Boosting Loading Dock Efficiencies

Inefficient loading dock operations open the door to delays, accidents, and product damage. They can also derail on-time performance and result in customer dissatisfaction. Make small changes that can deliver a substantial difference with these tips from Walt Swietlik of Milwaukee-based Rite-Hite Corporation.

1. Improve employee comfort. More comfortable employees are more productive employees. Install a dock door with ventilation screen panels, which let in fresh air and light. Use high-volume/low-speed industrial fans to provide consistent air circulation, and seal the dock to keep employees warm and dry during cold, wet weather.

2. Create bigger dock openings. Openings should accommodate doors nine or 10 feet wide by 10 feet tall to efficiently service today’s larger and wider trailers.

3. Lighten things up. Lighting the inside of the trailer will improve dock productivity. Try LED dock lights, which save energy and provide better light quality than traditional incandescent bulbs. A properly designed light’s beam produces a balanced and optimal level of brightness inside the entire trailer.

4. Think push-button levers. Hydraulic or air-powered levelers that operate at the push of a button speed efficiencies and reduce maintenance when compared with mechanical levelers, which require manual operation.

5. Separate pedestrian and lift truck traffic. Industrial safety barriers protect people from multiple safety risks, including forklift impacts. They also keep employees and visitors from entering the dock, where they can distract forklift operators and cause accidents.

6. Get the right sequence. Loading dock vehicle restraints, overhead doors, and dock levelers must operate in the proper sequence to ensure efficiencies. Dock workers should lock the trailer with the restraint first, then open the overhead door, and, finally, lower the leveler into the open trailer for servicing. The controls should be interlocked to ensure the proper sequence is followed for maximum efficiencies—and to avoid downtime, because improper sequencing can lead to equipment damage.

7. Guide the truck. Use trailer wheel guides to help drivers back up to the docks. Steel wheel guides anchored into the drive approach help drivers properly align trailers with the dock opening, and reflective guides on the wall below the dock bumpers indicate where to position the trailer. Less time spent aligning the trailer to the dock translates into more time spent loading and/or unloading the trailer.

8. Consider advanced light communications systems. Lights installed on the top corners of the dock doors tell the dock manager whether a trailer is being serviced by a lift truck or sitting idle. These indicators help the manager keep dock traffic flowing.

9. Install vertical-storing levelers. Vertical-storing levelers speed efficiencies at the dock by eliminating the need for the truck driver to get out of the cab, open the trailer doors, then fully back up the trailer to the dock doors. With vertical-storing levelers, the driver can simply back the trailer up to the door and let the dock attendant do the rest.

10. Move beyond wheel chocks. Wheel chocks prevent trailers from moving, but vehicle restraints are more effective. Wheel chocks take time to position and can create safety issues. Electro-mechanical vehicle restraints secure the trailer at the push of a button and hold it safely.