With the current stress in our supply chain, getting goods to and out of facilities as quickly as possible is critical. For office, warehouse and apartment buildings, shipping and receiving docks are a critical piece of infrastructure that is often overlooked. New designs and technological innovations are helping to optimize these critical facility operations, even as supply chain disruption hinders the global economy.
It’s not just warehouses, distribution centers and industrial facilities that need shipping and receiving docks, many different types of buildings depend on shipping space to accommodate deliveries, unload products. , load furniture and transport waste. Often times, the shipping dock is the busiest part of an office building or shopping mall. Multi-family properties receive so many packages and deliveries that they have practically become distribution centers themselves.
Trucking fuels the global economy, finding better ways to accommodate them is key to making real estate work better. Creating better loading docks that blend seamlessly into existing urban environments is a complex process that challenges even the best designers. While warehouses and distribution centers have captured most of the attention of logistics engineers and supply chain managers, facility managers are starting to see that loading docks of all types need to be improved.
“There is no doubt that businesses realize the importance of the dock and the difference between uptime and downtime on the dock,” said Walt Swietlik, director of customer relations and sales support at Rite-Hite, at Modern Materials Handling. “Everyone works with this ‘on-demand mentality’ that everything has to work, period. There is simply no room for failure or interruption.
Shipping docks are complicated because trucks come in all shapes and sizes and each dock area is different. The area, level, height and accessibility of a shipping dock all determine the type of truck it can accommodate. Trucks carrying shipping containers need 55 inches of dock height, straight trucks only need 44, platforms need 52. A sloped or recessed aisle approach. in relation to the ground complicates matters even more. Dock leveler bridges have long been used to accommodate every height required, but take up valuable space.
Trucks also need enough space to maneuver. Today’s longest semi-trailers reach almost 75 feet, which means the standard 110-foot approach is no longer adequate. According to the recommendations of the American Trucking Association, an aisle leading to a shipping dock should be twice as long as the longest tractor-trailer combination visiting the dock. The staging area, just inside the dock, should also be carefully designed. If you are unloading a 53-foot trailer, you need a staging area that can accommodate at least 53 feet of product. Stacking near the dock is prohibited for safety reasons. All this to say that the cookie-cutter approach to dock design is not working. Each building’s shipping and receiving dock is unique, making it difficult to use technology for optimization.
Several companies are developing “smart dock” technology to improve the critical flow of goods and products from shipping and receiving docks. A company called Rite-Hite has developed warehouse management software that uses a network of connected vehicle restraints, audible and visual alarms, dock doors, and more. to provide real-time monitoring of any connected device.
OSHA reports that more than a quarter of all warehouse injuries occur at the loading dock, making safety a priority. Technology improves security in the area known for its buzzing activity. Manual operation was quickly abandoned in favor of automated vehicle restraints, levelers and overhead doors. Using technology to automate these processes protects workers and clearly indicates load and lockout status to operators. An automated dock control system must be triggered in the exact order to ensure that no safety procedures are bypassed. Automated vehicle restraints can even be integrated into some building management systems. Motion sensors monitoring the dock alert workers to forklift activity and other types of traffic.
Dock controls are incorporated into main control panels connected to networks that can collect and transmit data directly to warehouse management systems or yard management systems. WiFi-enabled smart controls manage dock operations, bringing the information age into shipping. The interconnected system uses the IoT to show in real time how many trucks are being loaded, how fast they are loaded, who is loading them, where they are heading and much more. Companies like 4Front Engineered Solutions install control panels for each dock to manage all inbound and outbound shipments from each dock, sending this data to a centralized controller for analysis.
For multi-family shipping and receiving docks, parcel unloaders could be a game-changer. Each apartment community receives dozens, if not hundreds, of packages and parcels every day, as online shopping continues to expand. Why not use a machine similar to a dump truck that feeds a sorter? Companies like Honeywell, Siemens and Southworth Products use machines and robots to speed up the unloading of packages. Eventually, the technology could become small enough to fit into communities or office buildings to alleviate the crash in deliveries that every property faces on a daily basis. Complicated contraptions that require special truck parts may soon give way to robots performing the transport. Virtually all of the major shippers are working on automated loading through robotics, some of which can already load or unload 400 packages per hour.
“The biggest challenge in our world is this: Every package is different in size, shape, weight, color, material,” Ted Dengel, chief technology officer for operations at the company, told Bloomberg. FedEx Ground Delivery Unit. “This makes it a very delicate problem. “
No matter their size, in an office or in a truck yard, all eyes are on the shipping and receiving docks as the global economy continues to grapple with supply chain issues. In the world of logistics, endpoints are as important as distribution centers and shipping docks. Every homeowner should think about how delivery drivers interact with their property to get things where they need to be. Moving more packages with the same real estate footprint is a challenge that technology is helping to solve, making all forms of shipping and receiving docks safer and more efficient.