chaz1Despite decades of modern loading bay techniques and improvements, this vital area in the supply chain still fouls up efficient warehouse operations, either through bad design or inappropriate equipment choice. All this could be avoided if there was early consultation between operator/architect and the equipment supplier, believes Hormann UK.

There is, for example, a tendency for architects to specify only products that they are familiar with, which limits the choices available to the main contractor/operator and so could lead to a less efficient operation. On bespoke projects, which currently dominate the UK scene as the market for speculative sheds has dried up in the recession, architects and builders should always discuss requirements with hardware suppliers at an early stage so that a bespoke service ensures that all the components integrate seamlessly and reduce installation time. Warehouse operators could also learn from visits to sites suggested by their potential hardware supplier.

Fortunately, the incidence of failing loading bay designs is falling, and usually occur over issues of compatibility like, for instance, between pre-cast dock areas and the equipment to be installed, says Hormann’s Commercial Director, Alan Jenkins. “This is one reason why  we like to be involved at the design stage to ensure this compatibility,” says Alan.

Another benefit from such early consultation is that the leading equipment suppliers can give the best advice to make the loading bay as flexible as possible so that it can cope with changing business conditions. In this respect, as well as dealing with standard operational requirements, warehouse operators should ask if there will be a need to accommodate different vehicles or alternative vehicle loading methods.

At a more detailed level, issues like wheel point loads on leveller decks should be considered. A conventional, three-wheeler forklift, for instance, will impose a higher wheel point load than a four-wheeler, and much higher still if small polyurethane wheels are used. It has been known for such wheels to chew up lorry floors badly and cause accidents. If pre-cast concrete is being used, designers should ask if the castings will integrate readily with other fittings and allow for any flexibility in design.

More than ever today, health and safety issues are key considerations which influence design, especially in a food environment. Will there, for example, be a need to make the loading bay pest proof and at the correct temperatures? This is where rapid roll pvc doors and good door seals can be a big help. A good example that has temperature control in mind is Hormann’s recently-launched DOBO system (docking before opening), which allows trailer doors to be opened after the trailer has docked at the bay. Rapid roll, insulated, sectional doors can also combine good temperature control with higher security and so avoid the need for two types of doors.

The range of supplier equipment is now so wide that warehouse operators should ensure that they have the comprehensive user guides from leading hardware specialists like Sara, Stertil UK and Hormann to help them achieve the best, right-first-time results. They are a big help in sidestepping what could be an unnecessarily costly operation.

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