Yard & Dock

Yard & Dock

Product design

The challenge

Like any other fast-growing company, Zalando SE must be able to organise every single detail of its activity.
For millions of orders to arrive on time to their customers requires a massive logistic effort.
The challenge was to build an efficient application that does three important things:
a. Organise certain aspects of arrival and departure of equipment.
b. Manage the activity for parking areas, docks and queues.
c. Organise and optimise the movement of equipment in the yard.

Discovery, understanding and planing.

Understanding the existing problems and anticipating new ones requires a lot of knowledge and a clear vision.
Luckily Zalando has competent Product Managers and the will to invest and be one step ahead of the future.
Being a greenfield project, the Discovery phase for Yard & Dock Applications was not just a step in the project but a work-stream that ran in parallel for the whole of its length. One of the key aspects was to find new opportunities for optimisation and to create a product that can adapt and scale.
A considerable percentage of the equipment waiting to be (un)loaded requires a Tow Truck to move around.
One essential requirement was to create a feature that allows the optimal movement of this particular category of equipment.

Research, ideation and even more planning.

The research for such a complex project has started with simple conversations. Those conversations turned into workshops, and soon we had workable solutions. Moving equipment with purpose around a warehouse is not an easy job, especially when the warehouse is the size of 20 football fields and has hundreds of parking slots and dozens of Docks and Dock Queues.
To be able to organise, the Yard Managers and the Dock Managers must know at any time where any piece of equipment is. With countless operations happening in parallel at any given time, the application must be able to provide entry points for viewing or ordering the movement of equipment at the right time in the right place. This movement order has to be communicated with the Tow Truck operators to optimise the move.
Everyone got excited about the opportunities, so the product roadmap had to be updated accordingly.

The product spine.

To avoid blind spots and create a solid product, every process got a detailed diagram and concise documentation. Before working on the interface, every process flow was validated.

Mock-up, prototype, test, repeat.

With all the main processes mapped and validated, it was time to mock up and validate the interface.
Today, the central part of the interface of Yard and Dock is an interactive map.
Traditional interfaces for such applications are just endless lists with many columns. This map view offers fast entry points at any level for any parking slot around the warehouse and a detailed picture of any Dock or Dock Queue process.
In the future, with integrated IoT systems, this interface can evolve into an efficient real-time monitoring and process optimisation system.

Custom experience,
custom user interface.

The interface for Yard & Dock is almost entirely custom built. The user groups for this application are specialists that don’t ask for fluff.
The most critical requirement was to design a highly functional interface with an intuitive interaction model.
Because of this, the main priority was to build intuitive visual assets and interaction patterns.

The result

The logic and processes managed through the interface are soon to go live for the warehouse in Rotterdam (NL).
The User Interface of Yard and Dock was designed to evolve to adapt. If proven successful, Yard & Dock has a Configurator module (designed in parallel) that will allow Zalando to deploy and configure the interface/map for every warehouse they own.

Do you want to know more about this project?

The details presented in this case study are designed to be only a generic overview for this project.
If you are interested in details about processes or how I got to specific solutions, please get in touch.

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