What is at the core of the supply chain? What is the one element that can cause the supply chain to grind to a halt if it does not operate properly? Logistics managers would say the transportation company. Operations managers would say warehousing operations. And we agree with the latter, with a specific focus on a critical part of the warehouse: the loading dock.
Why Is the Loading Dock Critical for the Supply Chain?
The loading dock is the exit point for goods on the way to:
- Local distribution hubs
- Retail stores
- End customers (online orders).
When everything works smoothly, trucks loaded with goods leave on time and arrive at the unloading point in the shortest time. Orders are delivered, store shelves are replenished and the entire supply chain works smoothly. This is why, in our opinion as logistics specialists, companies need to implement strategies to avoid downtime at the loading dock in order to optimize their supply chain.
As years of working with clients in various industry sectors have shown us, many things can go wrong at the moment when orders have to be accounted for and loaded into trucks.
The Main Issues that Slow Down Loading Dock Operations
Accidents are the main reason for delays at the loading dock. Loading containers manually is still used in various warehouses. As the Logistic Packaging specialists point out in discussions with clients and articles on our website, manual labor should be replaced by automation, for many reasons:
- Accidents can lead to severe injuries (one in four workplace accidents occur at the loading dock)
- Valuable products can be damaged and made unfit for selling
- Clearing the area of an accident takes time, slowing down all operations in the area.
The second problem that creates bottlenecks in the loading dock is the use of old and unreliable packaging materials. Wooden pallets and crates and cardboard boxes can break during handling operations, leading to product damage and extra time to find new packages, replenish the order with new products and repack them.
What You Can Do to Avoid Downtime at the Loading Dock
Logistics and warehousing managers should consider implementing the following best practices in the warehouse and loading dock area:
1. Preventive Maintenance and Inspection
Accidents can be avoided if you know for sure that your forklifts and pallet trucks are working properly. This means conducting preventive maintenance and inspections on a regular basis on these logistic machines.
Moreover, we recommend inspecting the returnable packaging materials, as well. Look for signs of wear and tear indicating that the packaging is damaged or approaching end of life. A trusted packaging partner like Logistic Packaging is always ready to supply your warehouse with a new batch of packaging materials, even if it is a last minute order.
2. Create an Efficient Labeling System
You can avoid downtime at the loading dock if all containers are properly labeled, accompanied by visible waybills and other necessary shipping documents. Sturdy label holders applied on plastic containers can be used for a long time (even passing through wash cycles) to protect all sorts of labels, from QR codes to detailed product information.
Label holders can be customized to fit the size of the labels and waybills you usually send with your orders. We offer A5, A6 and A7 format as standard sizes.
3. Use Returnable Packaging Designed for Automated Handling
Modern plastic pallets and plastic pallet boxes for shipping orders have specific design features to facilitate loading and unloading by automated equipment. Some of these features are:
- Feet or skids on the base for forklift handling
- Struts for handling by robotized arms
- Special reinforced base for use with pallet discharge systems and other warehousing machines.
At the same time, returnable plastic packaging materials are designed for intense use over a period of time. They are made from high quality materials and have superior resistance to mechanical shocks, liquids, oils, fats and chemicals.
4. Create and Enforce Safety Rules
You can prevent accident and avoid downtime at the loading dock if all the employees know and follow safety rules. These rules involve more than staying out of the way of forklifts or not operating any machine while incapacitated in any way.
You must also implement:
- Clear traffic lanes for pedestrians, vehicles and automated machines across the entire warehouse surface (including the loading dock)
- Performing visual inspection on any machine before using it
- Ensuring that no employee is allowed to enter the warehouse without wearing adequate personal protective equipment.
The team of experts at Logistic Packaging is ready to help you with professional packaging materials and logistic equipment, as well as advice to optimize your supply chain and avoid downtime at the loading dock. Send us an email to discuss your specific application with us!