Companies are looking for faster warehouse throughput and innovations in trailer design, and that all puts additional pressure on the loading bay. But there are upgrade strategies available…
Over the past few years we have moved away from the idea that a warehouse is simply a place to store goods, and now look at it as a site for processing and reconfiguring inventory. In the process, the loading bay has assumed much greater importance.
One of the defining features of modern warehouses is that they contain far more bays than older sites. But, more than that, loading bays might now have to accommodate a wider range of trailers such as double-deckers.
Andrew De’Vere, director of warehousing operations at NFT, says: “Most warehouse designs are based on storage and throughput. Bay marshalling space is kept to a minimum in most cases and this becomes inefficient with the late arrival of both delivery and collection vehicles. For a smooth running operation it’s therefore vital that efficiency and timeliness is of key importance across the whole team and that there is clear communication of any pending issues so planning can take place.
“Either in-house or externally, again regarding space constraints, further yard management is crucial in a busy inbound and outbound operation.”
Safety is a critical issue on the loading bay. Mentor Training’s technical manager Steve Baldwin highlights the fact that HSE figures show that loading and unloading of goods account for up to 30 per cent of all workplace transport accidents.
“Loading bay safety always needs special attention, with so many load, pedestrian and vehicle movements. The extra risks of visiting drivers who don’t know your procedures, and the potential for loads to shift in transit also pose a particular safety issue to those working in and around loading bays.
“The extra pressure of the Christmas rush multiplies that risk – but it’s something that needs to be considered all year round.”
Special safety measures recommended by the HSE for the loading bay include additional risk assessments, printing procedures on delivering for visiting drivers and empowering drivers and staff to halt loading or unloading instantly, should they have any concerns.
Additionally, the Fork Lift Truck Association urges businesses to ensure all staff visiting the loading bay, in whatever capacity, are adequately trained to recognise the unique risks involved.
Fire can be a particular threat. In the event of a fire, a door’s resistance levels can mean the difference between containing the fire to one area or it spreading throughout the building and putting lives at risk. To minimise this risk, sara LBS now specifies Kingspan Firesafe panels as standard.
Sara operations manager Ed Wilks says: “During the design of a new building it is important that the worst case scenario is considered. No-one ever plans to have a fire but accidents can and do happen. We specify Firesafe panels as standard so that if the worst does happen there is a higher chance of containment in the early stages.”
The panels are made of a urethane foam core which is sandwiched between galvanised steel stucco exterior panels to create a sara sectional door. In the event of a fire, the foam infill swells and expands to form a strong, carbonaceous char which will not add to the fire.
On top of fire safety there is an added benefit of good thermal insulation. Sectional overhead doors are often used as the entry point for loading bays as their design allows them to lift clear of approaching vehicles while maintaining a small footprint that doesn’t diminish internal storage space. Because of this, doors often play a key role in maintaining a building’s thermal insulation.
A door with a high degree of thermal insulation can save hundreds of pounds each year; when there are multiple loading bays this can soon add up. The Firesafe panels from Kingspan have U-values up to 0.2W/m2K making our sectional overhead doors some of the most thermally efficient on the market.
“When positioned at an entry point, a door’s thermal efficiency can play a significant role in a building’s overall heating – or refrigeration – costs,” says Wilks.
Transdek has produced the V2G (vehicle to ground) modular loadhouse lift, which has the capability to load or unload all goods vehicles to ground level.
It believes that vehicle to ground lifts have the potential to simplify designs and to gain significant savings in terms of space, cost and construction time.
The V2G offers loading speeds equivalent to raised docks and dock levellers, opening up the possibility to re-think conventional design formats, keeping the service yard on a single level. This eliminates back of store or distribution centre dead space, which could be more cost effectively used to increase the selling area or storage capacities.
Transdek argues that it can save between £40,000 and £240,000 on civil engineering works for the installation of vehicle pits or raised docks.
“If required, we can provide a complete design, build and installation service, including warehouse and dock modifications to optimise vehicle access and product flows, as well as fast, simple levelling of systems on uneven service yards,” says Leon Butler, operations director at Transdek.
The system can be easily retrofitted in flat-floor loading bays, and can handle both single deck and double deck trailers.
The system has been installed at 100 stores for one supermarket chain to enable deliveries from its expanding double deck trailer fleet. A recent project involved Transdek designing and engineering a bespoke warehouse extension that incorporated a V2G for Manton Eggs, one of the UK’s largest egg processing companies.
Transdek has also launched a single-pallet lift to move goods between floor levels. The lift uses the same hydraulic ram configuration to handle the movement of pallets or goods with a safe working load of up to 1,000kgs.
Accommodating a range of vehicles was a key consideration for Stertil Stokvis when it installed eight loading bays for Royal Mail at a 15,400 sq m mail centre at Strood in Kent. The site uses automated sorting equipment to process more than three million mail items every day at sortation speeds of up to 40,000 items an hour.
The loading bays have to handle a wide range of vans, trucks and lorries including the centre’s fleet of double deck trailers. The X Series dock leveller includes an unusually long 600mm telescopic lip which extends in line with the platform. Precise control of this extension allows it to be placed accurately onto the rear of a vehicle deck so that vehicles can be fully loaded right up to the rear door.
Royal Mail’s WIS dock shelters incorporate robust side curtains and an inflatable head curtain to provide an excellent seal between vehicles and the loading dock. This ensures that road transport of all heights, even double deck vehicles, can be accommodated. In addition, one bay has a 5.6m tall WIS shelter to support the loading and unloading of special high-roof UK Mail vehicles.
NFT’s Andrew De’Vere says: “The ‘must-have’ pieces of equipment make the whole operation more effective. These include flexible robot pallet wrappers and correct loading MHE; ie double pallet ppt to reduce travel times. Also, efficient inbound and outbound warehouse management scan loading systems to minimise cross loading risks are important. A very robust inbound schedule adherence and strict positive dispatch timings for supplier deliveries are also key.”
There has been a lot of interest in speed loading equipment. De’Vere says: “Speed loading equipment is not new to the industry; many types have been tried and are in use, for example, speed load systems that automatically load all pallets in one movement from conveyor to trailer. This method is only useful in dedicated factory to DC movements and is not flexible on depot to depot movements. New innovations on loading are not currently on the main agenda and MHE suppliers have got to start looking inward to help logistics providers with new innovations.”
Improving the efficiency of the loading bay operations can have significant benefits in terms of reducing the number of loading docks required in a facility and ensuring assets are used as economically as possible.
Industrial safety specialist Castell has developed a data-gathering and analysis device to maximise loading dock efficiency.
The Salvo Dock Monitor combines the Salvo safety system, a data-gathering device and a live graphical interface running on a PC to display overall site performance or individual dock statistics.
The system’s report function generates graphical reports on dock use, loading times, idle times, shift-to-shift comparison and maintenance. This information can then be exported to a range of standard file formats for further review and analysis.
Paul Marks, Castell’s NPD director, says: “We have worked closely with our customers to ensure we have fully understood their requirements and the pressure their environments bring. Increasing efficiency at the loading dock can bring big rewards, such as reducing the number of loading docks required in a facility and ensuring assets are used as efficiently as possible.”
Case study- Dock conversion on the agenda
The size and shape of trailers has been changing over the past few years with the introduction of teardrop designs and double deckers. But any benefit from these new designs is lost if the loading bay is not able to accommodate them.
Stertil Stokvis has developed the Retro Dock to convert existing loading bays. In one recent application it enabled a high street retailer to load and unload multi deck trailers.
During construction of a distribution centre at Sherburn In Elmet six years ago, Stertil Stokvis installed a series of 58 loading bays, each fitted with a conventional swing lip dock leveller. Following the retailer’s recent acquisition of the site, the company decided to allocate six of the bays for the loading and unloading of multi deck vehicles and trailers. As a result, Stertil Stokvis was called to convert the bays.
The design of the Retro Dock system eliminated the need for civil works to be carried out.
Instead, by using the external skeletal frame of the dock leveller it replaced, the new platform and cylinder could be simply installed within the empty space. Each of the six docks now comprises a 6,000kg capacity telescopic dock leveller, type XF 30-20, plus a WIS 300 Series inflatable dock shelter, featuring an inflatable head curtain to accommodate a wide range of vehicles from 7.5 tonne rigid lorries through to 4.8 metre-high double-deck trailers, and a set of PE dock bumpers.
Finally, to ensure the safe movement of vehicles, Stertil Stokvis installed ultra-bright LED traffic lights at all of the 58 loading bays.
General manager Andy Georgiou says: “This project typifies the kind of installation we’re being increasingly asked to undertake. The existing loading bays were not designed to accommodate the latest generation of higher, multi deck vehicles.
Access to the upper level vehicle decks would have been impossible and damage to the building, caused by reversing lorries, would have been unavoidable. That’s where the Retro Dock comes in. Quick to install and, because no civil works are required, it’s a proven cost-effective, reliable solution.”
Case study- Crown Food goes for Bulldoor
Crown Food Europe chose Union Industries to supply an additional fast-acting roller door at its plant in Wisbech.
Leeds-based Union, which previously installed two Ramdoors in the loading bays at the facility, installed a fast acting Bulldoor to support the factory’s hygiene regulations and to enhance the overall safety of the site for pedestrians.
Tim Cannon, technical services manager from Crown Food Europe said: “We have been extremely impressed by the quality, efficiency and reliability of Union’s Ramdoors fitted in 2011, hence the recent addition of the Bulldoor to our site. We are really pleased with the newest installation and its contribution to our strict hygiene and safety standards.”
The 3.4m wide x 3.6m high Bulldoor, which has an opening speed of 1.6 metres per second with automatic close, helps maintain the integrity of the building by keeping out dirt, vermin and rain and snow.
It has been installed in the Can/Coil Store doorway to improve the transport of goods and is used by forklift trucks only, and has a bespoke designed safe pass system which locks the door in the closed position allowing pedestrians to pass in front of the door without the risk of being hit by a forklift.
Crown Holdings. supplies metal packaging to consumer goods companies. Crown Food Europe, with an annual turnover of $2bn, is the largest business in the European Division of the company. The factory at Wisbech is a manufacturing and distribution facility.
The Bulldoor uses Union’s ‘Crash-Out’ damage protection facility, which ensures that the door remains operable if the heavy duty steel composite bottom beam is hit by a speeding vehicle.
Finance- Transdek package
Transdek has launched a range of financial packages, which it says will help bridge the gap caused by the current banking system’s reluctance to provide loans and help businesses grow.
Options range from hire purchase with outright ownership at the end of the agreement; or finance leasing if ownership is not required.
Managing director Mark Adams said: “We aim to help our customers to expand their operations or ensure they can continue to make cost effective supply chain improvements despite the current economic challenges.”