Yard Automation Addresses Three Weak Spots to Build Supply Chain Resilience
While there aren’t many quick fixes when it comes to mitigating global supply chain disruption, supply chain leaders will turn to solutions that directly address the biggest weaknesses throughout the supply chain that have been highlighted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak: demand, labor, and energy.
Automation brings resiliency and velocity to areas of the supply chain that are otherwise slow and manual. We’ve seen this with warehouse automation, and incremental progress is being made with over-the-road (OTR) trucking. Historically under-invested, distribution yards are the ideal next place for autonomous systems given the confined environments and discrete set of repetitive, manual tasks. End-to-end autonomous yard operations is the key to ensuring the consistent flow of goods, 24/7/365 in all weather conditions.
Nearly 80% of distribution center operations are still performed manually (DHL’s Robotics in Logistics Study, Oct 2019). Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, OTR trucks spent roughly 12 million days waiting in distribution yards, and that number has increased as companies deal with coronavirus protocols. By getting even slightly more efficient, say by five to 10 minutes, truckers could spend 10 to 20% less time sitting in distribution yards. Yard operation capacity can be more easily expanded through the use of automated yard trucks. When demand returns to normal or you’re managing through a contraction, yard truck operating time can be reduced – thereby, rebalancing the distribution network.
Lastly, when it comes to the energy sector, electric, autonomous yard trucks give supply chain leaders the ability to completely avoid the obstacles that come with the inevitable changes in the fossil fuel energy market. Given the simplicity and reduced maintenance of autonomous electric yard trucks, supply chain leaders also avoid micro shocks to their operations when diesel trucks break down. Plus, it allows companies to progress in reaching their sustainability objectives.