­­Sitting on the dock of the bay

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Goods are moving faster through the supply chain and there is no time for sitting around, so improving the efficiency of the loading bay is a major challenge.

As goods travel faster through the supply chain, the ability to move products in and out of warehouses efficiently has become increasingly critical. No wonder there is so much focus on the loading bay.

While there has been a dramatic growth in the number of loading bays in the average warehouse, there is also a focus on configurations and equally important, operational safety.

One of the ways that companies have been improving the efficiency of their distribution operations is by the use of double deck trailers. But to make the most of the additional trailer capacity often means reconfiguring the loading bay.

When Arla Foods was designing its new £150 million fresh milk dairy at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire it incorporated double deck lifts. The development is part of Arla’s expansion plans, and will process one billion litres of milk annually.

It chose Transdek to install two 6.5-tonne double deck lifts, which hold up to 28 of Arla’s tetratainers (small roll containers used to transport milk).

In tandem with the Aylesbury dairy, Arla has developed a combination trailer, which incorporates a 19,000-litre capacity raw milk tanker and refrigerated container deck into a single unit. Standing at 4.4-metres high, and with an overall payload of 44-tonnes, around 20 of the new combination trailers will have taken to the UK’s roads by the end of the year.

The double deck lifts accommodate the new trailers. The bespoke lifts are fully insulated and 1.7-metres taller than a standard unit to match existing dock levellers at the facility, and to accommodate a 80mm composite sectional door, which retracts into the roof.

Another development from Transdek is an in-built load house ramp that enables direct run through between a standard 900mm double deck trailer and typical 1200mm dock bay.

The ramp marries to the dock or dock leveller with a maximum gradient of 4-degrees and enables direct loading on to the bottom deck of a typical UK double deck trailer. This can speed a complete loading cycle up to as little as 45 minutes.

But Transdek is not only producing innovative lifting systems, It has also launched a double deck urban trailer which it says offers double the load volume of an 18 tonne rigid. Managing director, Mark Adams says: “With the growth of the convenience format in the grocery retail sector and an increasing focus on high-street deliveries, we believe there is an opportunity to revolutionise the efficiency of urban freight deliveries.”


Every year, there are over 5,000 accidents involving transport in the workplace, and despite the many safety improvements to equipment over recent decades, the loading bay remains one of the most dangerous parts of a warehouse, according to Jonathan Bowdler, service sales manager of Pickerings Lifts Loading Systems.

He points out that the growth of e-commerce and online shopping has seen an increase in more frequent loadings of vans and smaller trucks for shorter delivery destinations, in addition to cross-dock operations for loading larger trucks for long distance distribution.

“A single warehouse can therefore have a multitude of distribution uses and one of the key design elements for loading bays is the flexibility to adapt to a variety of operations and vehicle types.”

Easilift, which counts Tesco among its customers, reckons that making pre-emptive routine repairs can often prevent more widespread breakdowns from occurring, consequently helping the customer to avoid more expensive repair bills.

“By adopting a proactive culture of changing components that cost a few pounds, it can help to avoid more expensive repairs that can run to hundreds if not thousands of pounds,” says managing director Rob Fay. “The philosophy behind ‘Change Parts In Time’ is to protect against this eventuality by routinely replacing these often-neglected components as part of an integrated programme of planned preventative maintenance.”

Items commonly checked within the CPIT programme include door lifting cables, door rollers, hinges, locks and switches, which are routinely replaced. “These vital components are a critical part of any loading bay product, and are subjected to tens of thousands of operations per year to assist the smooth, safe and fast operation of docks, doors and other loading bay equipment,” says Fay.

sara LBS offers a nationwide maintenance and emergency repair service which helps to keep doors and loading bays operational.

Steve Robinson, depot manager for sara’s Bristol service centre, says: “Whether it’s a mechanical fault on a door, or damage caused to loading bay equipment due to a vehicle collision, the amount of disruption, downtime and lost production that can be caused by a single failure can be staggering.

“Even large distribution centres operate to such tight schedules that a single loading bay being out of commission can cause delays of several hours for drivers. To minimise downtime it’s important that all equipment is properly maintained and, in the event of a failure, knowledgeable engineers are available quickly.”


CASE STUDY: Parcels carrier opts for Stertil 

Stertil has installed 17 doors at a warehouse in Park Royal, London, as part of a refurbishment scheme for a parcels carrier.

The warehouse, which was built some 20 years ago, was acquired to enable the carriers to streamline operations in London and the South East.

During a typical day, around 150 vehicles arrive at the warehouse to deliver and collect a variety of parcels, packages, small boxes and flyer bags containing documents.

The vehicles comprise a range of vans and trucks of differing sizes and heights, so it was important that the doors specified could safely and efficiently accommodate this diversity.

The new doors include 15 of Stertil’s Thermadoor insulated sectional overhead doors plus a pair of recently-launched FlexiEdge fast-acting industrial doors.

The doors operate in conjunction with an installation of conveyors. Subdivision of the warehouse into different operating areas has been achieved by positioning the conveyors to suit different items and throughputs. To meet the required workflow within the warehouse, 13 doors are dedicated for van use while, of the remaining four doors, two are used to support deliveries and collection by trucks.


DOCK GREEN: Keeping the heat in

Energy saving has become a critical issue for many organisations, and the loading bay is an obvious place to look for savings. Energy is lost every time a door is opened. Now Assa Abloy Entrance Systems has produced a monitoring system that senses if a truck is docked and closes the door automatically if there is no activity at the bay, thus preventing loss of energy.

Very often companies simply leave loading bay doors open when there is no truck at the bay.

The Assa Abloy monitoring system has a sensor which can tell if a truck is docked and it can be set so that if there is no activity at the bay the door closes automatically after a pre-set time; for example 15 minutes.

All bays can be connected to the monitoring system’s server giving the customer the opportunity to supervise, monitor and report on a wide variety of aspects in their facility. Both DHL and Schenker are both using the monitoring system as part of their set standards when building logistics centres in Sweden.


CASE STUDY: Bespoke system for Unifrax

When Unifrax Emission Control relocated from Germany to the UK, it decided to install a bespoke loading bay system from Thorworld.

The mobile system comprises a ramp, platform, leveller and shelter and has been specifically designed to suit the exact infrastructure of Unifrax’s Flintshire site.

Site operations manager Alan Blythe says: “Transferring Unifrax Emission Control to the UK has been an exciting venture, and the loading bay development from Thorworld forms a vital part of the relocation’s feasibility. Without it, the moving premises may not have been possible.

“We regularly receive 40ft container shipments from the States, so having the right logistics in place to deal with the loads is critical,” he says. “However, installing a dedicated loading bay was not a viable option due to the extensive work required in digging into the ground, while we do not have the luxury of space to accommodate an external solution. An added complication was created by the fact that the Flintshire facility is on a flood plain.”

Thorworld combined one of its yard ramps with a platform and dock leveller to create a semi-permanent solution that allows trailers to pull up to the building so that operators can unload inside. A dock shelter provides further protection from the elements to ensure a consistent ambient temperature.

Unifrax implemented the necessary changes required for effective installation. A raised hole was created within the side of the building, providing a suitable and safe access point for deliveries without compromising the site’s ability to withstand flood risk.

l Thorworld has also produced semi-permanent system for fresh produce carrier IDS Transport. This comprises a ramp, platform and dock levellers, bolted to the ground outside the warehouse at Evesham and provides an alternative to a permanent loading dock, something that the company was unable to install due to operational restrictions.

The system enables loads to be forklifted out of the warehouse, before being safely ramped to a waiting trailer, with the process reversed for deliveries. In addition, a hinged barrier with locking gas spring permits goods to be (un)loaded from ground level where required.

“Many SMEs with a warehouse facility, whether rented or not, don’t have the option for a dedicated loading bay, but still need to unload and despatch deliveries and distributions effectively,” says Thorworld managing director John Meale.

Originally printed in Logistics Manager 07/2015


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