East Coast Warehouse & Distribution (ECW) is an integrated temperature-controlled logistics provider to the food and beverage industry. The company’s primary site is at Port Elizabeth, NJ. This site is both large and complex. It is 60 acres in size, including about 14.5 acres for customs and 1.5 million square feet of refrigerated facility space. Furthermore, it spans six lots, three main buildings, and holds 1,100 containers and a large number of chassis. The services supported by the site include warehousing, customs examinations, drayage operations, TL, and LTL transportation services. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob LaMere, CIO of East Coast Warehouse, about the company’s recent yard management system upgrade and the benefits obtained by the company.
Legacy Yard Management
The company was utilizing a yard management system (YMS) that was an extension to its warehouse management system (WMS). This YMS offered standard status options such as gated in, moved to the door, moved out of the door empty, and gated out. And it worked fairly well, so long as workers followed protocol. But the system didn’t always reflect reality. And when it didn’t, the efficiency of yard operations suffered. So ECW saw opportunity to gain operational efficiencies. But more importantly, ECW wanted to differentiate its service from that of its competitors by providing a greater level of visibility and insights into status of its customers’ cargo. The greater visibility afforded to ECW customers would provide customer value by enabling them to improve their downstream operations.
Selecting an Advanced YMS
East Coast Warehouse wanted a yard management system that provided better and more automated visibility into the status of customer assets. ECW also wanted to obtain internal efficiencies and operational cost savings where available. The company evaluated YMS providers and decided to go with PINC Solutions Advanced YMS. Unlike other options, the PINC system did not require the installation of numerous roof-top WiFi antennas, since the readers are placed on the switchers (yard dogs). Also, a big incentive was PINC’s guarantee of a reduction in switchers within the first two months of being up and running.
ECW programmed YMS integrations to its WMS and TMS systems. PINC came on site and set up the equipment, put readers at the gates, and tagged everything on the site adding up to about 1,100 tags in total. All information was registered, and the appropriate team members were trained over a 10 day period.
Go-Live and Project Benefits
Once the YMS was up and running it provided immediate visibility into the status of assets and yard operations. The system included a visual top-down representation of the yard with containers marked green, yellow, or red, according to how long the asset had been in its current location. This provided management with a quick overview of the assets on site and insight into what assets would be subject to container per diem charges, allowing them to reduce these unnecessary costs. The YMS also provided insight into the location of specific containers, reducing the time required by drayage drivers and switchers to locate the desired container for movement. And PINC was correct in its guaranteed reduction in the need for switchers, as ECW reduced its number of switchers from 10 down to 7. Finally, there were substantial customer service benefits. ECW customers are provided with password access to the YMS web portal where they can view the status of their containers, from pick-up to leaving the terminal. As an additional benefit, the visibility provided through the YMS serves as a valuable sales tool to ECW as they present the companies’ capabilities to prospective customers. ECW was able to achieve project payback in under 9 months.