The dock area is the heart of all distribution centers. This is the beginning and the end of the material handling cycle. Dock depths, equipment and designs have changed over the years bringing improvements to the entire distribution center operation.
In this blog post, I will focus on the latest dock door design and trailer interaction. This design allows for all trailers – including the ones with swing doors (barn doors) – to be opened inside the facility.
There are many benefits that come with this design, namely:
- The driver does not have to exit his tractor prior to backing up or leaving the facility
- All trailer tags / seals are broken or installed from inside the facility
- Door centers need to be at least 14’ c/c. This might be considered a “con” by some, but I like the extra clearance for both drivers and dock staff
- Continuous trench (pit) with vertical dock leveler
- Yes, I consider this a benefit (better seal, easier to clean, etc.) I will cover this in greater detail in a future blog post
- Security (goods and personnel)
The process flow with this design is not that different than with most current processes:
- Drivers back up directly to the dock door
- Vehicle restraint is activated
- Dock shelters are activated and the trailer is sealed
- Internally the dock door is opened
- The truck door tag / seal are broken and the doors are opened
- The leveler is positioned
The process is reversed (during loading) with the addition of the warehouse staff putting a tag on the sealed trailer door.
This design assumes that all of the dock equipment are linked together via a dock equipment control panel (including communication lights). This control panel will also ensure that all saftey steps are followed by the operators.
There are many great sites with available documentation regarding dock door design and trailer interaction. Information regarding apron space, approach grade, floor heights, door sizes, etc. can be found here: http://loadingdocksupply.com/loading_dock_design or here: http://www.wbdg.org/design/loading_dock.php.