Automated vehicles are trending right now. Research into road-going autonomous vehicles is advancing rapidly, but they’re not quite ready for safe solo operations. However, there are places where automation is already being used – like warehouses – and, increasingly, yards.
In fact, yard automation is booming. According to new research from ABI, there will be 11.2 million artificial intelligence-enabled cameras in yards by 2030. And the research firm also predicts the uptake in autonomous yard trucks will grow by almost 53 percent per year between 2022 and 2030.
“In a bid to digitize and update yard operations, installments of yard systems, enabling tracking technologies, and autonomous tractors are expected to rise considerably in the short to medium term,” explained Ryan Wiggin, Industry Analyst at ABI Research.
The benefits of this type of automation include better visibility into operations, the need for less labour, the ability to easily operate 24/7, and better equipment utilization and faster, more efficient throughput.
“Advancements in AI are breaking down many of the limitations faced by technologies in outdoor environments. Advanced computing power helps to process data from camera feeds, identify trailers and equipment, and guide autonomous vehicles safely. Where certain technologies couldn’t operate before, AI has helped unlock new use cases and will continue to drive solution adoption within yards,” Wiggins said.
As Wiggins noted, the hardware and software that are enabling automated yards work hand in hand. In concert with the booming installations and deployments of smart equipment, companies with yards around their distribution centres, warehouses and production facilities are increasingly realizing they need specialized systems to manage it.
How yard management fits in
That’s where yard management comes in. Yard management software is an essential tool for managing an automated or partially automated yard. These cloud-based systems – like C3 Yard that we produce at C3 Solutions – provide a single point from which to manage all the activity in your yard, no matter how big it is.
C3 Yard keeps track of the locations of all the containers and trailers in your yard, automatically. When a trailer needs to be retrieved, the shunt driver can go directly to its precise location. There’s no more hunting around, wasting time searching through hundreds or even thousands of possible parking spots for a specific trailer.
If you have automated yard trucks, you can see that sending them out to hunt for a trailer is not going to work. While AI vision systems are well-developed – and getting better all the time – it would be no more productive to use that technology to perform a search than it would to use human drivers.
Instead, C3 Yard keeps track of where each unit is, in real time, and can dispatch a truck, whether driven by a human or automated, directly to its position. The saved time nets huge savings in labour and delivers productivity gains. It can also limit detention charges as you speed up operations.
Efficiency across the board
There are many other advantages to deploying a yard management system. The shunt drivers are not the only ones whose time will be better utilized. When you know where an asset is in the yard, it means you’ll know exactly when it will pull up to the dock door, and your dock workers won’t have to waste time waiting for it.
Likewise, being better organized means you will see reduced congestion, lower waiting times and better throughput at your yard gate.
You will also be able to better use your yard for inventory control and extra storage. With the pinpoint accuracy of C3 Yard at your fingertips, you’ll know what’s in each trailer at any given moment, and you can optimize a plan for when that product needs to move into the DC or cross-dock operation, or get shipped out.
Autonomous or not, yard management for the win
If your yard is fully manual at the moment – using spreadsheets and perhaps a wall map with pins and stickers to track trailer locations – stop for a moment to imagine how many headaches you could prevent by automating. You can eliminate guesswork, time wasted hunting for trailers, and playing catchup as delays mount and drivers and staff loiter around waiting for loads to be located.
You don’t have to be jumping right into automated yard trucks and AI to take advantage of a yard management system from C3 Solutions. Anybody with a yard can reap the benefits of automated yard management.
And when you are ready to make the leap to automated vehicles and/or AI-enabled systems, we’ll be by your side and ready to make that transition, too. It’s a productivity win with either scenario!