Whether built on spec or not, never in the history of warehouse construction has the need between developer and equipment supplier to cooperate more at the earliest stage been greater. This has been engendered by the upheavals caused by online shopping which puts such emphasis on fast and often free deliveries by the next day. It also means changing the landscape of the loading docks to accommodate a wide variety of vehicle types, from small vans up to double-deck HGVs. This is essential to future proof the investment.

Warehouse developers, therefore, must be careful from the outset to choose a supplier with a wide portfolio of loading bay products, a long history in the industry, and an after-sales service record second to none. For peace of mind it would be wise to stick to members of ALEM, and obtain data, perhaps through site visits, of equipment reliability and after-sales back up.

The loading bay industry has done well to keep up with innovative, new technologies to provide safer, surer, more efficient warehouses. While the digital world of online shopping may stress the need for speed it must never be at the expense of safety. The two are not incompatible.

The critical need is to minimise downtime, which derives from two main causes – accidents and equipment breakdown. On the accident front, Hormann UK has developed its Docking Assistant System to minimise costly collision damage which helps drivers of all kinds of vehicles when approaching a loading bay through a traffic light system. The other cause of downtime is equipment breakdown and this is where equipment quality and planned maintenance are so important. If you are operating a 24-hr business then you should ask yourself do I need a 24-hr call-out service, like that which Hormann provides.

Whatever the cause, unexpected downtime is anathema because online customers can be very unforgiving if their orders fail to arrive as promised and so business losses can be permanent. But the issue of loading bay downtime cannot be divorced from the rest of the warehouse. Behind many accidents is inadequate training and poor practices, and the fact is that no matter how good the safety devices are, accidents will always happen. The need to meet delivery deadlines could see corners cut in the movement of goods from pallet racks to loading bays and it is in the storage module where the greatest, unexpected downtime an occur.

Outside of fire, the warehouse manager’s worst nightmare is a domino-style pallet racking collapse, the kind of accident where the manager might feel the easiest way out is to fall on his sword. While there is a place for conventional pallet racking safety devices, like leg protectors, corner posts, etc, they do not provide comprehensive racking collapse defence because they leave most of the upright legs unprotected. There is, however, one patented system called Rhino from RCP that uses suspension wires from ceilings to prevent domino-style collapses.

As winter approaches, energy losses and costs soar and so careful consideration should be paid to the doors. This is where it pays to be aware of the different high-speed roller doors on the market because their opening/closing speeds can vary widely. At 4 mt/sec, Efaflex has easily the fastest doors on the market which customers claim can give energy savings of up to 50%. You might, therefore, wish to insist on these doors rather than rely on your main equipment contractor offering its own, slower doors.

Bill Redmond

Features Editor