducing delays at the gate.

EAIGLE’s advanced system captures 25 separate data elements from each vehicle in seconds. It automatically identifies truck and trailer numbers and reads license plates, allowing for precise and rapid identification.

By significantly increasing the speed and efficiency of gate operations, EAIGLE’s AVAC™ significantly reduces truck dwell time, reducing vehicle emissions and aiding in sustainability and environmental compliance efforts.

2. YardSight™

Like AVAC™, YardSight™ AI-based technology leverages existing security cameras to identify available loading docks and parking spots in real time. This allows arriving truck drivers to quickly navigate to their destination. This helps speed up the loading and unloading process, improving the efficiency of inbound and outbound logistics.

YardSight™, with its automated data capture of yard assets, eliminates the need for labor-intensive, inefficient manual yard audits, which can be conducted from two to four times a day.

Other Benefits of EAIGLE

The automated data capture of EAIGLE’S platform dramatically improves accuracy. Manual data entry only captures about 40% of the required information correctly, causing inefficiency and system errors.

Similarly, AVAC™ eliminates the manual processing of incoming vehicles at the gate, eliminating delays ranging from 3 to 20 minutes per truck, impacting efficiency. This also helps companies achieve sustainability goals while ensuring compliance with increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Costs from truck and trailer damage claims against logistics operators are also reduced. AVAC™ captures the images when vehicles arrive at the gate, documenting any existing damages and providing an irrefutable record against false claims.

Yard Logistics, Improved by AI Technology

Yard operations have come a long way from the paper and spreadsheet-based systems that were for years the legacy methods of capturing and sharing information on vehicle arrival and departure, dock scheduling, and inventory management. YMS systems were a significant advance, and now complementary AI technology enables still greater efficiency, performance and cost savings.

To learn more about how EAIGLE can show measurable gains in your yard logistics, reach out today and request a demo.