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Logistics Gets Cheaper by the Yard

Managing more than 50,000 inbound freight containers and 30,000 outbound trailers annually is a logistical nightmare. But NYK Logistics has found a truckload of savings by using an RFID yard-management system.
By Bob Violino
Oct 19, 2003By Jennifer Maselli

Oct. 20, 2003 -- NYK Logistics, based in Secaucus, N.J., had a big parking problem. The company manages the shipment and distribution of a high volume of products, including garments and accessories, consumer and industrial goods, computer software, food and beverages and natural resources for Global
NYK's Pople
1000 companies. But NYK's yard-management system was no match for the more than 50,000 inbound ocean freight containers and 30,000 outbound trailers passing through the gates of its Long Beach, Calif., distribution center annually.

Several months ago, the company implemented a real-time locating system (RTLS) at the Long Beach facility that uses battery-powered RFID tags to track the location of assets in the yard. Now NYK knows exactly where each trailer and is parked and can locate containers to within 10 feet. The system has cut costs and increased operational efficiency in numerous ways, including slashing the average turn time—how long a trailer stays in its yard—by 20 to 40 percent.

NYK's old yard-management system at the Long Beach facility relied on people to track containers and trailers manually, and to coordinate the seven hostler tractors used to move containers around its 70-acre yard. But the manual system lent itself to a number of problems, and as volume in the yard grew, the problems were compounded. For example, NYK employees used to manually enter information about when a truck arrived at the yard, what it was carrying and where it would drop its load. But once the driver left the main gate to drop his cargo off and pick up his next shipment, snafus were common. Often, the designated parking spot was filled, forcing the driver to park in a different spot. Employees at the main gate would have no way of knowing where the truck was. The problems rippled through the yard as subsequent drivers found their spots taken for the day.

That wasn't the only challenge. During peak seasons, NYK usually hires temporary yard hostlers to pull loaded trailers out of their parking spots and stage them in the yard for pickup. The hostlers also retrieve empty containers and move them to appropriate areas. But the temporary drivers had a hard time maneuvering through the yard. "We're a 24x7 operation, so the guy driving around trying to find a trailer at 3:30 in the morning when he doesn't know the yard that well can run into problems," says Rick Pople, NYK's general manager.

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