In the automotive supply chain, an intricate orchestration must occur between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Finished Vehicle Logistics (FVL) yards and truck drivers.
The role of the manufacturer is generally widely understood by the consumer. They are responsible for the vehicle design, features and pricing that buyers agonize over before purchase. And they’re the party that for the most part builds the vehicle that is then delivered.
FVL yards are the vast, intricate hubs that operate between OEMs and the consumer – in which vehicles are outfitted with accessories and staged for transportation to dealerships. Truck drivers are then responsible for the timely delivery of vehicles from yards to regional dealerships and/or the customer. It is this handoff – when the FLV yard provides the finished vehicle to a driver who will deliver the vehicle to its final destination – that is a critical step in the efficiency of the supply chain.
Challenges of FVL Yards
FLV yards can contain tens of thousands of vehicles, spanning hundreds of acres and housing vehicles at various stages of completeness. Some may be waiting for tinted windows; others may need custom wheels. Regardless, vehicles generally are moved multiple times throughout the finishing process to various locations within a yard, making it difficult for yards to find and retrieve the right vehicles when it’s time for them to be picked up.
In addition to congestion and constant movement, FVL yards must contend with unpredictable conditions, including inclement weather, darkness at night and during early morning operations, and labor shortages due to employees being out sick. Uncertainties such as these underscore the need to track vehicle movements in real time. Without this visibility, countless hours can be wasted in search of a single vehicle, increasing congestion and reducing yard worker productivity. Meanwhile, truck drivers – largely motivated by the number of deliveries made and therefore incentivized to swiftly navigate in and out of yards – are left waiting for vehicles to be located and subsequently collected.
Asset Tracking for Yard Efficiency
To overcome these challenges and improve FVL efficiency, many yards are implementing wireless asset tracking technology known as RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems). Borrowing from other manufacturing applications and healthcare use cases, OEMs are using RTLS – which leverages additional technologies such as GPS, Wi-Fi, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Bluetooth to track tagged assets – to determine the locations of vehicles in real time.
RTLS not only helps alleviate congestion within yards (it’s easier for yards to collect vehicles when they know exactly where they are) but some systems also include features such as Bluetooth-enabled asset tags with bright LED lights, making it simple for yard employees to identify vehicles for transport, especially in difficult-to-see weather and lighting conditions.
RTLS systems can even track and record the time taken by yard workers to move assets, providing valuable data for analyzing productivity and performance to help identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies and other areas for improvement. Yard managers can then implement changes, allocate resources more effectively and optimize in-yard asset movement, resulting in reduced congestion, improved worker efficiency and enhanced outbound logistics metrics.
This ensures seamless yard operations regardless of any external factors, enabling truck drivers to access their loads promptly, thus improving overall supply chain efficiency.
Enhancing the Driver Experience
When it comes to truck drivers who operate downstream of the yard – or, put differently, drivers who depend on the yard – some may prioritize yards with efficient outbound logistics processes and avoid those riddled with the inefficiencies of bottlenecks and missing assets altogether. If a driver knows that a particular yard is typically organized, with cars where they should be, then they may be incentivized to go to that yard first (making that yard the “shipper of choice”). This not only benefits the driver but also the consumer at the end of the supply chain.
In the end, RTLS has the power to impact FVL managers, yard workers, manufacturers and drivers by streamlining the interconnected process of getting cars from the manufacturer to the consumer. This synergy between technology, personnel and logistics has the potential to transform the automotive industry, perpetuating the legacy of innovation for which the sector is known.
Adrian Jennings (pictured, left) is chief product officer for Cognosos, a provider of real-time vehicle location data and analytics software.