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Maintaining dock equipment is never just about productivity

22 January 2023

THE LOADING and unloading zone of a warehouse is probably the busiest of all for interactions and traffic. All the preparation work comes together in this area, where assembled pallets and orders must be quickly loaded into the trucks to make tomorrow's deliveries possible.

Meeting cut-off times has always been essential, in the interests of customer satisfaction. However, the promise of ‘order today, delivered tomorrow’, in relation to online commerce, is increasing that time pressure even further.

As the volume of work grows, so too does the number of warehouses. Various reports tell us that business premises used for transport, logistics and warehousing in the UK have almost doubled in the last decade. Every day, our warehouses are seeing more movements, a greater workload and a higher output than before.

These developments mean that the loading and unloading zone is now being used more intensively than ever. This has important implications for equipment and systems such as overhead doors, dock levellers, dock shelters and wheel locking devices. Maintenance of these is vital in preventing downtime and maximising productivity. However, output is just one reason for keeping equipment in good condition. Below, we present two crucial additional arguments for ensuring that regular maintenance becomes a priority.

1. Periodic maintenance is also about the safety of your employees

In the past, we have regularly been confronted with reports of accidents in the warehouse, and especially on the docks. The question is: have we learned from them? 

Many companies today have an active safety policy that keeps things in order, but can we say that for the majority? Over a three-year period from 2019/20 to 2021/22, the Health and Safety Executive’s accident statistics for the transportation and storage sector show an average of 31,000 non-fatal injuries per year. They result from factors including handling and lifting, being struck by moving objects, and falling from heights. These often occur at the loading dock. 

The design of a loading dock, along with its related equipment, must focus on safety and not just productivity. It should be recognised that this is an environment in which the equipment is used most intensively. For instance, a forklift truck may easily drive over a dock leveller more than 100,000 times a year. Similarly, consider what happens repeatedly to the wheel locks which guide lorries when backing into the dock. In addition to normal wear, they have to withstand collisions and careless behaviour. These are just two examples, but all equipment around the loading bay is subjected to damage by daily use. When maintenance is carried out infrequently or only sporadically, the risk of accidents rises.

2. Periodic maintenance is about saving money too

Considering the intensive use of equipment around the dock, it’s not surprising that regular maintenance can quickly have a positive effect on your budget:

- The life of the equipment is extended

- Doors and levellers which close properly insulate warehouses against draughts and cold weather, leading to lower energy costs

- Costly repairs are less likely to be needed 

So, routine servicing increases safety and helps avoid unnecessary costs. If you don’t already have regular maintenance contracts in place, it’s worth asking a good provider to carry out a winter check. Their cost-saving advice and support will make sure you aren’t left out in the cold!

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