IoT Brings Visibility to Dock and Yard Management

Published: February 21, 2024

Heartland Produce is beta testing the latest version of Chamberlain Group’s myQ Enterprise that captures data at a company’s campus 

As IoT technologies are being leveraged by logistics companies to view the flow of goods in and out of a facility, some solutions are widening that lens to capture automated data at gates and in outdoor yards.

LiftMaster, part of smart access technology company Chamberlain Group, (CG), is offering a new solution for loading dock operations to streamline driver scheduling, simplify check-ins and provide real time communication. And it is bringing the IoT data beyond the confines of a warehouse or dock door.

The solution—known as myQ Enterprise—leverages IoT technologies to capture data from equipment at logistic sites and warehouses, paired with its own software to provide more efficient operations based on the data being captured.

The technology is now being tested by several beta customers including Heartland Produce, a family-owned produce distributor in Kenosha, WI.

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Expanding Dock Management with IoT

CG currently provides software used to connect data about what is taking place at loading docks with the company’s management software, explained Matthew Neff, myQ Enterprise’s senior director and general manager.

For the past few years, the myQ Connected Dock Management software has leveraged IoT technology to connect with dock equipment, providing facilities and warehouses with enhanced visibility of loading dock activity, he said.

Last year, the company expanded this technology further to include IoT-based connected gates, doors and intercoms “to provide a full gate-to-dock workflow solution,” said Neff. This digitally connects shippers, as well as carriers and receivers, to the physical assets used onsite. 

Challenges Facing Facility Managers

Many commercial facilities are hives of inbound and outbound activity, a fact that often leads to complex logistics challenges. Such active sites can be prone to inefficiencies and accidents in higher traffic areas.

Traditionally, companies often rely on manual scheduling and phone calls to manage their yard and dock traffic.

“As facilities grow, their manual processes can start to break down and contribute to backups at crucial access points throughout the facility,” said Neff.

Drivers may be forced to wait at entry-gates to check-in and receive dock assignments. Delays in the yard result as well. Trailers can sit at a dock waiting to be loaded, ultimately leading to overtime costs for security and receiving staff.

According to Neff, “These productivity demands and increased labor costs are some of the key challenges that our customers seek to solve with myQ Enterprise.”

How it Works

The myQ Enterprise experience begins for drivers before the check-in process at the gate. In fact, drivers are scheduled in myQ for specific arrival times and assigned a unique ID, before they come onsite.

When they arrive, drivers can check-in on a touchscreen Smart Video Intercom from Chamberlain Group, where they identify themselves, lookup their appointment and confirm their arrival.

Using an advanced rules engine powered by real-time data about activities in the yard and at dock doors, myQ Enterprise then recognizes what docks are available, automatically assigning the trailer to the best dock, based on the carrier, load type and status of the facility.

Drivers can complete this check-in process on their mobile device as well, which is then confirmed on the connected Smart Video Intercom, opening the gate and allowing the driver to enter the property.

Truck Presence Sensors

At each loading dock position, there is a “truck present sensor” automatically detecting when a trailer arrives and when it leaves, using the available wireless network such as cellular or Wi-Fi.

The presence sensor enables the system to track how long the trailer is at the dock and automatically detects when the restraint is engaged or disengaged to the trailer, thereby enhancing safety at the docks.

On the interior of the loading docks, another IoT sensor detects when the dock leveler is deployed onto the back of a trailer. The door position is monitored with a connected LiftMaster commercial door operator, providing valuable insights into environmental controls, as well as reducing safety or security concerns from leaving a door open when a trailer isn’t present.

Lastly, loading activity can be measured using a forklift sensor that tracks every time a forklift enters the trailer.

All of these sensors are wired to an iDock Controller from Poweramp or McGuire, or to a dock door operator from LiftMaster. The IoT devices connect online using the facility’s own network, or with a cellular gateway, avoiding any technical security concerns a facility may have.

Software as a Service

myQ Enterprise is a Software as a Service (SaaS) provided through an annual subscription. The software can be integrated with existing warehouse management systems, ERP, or other software solutions to ensure facility managers have complete visibility across the facility.

Chamberlain Group’s goal with myQ Enterprise is to offer customers one simple solution that fully digitizes a facility’s logistical operations, Neff said.

Additionally, the system offers a view of the entire loading dock for smart dock management and real time visibility for guards, managers at the facility and receiving supervisors including live updates.

Alerts and Analytics Reports

The technology can provide notifications based on scenarios set by the user, such as managing loading activity, monitoring onsite trailers or mobile driver communication. Facility managers can collect this information and develop key benchmarks and customer reports for improved warehouse efficiency, productivity, energy savings, compliance and safety.

Additionally, facility managers receive alerts of inefficiencies or safety concerns at their docks. That can include real-time status reports showing all loading docks, which docks are available, or past load time requirement.

The solution incorporates machine learning to capture and analyze data that will improve existing operations.

“While we start by using a rules-based engine to assign available docks, over time we back-test what has happened and suggested improvements to dock-rules to gain efficiencies either in reducing trailer on-site time or reducing detention/demurrage fees,” Neff said.

Facility managers receive historical analytics reports to improve loading efficiency, dock performance and utilization over time. This allows managers to search for any past truck-at-dock session to review the recorded loading activity of each, any detention fees that were incurred, and compare and manage any incurred detention fee by carrier or date.

Heartland Produce Gains Benefits

Fresh food company Heartland Produce has used myQ Enterprise to eliminate its paper-based processes, said Neff. The IoT sensors in use at the gate, dock and doors are integrated in the system to enable better decisions making, he said.

The produce company began testing the solution in early 2023 and after their first year of deployment, has gained more than a $450,000 return on investment and saved 100 hours of labor per week, by automating the data capture.

“They have also benefited from safety improvements,” said Neff, measuring a 14 percent reduction in un-restrained trucks.

“We have several other beta customers who started using myQ Enterprise in 2023 and continue to use the software to streamline their dock operations. We are now in the process of implementing myQ Enterprise at live customer sites during our rollout of myQ Enterprise to the public,” said Neff.

Key Takeaways:
  • Companies such as Heartland Produce are beta testing a solution from LiftMaster that captures IoT-based data about the presence and movement of vehicles and goods around a facility.
  • The solution not only offers data to streamline dock operations, but extends that data to a site’s entrance gate and yard.