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Yard Management Best Practices for Each Facility Type

February 19, 2024
Joe Fitzpatrick

What is Yard Management in Logistics?

You want to make effective use of the space outside of your facility. That’s the simple definition of yard management.¹

When your facility is a warehouse that probably means we’re looking at a mix of:

  • Maximum throughput (trucks in and out fast)
  • Resource optimization (not tying up people or equipment dealing with yard problems)
  • Safety and security (no-one in the yard who shouldn’t be)
  • Visibility (always being able to identify what’s in the yard and where exactly)

But the actual methods of yard management depend on if your facility is a distribution center, transit hub, maintenance depot, processing plant, or something else entirely.

It also varies a lot according to the size of the yard.

Facilities used to get by with manually tracking yard operations. Even doing it with an excel spreadsheet probably still beats the “yard management” module in Your WMS or ERP system. But shipping and receiving is getting more complex, and yard operations are demanding more attention. Do you need a dedicated system to manage it?

How Have the Challenges of Yard Management Changed?

Business looks pretty different now than it did just 10 years ago:

  1. E-commerce has taken off. It’s made logistics more competitive and less predictable. 
  1. Just-in-time inventory. Scheduling needs to be more precise and turnaround times shorter than ever.
  1. Lean operations and cost-cutting. Higher pay for smaller, less-experienced teams. Facilities and their yards are under pressure to do more with less.
  1. The demand for data. Companies want to provide better customer service, and make quick decisions to protect against supply chain disruptions.

Yard operations are like the handover point between different companies (supplier/retailer) and different functions (transportation/warehousing). It’s historically a black hole for visibility. If yards can capture that data they can make it useful to the business.

Yard operations are the handover point between different companies and functions – a black hole for visibility.
E-commerce has made logistics more competitive and less predictable, demanding precise scheduling and faster turnaround times.

The Benefits of Dedicated YMS Software

There are a lot of products calling themselves Yard Management Systems, but they’re each designed to solve a different set of problems for different types of facilities.

Large Fleet Owners:

  • Under pressure from environmental regulations and the fluctuating cost of fuel
  • Want to do more proactive maintenance on their vehicles.
  • A YMS lets them keep track of the location and status of all their equipment. It can transform their yard from a parking lot into a maintenance hub. 

Very Large Yards (e.g. Container Freight Stations)

  • Operations more varied than ever, with consolidation, palletization, LTL and containers all handled in the same place.
  • What’s in the yard and where is constantly changing, so they need to keep track of that.
  • This type of YMS specializes in sending movement instructions to workers, and might use GPS or RFID technology to automatically update the position of assets.

Ports and Terminals:

  • Always been complex, has always needed advanced systems.
  • Increased demands of customs and security has made the job even harder.
  • Cutting edge software for ports usually includes 3D visualizations of containers and their positions.

Warehouses Dealing With External Carriers:

  • Facing a higher volume of traffic, arriving at unpredictable times. A shortage of staff. Detention fees adding up.
  • They need visibility of drop trailers, trucks waiting to be unloaded, etc.
  • YMS goes hand-in-hand with dock scheduling, giving them accountability from carriers and faster turnaround times.

Sensitive Industries (e.g. aerospace, pharma) and Industrial Parks:

  • The gate to the property can be a logistics bottleneck.
  • Need to balance security with speed.
  • The YMS provides features that allow security teams to expedite check-ins, like vehicle identification etc.

Construction and Primary Sector Sites:

  • The risk of both injury to personnel and material loss is high.
  • Need to avoid vehicle-related accidents, while also tracking a complex inventory where some materials are only countable by weight or volume, not by unit.
  • YMS might handle specialized inventory or on-site asset tracking.

Let’s look at these different types of yard management systems in more detail.

Fleet Maintenance Software with Yard Asset Management

The Market Leaders:

  • Whip Around specializes in fleet maintenance.
  • Motive and Azuga are all-in-one fleet management systems, with less yard focus.
  • Various yard asset management systems for specific industries.

Who is it for?

  • Large fleet owners and maintenance service providers

What’s Missing?

  • These systems are perfect for logistics service providers that don’t do much warehousing. They have great features for vehicles on the road. If you need to coordinate with third party carriers, you might want to run a dock scheduling system alongside.

Yard Execution Systems with RFID or GPS Asset Tracking

The Market Leaders:

  • Kaleris has acquired PINC and is now the go-to solution in this category.
  • is the affordable challenger.
  • Many RFID and GPS hardware companies also have their own software, which sometimes includes yard management features.

Who is it for?

  • Container depots, intermodal operators, anyone with a large yard that sees a lot of movement not just in and out but also within the yard.

What’s Missing?

  • This category is famous for its painful user interfaces. It’s not suitable for warehouses or fleet operators that don’t have complex freight consolidation/deconsolidation needs.

Terminal Operating Systems and Yard Control Towers

The Market Leaders:

  • NAVIS, also acquired by Kaleris, dominates the industry.
  • The main direct challenger is Tideworks.
  • TBA Group specializes in sensitive, liquid, and specialty cargo.

Who is it for?

  • Container terminals, particularly maritime ports. 

What’s Missing?

  • Many of these vendors claim to offer a solution for warehouses. For facilities with extensive conveyor or robotics systems this might make sense. But for most operations, a dedicated WMS combined with a dedicated dock scheduling system is a better fit.

Large fleet owners are under pressure from environmental regulations and fluctuating fuel costs, making proactive vehicle maintenance essential.
For very large yards handling varied operations, tracking what's in the yard and where is crucial, often requiring GPS or RFID technology.

Dock Scheduling Systems with Yard Visibility

The Best Solution:

  • DataDocks offers the most full-featured dock scheduling software, and unbeatable support. Talk to our team.

Who is it for?

  • Warehouses, DCs and processing plants with a significant proportion of their loads handled by external carriers. If you’re trying to turn trucks around faster, you’re probably looking at the right category.

What’s Missing?

  • If you need gate access control, management of cranes or maintenance scheduling, DataDocks can integrate with third party software that specializes in those things.

Yard Security and Gate Access Control Systems

Market Leaders:

  • There’s no clear leader in this category because security and access control needs vary so much between industries. Some innovators in the space include GateGo and Certus Automation.
  • You can also find physical security software and machine vision vehicle identification software, which have a lot of overlap in features. Not all of them have a yard focus.

Who is it for?

  • Very large industrial complexes or any facility with heightened security concerns, like in the defense, aerospace, chemicals or pharmaceutical industries.

What’s Missing?

  • Many of these systems provide some features from one or more of the other categories, but the focus is on security management. If your needs include appointment booking or knowing the actual contents of trucks, you’ll want a dock scheduling system as well.

Yard Material Management Services and Platforms

Market Leaders:

Who is it for?

  • Anyone dealing with oversized, heavy and nonstandard units, e.g.: construction sites and primary sector extraction sites (quarries, lumber yards etc).

What’s Missing?

  • This highly specialized software is not designed for typical warehouses that handle unitized loads.

Combining Solutions for Maximum Yard Efficiency

If you have very complex yard management needs, you might want to integrate multiple types of software, or design a bespoke yard operations dashboard.

There are a few of ways you can go about this:

  • Work with vendors like DataDocks who provide an API and will be happy to help you integrate their software with other providers.
  • Contract specialized custom solution providers to develop a solution.
  • Build a product internally with your own IT team.
  • A combination of the above.

Why not give the DataDocks team a call? We’ll be more than happy to help you figure out what kind of software you need to get your yard under control, even if it’s not dock scheduling. You can reach us at (+1) 647 848-8250, or book a demo.


¹ A more technical definition: yard management is the coordination of activities in a space adapted for the short term accommodation of vehicles and unitized cargo, adjacent to facilities where primary operations take place.

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