For many manufacturers, retail distributors, ports and logistics service providers (LSPs), optimizing operations in the warehouse / sorting centres and on the road consume a very large portion of their digitization efforts. The Yard often gets overlooked, though there exist significant opportunities for improving productivity and reducing costs. Through this article, Pradeep Kumar Chaudhary, Transportation Practice, Tata Consultancy Services, looks at various ways the Internet of Things (IoT) can be harnessed for ‘closing the gap’ in the yard and taking the leap for digital efficiencies.
YARD Operations are applicable for various types of logistics operations, including manufacturing and retail distribution companies with large yards where trucks come in, go out and move between buildings for bringing in raw materials or moving out finished goods; material handling equipment or vehicles meant for internal movement deployed for transferring work-in-progress goods from one facility to another; large LSPs with warehouses and cross-dock operations having significant traffic of inbound and outbound trucks that require tracking and control; and port terminals with facilities for import / export container storage and movements.
Most yard processes however, are manually driven with a high propensity for errors. Even if a Yard Management System (YMS) is being used, the siloed enterprise systems provide limited visibility of what’s happening at an aggregate level on a real-time basis. The result is inefficiencies in the system, rising costs and low productivity.
‘IoT’ is no longer a buzzword but has started touching our everyday lives. Our homes, cars, watches, televisions, air conditioners are becoming smarter through connectivity to the Internet and intelligent software running in the background. Watches now inform us of an incoming call. Window blinds open or close automatically as per sunlight direction. Cars remind us of preventive maintenance based on usage. Uber is a great example of a company, which connected multiple smartphones together through a platform and a mix of devices, big data analytics and machine learning to radically change the way we travel.
IoT is influencing our personal lives and how businesses operate. By 2020, Gartner estimates Internet-connected things will outnumber humans 4-to- 1, creating new dynamics for marketing, sales and customer service. Logistics is a critical and complex component of the supply chain.
Focusing just on yard operations within Logistics – An IoT enabled ecosystem using a fusion of sensors, analytics and cognitive technologies can bring about the sophistication and insights required into streamlining activities.
A connected Yard can offer opportunities to capitalize on existing assets through an ecosystem of participating companies.
a) Driver Relay Point / Parking Point
Based on real-time vehicle movements and projected availability of vacant spaces in the yard, the space can be rented out on a marketplace like app to participating entities viz., other Logistics Service Providers for either temporary parking of vehicles or driver relay points. The yard can serve as a cross-docking location for a driver exchange event. Long haul truck movements operated by a single driver can be changed to two to three drivers operating the same route in turns. This helps the drivers making shorter and more trips and be closer to their home; in turn motivating them to continue being on their job since one of the reasons for the decline in the number of drivers available is low quality of life. More than 25% of drivers return to their home base only after eight days, as per a report from Niti Aayog.
Visibility is by far the most important aspect of a shipment. Customers today demand granular levels of visibility – right from origin to destination. Since all vehicles in the yard are tagged with sensors, their real-time location can be communicated to concerned parties. A full vehicle can have material worth lakhs of rupees inside and customers would desire a real-time location view of their assets. Providing visibility services to customers like location, expected docking time, expected departure time, exceptions et al can be a great value-add.
The Yard should be seen as an equally important piece to the transportation jigsaw. Inefficiencies exist not only on the road but also inside the four boundary walls of the facility. By leveraging the power of IoT, manufacturers, retail distributors, LSPs, terminal operators and their customers can gain insights and efficiencies through real-time, data-driven and connected processes that amalgamate yard operations with other enterprise operations and thus provide value to the entire ecosystem. The future belongs to customers who have gone digital and to ecosystems that are digitized. Digital is now more of a core requisite than an add-on to enterprise requirements.