It has been common practice to skimp on maintenance of loading bay equipment or even ignore investment in kit that could improve safety. There is also a tendency to buy based on the cheapest quote without fully considering how the premium quote could be the cheaper in terms of life cycle costs. But can the warehouse industry seriously continue with those habits given the seismic impact that online shopping has had on warehousing and loading bays that make failure to deliver goods to consumers on time and undamaged very high risk?

If planning a new loading bay operation then the best advice comes from equipment suppliers with a comprehensive product portfolio and long experience, but it also pays to bone up, largely through the relevant trade press, on companies that may not provide a full product range but nevertheless offer certain quality products not found in competitors’ portfolios which would be a better buy. A good example here is door specialist Efaflex whose premium-priced rapid spiral doors, for example, are much faster than competing doors, with door movements of 4mt/sec against the industry average of 2.5mt/sec. This faster action translates into lower energy costs and less ingress of pest infestation or contamination, so important where hygiene is critical. Not least, perhaps, is the greater, fault-free durability where unplanned downtime is bad news.

With that caveat in mind, why is maintenance more important now than ever before? Hormann UK explains that maintenance is equally as important as specifying the correct loading bay technology to maintain site safety and overall productivity standards, especially in the changed market climate of B2C e-tailing that puts such importance on timely delivery. Much is said about Britain’s relatively poor productivity record but think how that could change if Britain’s unplanned manufacturing downtime costs of £180 billion a year were substantially cut. But it goes further than lost productivity. A worse risk is permanent loss of business from online shoppers who fail to get their orders delivered on time as promised.

Unscheduled downtime can result from a combination of accidents and equipment breakdowns. The former often derives from poor training, corner cutting and not using accident-prevention devices that have long been available but are incrementally still being improved. A good example of the former is the new automatic vehicle restraint system, DE619 OAR, from Assa Abloy (see below) which prevents unplanned vehicle movement during the loading process. Compatible with most vehicles, it comprises a cylindrical blocking arm which traps a trailer’s wheel, providing two key safety advantages, namely elimination of vehicle creep and prevention of premature vehicle pull away before loading is completed and cleared to depart.

As regards breakdowns the most likely cause is inadequate maintenance combined with poor quality product. Operators have a choice here of either relying on the OEMs proffered maintenance regime or in-house maintenance, where the OEMs can offer tuition and recommended spare parts for onsite stocking. If, however, preferring an outsourced maintenance service then for peace of mind deal with your OEM’s recommended service contractor. For extra confidence you could also see if your OEM will give you a list of their clients who will allow site visits, where you could question the user both on product quality and after-sales service reliability.

This is the time of year when extra care is needed to maintain smooth, uninterrupted door services. Three easy tasks, explains Sara LBS: 1) A check to see that doors are robust, with a good seal, 2) Chats with loading bay staff to ascertain equipment’s winter performance and 3) A check of the owner’s manual to confirm door certification conforms to EuroNorm standard DIN EN 12424 covering wind load classes, though this should have been done at the purchase stage.

Bill Redmond

Features Editor

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