Editor’s Pick: Profiles in Yard Management Excellence – Universal Logistics

Note: Today’s post is part of our “Editor’s Pick” series where we highlight recent posts published by our sponsors that provide practical knowledge and advice on timely and important supply chain and logistics topics. In this post, Rafael Granato from PINC Solutions summarizes a video case study we featured recently on Talking Logistics, part of our “Profiles in Yard Management Excellence” series where we highlight companies (in this case, Universal Logistics) that are leading the way in driving continuous improvement and innovation in yard management.

Universal Logistics (“Universal”) operates one of the country’s largest cross-dock operations in Romulus, Mich. With about 850 yard spaces to manage, this full-service provider of customized transportation and logistics solutions has been providing dry van and specialized transportation; intermodal drayage; material handling and value-added services; and global trade management to its valued customers for more than 80 years.

Managing transportation for an operation of Universal’s size is no easy task, and the firm’s yard tends to be a particularly busy and confusing space. “With that many dock doors to manage and the high velocity of trailers going in and out around the clock,” says Peter Spata, Project Management Officer, “controlling everything would be a nightmare without some level of automation to help out.”

Help Wanted

Universal found itself in need of a modern Yard Management System (YMS) that could not only manage the logistics provider’s current transportation volume, but that could also scale up as the company grew. At the time, Spata says Universal was using two-way radios to communicate with truck drivers, often giving instructions like, “Hey, meet me over at dock door 17 and I’ll give you a list of your next batch of moves.” That process had to be repeated across 10 different yard-truck drivers.

Spata says finding trailers quickly on Universal’s expansive property was also difficult, as was designating spaces (or, specific zones) in the yard where the trailers could be parked. The company also employed a yard auditor who—equipped with a printout of a spreadsheet—would physically go out into the yard, chalk off trailers, and confirm their individual contents.

This highly manual system didn’t allow for much visibility, says Spata, whose customers would frequently ask about trailer status (i.e., did this carrier make it in yet? Did you get this to the dock door yet? Has the trailer been unloaded yet?). “This presented some key challenges in such a high-velocity operation,” Spata says.

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