When many of the world’s current warehouses were first built, trailers were pretty standard; they were almost always 8 feet wide, and dock doors were built to match. Soon manufacturers introduced wider trailers that spanned 8.5 feet or more, and pallet loads grew to fit the space. Today, warehouses and distribution centers (DCs) have to deal with a wider variety of load sizes and trailer heights than ever before. Traditional warehouse docks and one-size-fits-all dock boards can no longer accommodate every variable.
Seasonal changes in shipping volume further complicate the DC manager’s task. Some bays may sit idle for most of the year, taking up valuable space that could be used for productive material handling applications. What does it take to build a truly versatile loading dock?
To sum it up in a single word: access. Plan for deliveries of all types at your loading dock. In addition to standard truck access, prepare your facility to accommodate the following common methods of delivery:
Small Trucks and Vans.
Many shipments arrive via smaller road vehicles that can’t reach the historical standard dock height of 50 to 53 inches. Install dependable ramps that provide easy access for loading and unloading smaller delivery trucks. The BHS Dock Ramp is an ideal option — high quality, all steel construction and dual anchors at the base provide a rock-solid surface for moving loads onto the dock.
It’s often necessary to pilot fully loaded forklifts from dock to ground level at the loading dock. Make sure your loading dock ramps are optimized for forklift traffic; a gentle slope, high-traction surfaces, and steel curbs allow forklifts to transport loads safely from dock to yard and back again.
No matter how shipments arrive at the DC, staff armed with carts or dollies provide the most versatile method of transporting loads. BHS Dock Ramps give employees a safe, clear path into and out of the DC with any type of material handling equipment. Optional hand rails provide an extra safety control for staff traveling on foot. Just be sure to separate pedestrian zones from forklift traffic areas to prevent accidents.
Yard Access for Trucks.
Distribution centers with vacant outdoor space will see particular benefits from a collection of yard ramps. Rather than bringing the trucks to the dock, yard ramps bring the dock to the truck, no matter where it’s parked. The BHS Yard Ramp uses safety chains to provide an extra level of security at the truck, and the long, 36 foot travel path keeps the grade low, reducing the chance of load-loss. Hydraulic hand pumps raise the Yard Ramp to meet trailers, rail cars, or docks of any height.
A combination of traditional docks, lifts, and ramps will allow DCs to adjust their traffic patterns to match the day’s unique requirements. The ideal dock area provides easy access for forklift, pallet truck, and pedestrian traffic, depending on the situation.
As material handling technology continues to advance, your needs at the dock may change. Versatile access options will keep your dock running efficiently no matter what the future holds.
Bond, Josh. “Opportunities at the Dock.” MMH. Peerless Media Network, 1 June 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Greenbaum, Sophia. “Whole Building Design Guide – Loading Dock.” WBDG. National Institute of Building Sciences, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Ruriani, Deborah. “Boosting Loading Dock Efficiencies.” Inboundlogistics. Thomas Publishing Company, Apr. 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.