Efficiency and safety are now the driving forces behind loading bay operations, and while equipment suitability for the site may seem an obvious prerequisite a surprising number of products sold do not meet the tasks required of them, says James Adams, marketing manager for Transdek UK. This seems to be especially true of  the relatively new double-deck loading bay equipment.

Other key considerations to mull over when specifying loading bay equipment include hardware quality and reliability, warranty and quality of after sales support and value-added features. The last of these depends on how aware the specifier is of wider supply chain implications. For example, should companies fit external ‘pod’ style loading systems which enhance available warehouse space, or internal loading bay equipment that leaves more space in the yard? These pods need not be a permanent fixture. Transdek’s loading pods can be easily moved and was key to converting all of Boots’ distribution centres for double-deck deliveries. Such flexibility was essential to enable short-medium term logistics restructuring.

The pods are not suitable for all sites or companies. Where the additional space created by the elimination of ramps is significant and where speed of loading is not extremely time critical, then there can be a definite gain from moving away from conventional, raised-dock loading bay designs.

The trend towards double-deck lorries, fuelled by rising distribution costs, is gathering pace not least because its offers typical savings of 40% over conventional single-deck vehicles. But this trend, particularly strong among retailers, has implications for loading bay design issues. Apart from spawning pods with double-deck lifts, it also influences the design of conventional dock levellers which have to service powered double-deck vehicles. If new-build loading docks are built at 900 mm instead of the standard 1,200 mm, for example, this can allow a faster flow of product to/from the bottom vehicle deck.

The trend to double-deck lorries, however, has highlighted a safety issue still largely ignored today – lorry load stability. Each year hundreds of lorries roll over on Britain’s roads in which load weights, distribution and poor load security have been implicated. The onus on preventing this, as far as load security is concerned, is with the driver but the driver has no influence over and no knowledge of the allocations of load weights between the vehicle decks. This is a serious issue which is why Transdek has developed its load weight monitor to ensure correct payload distribution on double-deck vehicles.

Loading bay efficiency and safety are not all about hardware. Software also plays its part. Transdek, for example, offers an Advanced Management System which provides statistics on loading operations, timings and payloads to enable better analysis and management of a company’s depots.

Loading bay energy consumption is another burning issue moving to centre stage but operators need accurate information to help them achieve an acceptable carbon footprint. Leading the way in this is Hormann, whose modular planning tool is now available online. This guide examines the key aspects of energy savings that can be delivered by industrial door systems and loading technology solutions. Included is an energy loss calculator and the means to assess the projected payback time.

If the loading bay industry can be sure of anything it is that the EU will require greater environmental accountability. Operators, therefore, must expect changes to industrial motor efficiencies that will affect the supply of all loading bay equipment incorporating motors.

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