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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, December/January 2013

Yard Dock Management Systems Play Important Role in Food Product Freshness

by Eric Breen

The yard is a dynamic and continuously changing environment that requires a tremendous oversight of trailer movements and sensitive tasks. A yard management system utilizes RFID and GPS tracking to provide accurate information to help facilities keep track of everything going on in their yard.

Food and beverage manufacturers and distributors rely on maintaining environmental control and minimizing the time spent by product on the loading dock to survive in extremely competitive markets. These operations often run multiple shifts with tremendously high loading cycles. Having a system that improves visibility into operations and logistics and, in turn, diminishes increased concerns about food-borne illnesses, allergens, and contamination is essential.

Now that the food safety is focused more on prevention than reaction, supply chain managers need to look carefully at the products they utilize every day for their loading dock operations. One of the best ways facilities can prevent food-related contamination is to limit the amount of time products spend in transit and on the dock by utilizing a yard and dock management system.

This technology is designed to eliminate the most common and costly logistics problems. It uses real-time and physical data to assist facilities in efficiently managing operations such as loading dock visibility, live and staged trailer coordination, and turn-time management. The system integrates loading dock equipment with intelligent software to monitor, communicate, and manage loading dock status, helping companies avoid costly detention charges and product spoilage.

A yard and dock management system provides facilities with increased visibility and productivity in their yard, loading dock, and warehouse. Whether operators need a yard management system to provide real-time data using RFID and GPS tracking, a dock management system to increase loading dock efficiency, or a fully integrated system combining both, a tailored yard and dock management system can give operators the tools to make the most of their operations. This easy-to-implement yard and dock management system acts as an extra set of eyes, allowing operators to keep better track of their facility’s operations and saving time and money, while preventing spoilage or product loss.

Start Beyond the Dock

The yard is a dynamic and continuously changing environment that requires tremendous oversight of trailer movements and other time-sensitive tasks when it comes to moving perishables from place to place. A yard management system effectively and efficiently processes inbound trailers when they enter the yard to optimize movements and prevent lost loads. It also helps monitor and improve yard truck efficiency to increase trailer turn time and accuracy, as well as to prevent spoilage.

Many systems utilize RFID and various sensor technologies as well as GPS tracking so that every trailer movement is recorded. This increased visibility and monitoring creates real-time performance reports, giving operators the ability to reduce yard check time by 90% and yard labor and equipment resources by up to 30% in many cases.

A yard and dock management system provides a better option for managing third-party drivers, too. A single interface captures dock status and allows operators to schedule appointments and send automatic notifications to carriers when a position is ready, using a variety of paging devices that are given to drivers to make trailer movements timely and efficient. In addition, operators can track and facilitate priority movements of trailers to shipping or receiving doors based on equipment requirements, loading or unloading schedules, or product type.

Run the Dock at Full Potential

Increasing yard efficiency is just the beginning of the information and cost reduction potential that a yard and dock management system can bring to an operation. With real-time information and value-added capabilities, this technology can keep a dock running at optimal efficiency by collecting critical equipment analytics. Now, operators can see their entire loading dock, discover areas to increase efficiency, and ensure that product is moved as quickly and effectively as possible.

Receiving real-time loading dock status updates from a single interface can help to reduce labor hours while increasing dock utilization by 20% or more. In response to the increased productivity, some systems can even eliminate unnecessary service, which can tie up dock positions and leave trailers in the yard or at the dock for hours. Through scheduled maintenance based on actual equipment usage—information gained through a network of sensors installed in the doors, vehicle restraints, and dock levelers—operators can further schedule maintenance when it is best suited to the work load and types of products.

Through a yard and dock management system, users can easily track assets.
click for large version
Through a yard and dock management system, users can easily track assets. From the moment a trailer enters a yard to the time it leaves, operators know exactly where it is, what’s on it, where it needs to be, and how to get it there as efficiently as possible.

Take Control Inside the Warehouse

High-volume low-speed fans were designed to create a comfortable environment while maintaining an energy- efficient facility, providing considerable benefits to employees and the products they are moving. The blades of these HVLS fans produce a massive column of air that flows down toward the floor and outward in all directions before being drawn back vertically toward the blades to create what is known as a horizontal floor jet. The breeze produced by these fans protects product integrity by circulating air to keep food and produce dry and fresh, reducing spoilage. Moreover, when they are run in reverse, HVLS fans can even help destratify air in refrigerated applications.

While these fans are a great addition to any operation, there are systems available to help keep up with the controls and settings when a facility has 10, 20, or more than 30 fans. Industrial networked HVLS fan systems allow operators to network and control multiple fans from a centralized location to ensure maximum fan performance that will keep employees productive and perishables dry and fresh.

Many systems use touchscreen computers to allow users to easily monitor and adjust all fan operations. Navigation buttons provide access to operating parameters, temperature or time settings, and fan diagnostics. Additionally, iPads and other tablets can be integrated as remote controls in conjunction with the main screen with similar functionality. These can control fans collectively, individually, or by zones within a facility. Built-in webview software can allow fans in multiple buildings to be managed from a single location. Fan operation can be programmed to react to date, time, and temperature setting/variance, as well as to interconnect to fire suppression systems, providing increased peace of mind when it comes to keeping spoilage down during shipping and receiving.

Equipping manufacturing or distribution facilities with effective yard and dock management systems will help ensure products stay fresh and are loaded and shipped to the consumer with greater efficiency.

Track, Measure, Change, Repeat

Proactive change on the loading dock and in logistics operations is a method proven to help reduce the bottlenecks and slowdowns associated with moving perishable products and materials. But how do you know what to change and when?

Yard and dock management systems do more than simply track and provide raw data to end users. Some develop detailed reports based on an almost unlimited set of parameters such as carrier arrival and departure times, loading and unloading times, and even labor hours. These reports provide operators with the information they need to make important, timely decisions that can affect the productivity as well as the profitability of their operations.

As the nation’s food supply demands continue to grow, concerns about food-borne illnesses, allergens, and contamination have never been more important. Equipping manufacturing or distribution facilities with effective yard and dock management systems will help ensure products stay fresh and are loaded and shipped to the consumer with greater efficiency, dramatically reducing the risk of spoilage or contamination.

No matter what type of products operators are seeking to move quickly, integrating these advanced systems will help take their operation to the next level by optimizing yard, loading dock, and warehouse logistics. From the moment a trailer enters a yard to the time it leaves, operators know exactly where it is, what’s on it, where it needs to be, and how to get it there as quickly as possible.


Eric Breen is 4SIGHT Systems Manager with 4Front Engineered Solutions in Carrollton, Texas. He can be reached at info@4SIGHTSolution.com. 4SIGHT Yard and Dock Management System is the latest technology offering from 4Front Engineered Solutions. 4Front offers warehousing, manufacturing, retail, and distribution center customers participating in a variety of end markets the most comprehensive line of highly engineered loading dock systems in the material handling industry.

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