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December 14, 2022 | Insights

4 Practices that Promote Long-Term Yard Efficiency

December 14, 2022 | Insights

It’s nearly three years since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, which shut down most of the world and sent shockwaves through global supply chains. First, it was global shipping delays, then struggles with mass labor deficits—both challenges that persist today. This is especially true in the logistics industry.

When it comes to warehouse yards and short-haul logistics, the question is two-fold: How can operations recover from the pandemic? Additionally, how can they be made more resilient for future environmental, global, and logistical challenges too?

The solution for this may look different for every company, but we believe that focusing on these 4 key areas within the yard will help create a strong foundation for your company and promote long-term yard efficiency. 


1 | Strategic maintenance schedules to avoid equipment downtime

Equipment and worker downtime are costly consequences of a fleet that’s not properly maintained. Downed vehicles have a domino effect and can incur costs throughout your yard operations. Some specific cost factors include:

  • Lost wage for drivers who are unable to work due to inoperable equipment (which could result in a decreased worker retention rate)
  • Lost hours of driver productivity 
  • Regularly scheduled maintenance hours lost due to unscheduled repairs (including technician hours)
  • Penalty costs imposed per late load
  • Lost productivity per driver, including extra impact on other drivers and loads lost
  • Higher costs per load due to inefficient fleet management


According to an article published by Fleet Maintenance, conservative estimates of the cost of vehicle downtime are around $500 to $800 per day, which equates to tens of thousands of dollars per month. 

The goal of proactive fleet management is to prevent significant yard inefficiencies. And it requires a robust strategy that follows a vehicle throughout its life cycle and allows fleet managers to perform proactive maintenance. At the very minimum, it’s a good idea to track the following metrics in your operation:

  • Odometer readings
  • Frequency of operation vs. inoperation
  • Current regulatory specs, and how soon vehicles will become obsolete
  • The life cycle analysis of each vehicle (cost of operation, upgrades, etc.)
  • When a vehicle will cost more to repair than to replace

All these factors tell the story of a vehicle and can help your yard team more accurately determine the condition of a vehicle, assign a calculated maintenance schedule, and ultimately determine when it would be most beneficial to invest in new equipment. For more on this topic, check out our article on how to extend the lifespan of aging fleets.


2 | People-first team structure for improved performance and retention

Retention is a major pain point for teams across all supply chains today. Improving retention rates on your team starts with understanding the reason why so many people choose to leave their current jobs. In truth, there are many reasons why someone would choose to leave their position, but one that has markedly emerged, especially surrounding the Great Resignation, is a lack of positive engagement from leadership, unclear/unattainable expectations, and a lack of flexibility.

Improving these in your own yard must start from day one, with initial employee training. The foundation for successful yard management programs includes:

  • Onsite Leadership: Leaders who see and experience the day-to-day challenges can lead with empathy and connect with their teams in a more impactful way.
  • Structured Training and Operations: Steps such as establishing a clearly defined timeframe, outline of activities, and list of team member roles and duties, along with clearly defined opportunities for advancement, goals, and consequences are crucial for long-term employee engagement.
  • Tailored Management: Success is never achieved through a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailoring a program to a site’s (and team’s) unique needs is critical for the success of yard management. With a people-centered approach, yard management professionals work from the perspective of the individuals who will use the system the most, and design it to address their benefits and workflows. 


3 | Invest in visibility apparel for all yard crew

High-visibility apparel might be the most underestimated safety measure when outfitting warehouse and yard teams for success. While distribution teams face fewer struck-by hazards daily than, say, construction crews do, it doesn’t mean their risk level is at zero. Between the stacked pallets, forklifts, containers, and shunt trucks, there is plenty of opportunity for accidents to occur.   

The fact is, struck-by accidents are 100% avoidable. And when a worker gets struck by moving equipment, it’s most often because the driver was unable to see them in time. Providing hi-visibility apparel for employees that work in the yard or that may need to step into the yard at any point during their shift is key. That may mean providing apparel for ground crew and drivers alike.


4 | Report and track near-miss incidents to prevent injury and loss

Most companies have existing policies in place requiring documentation and investigation for any workplace incidents that cause injury to persons or property. That’s because it’s a widely accepted idea that discovering the root cause of these incidents can help prevent repeat scenarios from happening in the future.

However, you don’t have to wait for an incident to occur to prevent one from happening. Not every incident results in an injury or property loss—sometimes, unplanned events occur that have the potential to cause these types of outcomes but didn’t. We refer to these as near-miss incidents. And whether a negative outcome was avoided due to employee intervention or sheer luck, this is critical data to collect to help you identify and address weak points in your yard operations.

For example, a gatehouse operator jumps out of the way as a truck starts to pull forward, avoiding a collision. Even though an accident was prevented, there are procedures, equipment, and infrastructure that can be proactively put in place to keep everyone safe, such as established procedure/communication that makes it clear when it’s safe for a driver to pull away and better hi-visibility apparel for ground crew.

Establishing a system for near-miss reporting is key to identifying opportunities for process improvement and keeping all yard personnel safe.


Tell Your Full Data Story

These four foundational practices address the most common needs for improvement that we see in yards today. And these are just a few of the ways that you can put your yard data into action. The next step to achieving the highest form of operational excellence involves implementing an advanced Yard Management System that effectively tracks the 9 KPIs for Yard Management.

We help customers across nearly every industry, from major tech retailers to grocery wholesalers, tap into their data and achieve new levels of yard efficiency, safety, and team success.

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