Distribution centers can improve efficiencies of their inbound and outbound freight by taking a comprehensive approach to their docks. While businesses look for ways to streamline the movement of their goods and preserve quality, outfitting loading docks with equipment and technology can contribute to a more efficient and successful operation. Take a closer look at ways to improve processes and minimize risks at the docks.
Equipped for Efficiency
The equipment at dock doors is exceptionally important to properly load and unload trailers. To help streamline the process, there are a number of different ways a facility can be set up. Based on the product, the equipment and technology can vary to meet unique needs based on the type of product being transported.
In some instances, shippers may opt to utilize dock shelters that completely cover the top of the
loading dock, allowing for a more controlled environment shielding from outside variables. Dock shelters can help improve HVAC utilization and fortify pest control, which can decrease risk of damaged products as well as help improve facility expenses. Aside from dock shelters, distribution center doors may be equipped with different seals to ensure that the dock door and trailer are secure and can be safely used1.
If the facility is food-grade, businesses may opt to use vertical levelers to be more efficient and create a tight seal that ensures consistent temperatures and product integrity. Unlike standard dock doors, vertical levelers sit inside the facility, allowing dock doors to close completely. The seal creates a smooth service between the facility and trailer that reduces risk of contamination while allowing people and equipment to pass through the area. In addition to the tight seal on the leveler itself, the area can also have food-grade brushes installed to easily clean the dock door area and provide additional seal support.
Improving Dock Safety
Safety should always be a priority throughout any facility and loading docks can be a dangerous area if not implemented correctly. Since docks are highly active areas with equipment and freight moving in tight proximity, implementing technology throughout the area can help minimize risk. Utilizing different technologies can improve communication in the area, which can help optimize the movement of goods. One way to improve communication throughout the dock area is to install a lighting system that notifies employees when it’s safe to load or unload trailers2. There are also more sophisticated technologies that can be implemented to further improve collaboration throughout the facility.
In addition to communication on the dock, communication throughout the entire facility is impetrative. It’s important that forklifts and other distribution equipment are strategically utilized to alleviate traffic and optimize the flow of goods. Outside of the facility, trucks and trailers may also be equipped with tools to ensure that trailers stay secure during loading and unloading3. To further ensure that trailers contribute to a successful dock operation, some businesses may invest in a yard management system or procure spotting services to better manage and strategize the ideal movement to and from the docks.
Loading docks can make an impact in streamlining supply chain operations. A shipper can partner with a 3PL that may have the resources and capabilities to customize docks, strategize the movement of equipment around docks, and design warehouses to streamline operations. Loading docks may seem like a minor aspect of a logistics operation, but the benefits of taking a comprehensive look at the area could greatly impact the rest of the supply chain.