The loading dock is the heart of your warehouse. It’s where loads of valuable product are prepared for shipment and packed into trucks. Sometimes the loading dock gets bogged down with too much traffic or too little attention to employee safety. Here are three tips to improve loading dock efficiency and help you get your product in and out of your facility quickly and safely.
1. Make your dock a safer place to work.
Injuries on loading docks account for 25 percent of all reported injuries within supply chain facilities, according to Material Handling and Logistics. You can reduce injuries by making a few improvements to you work environment:
- Keep the warehouse and dock organized. OSHA suggests that the aisle ways stay clear, clean, orderly and uncongested. Start by separating pedestrian and forklift traffic, which decreases the risk for accidents.
- Install spotlights on forklifts so visibility is high to people on the floor.
- Install loading dock safety nets to prevent people from falling off the dock.
- Perform preventative maintenance on equipment, including forklifts and stretch wrappers.
2. Eliminate the bottlenecks.
You’ve been caught in a bottleneck before. Maybe you’ve waited in a long line at the grocery store or you’ve watched trucks sitting for hours before someone loads product onto them.
Bottlenecks occur when input comes in faster than the next step can create output. These situations cause unnecessary employee stress, wasted costs, delayed shipments, a less-than-quality product, revenue loss and customer unhappiness.
Long wait times and backlogged work are common indicators of bottlenecks. Once you’ve identified the bottlenecks, you can try these two methods to pinpoint and fix the problem.
- Create a step-by-step flow chart to help figure out where the bottlenecks are occurring.
- Try out the “Five Why’s” technique. Ask yourself why the problem is occurring and then keep asking “why” over and over again until you get to the bottom of the issue.
3. Use technology to make work easier.
New technology in and around the loading dock can make both your job and your employees’ jobs easier. Try out these ideas to improve efficiency.
- Upgrade or buy management software to improve loading dock visibility, coordinate live and staged trailers and manage turn times. For example, sensors on dock doors can notify you when a truck has pulled up to or left the dock.
- Automate stretch wrapping. Replace hand wrapping or an antiquated stretch wrapper with a modern semi-automatic stretch wrapper. Machines wrap so much better than people and can help save labor and film costs.
- Create work stations. Use mobile computer carts with a power pack to eliminate unnecessary foot traffic. Instead of walking back and forth to a computer or printer in another room for label printing, weighing, scanning, etc., collect the data in one place.
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This post was published on February 19, 2015 and updated on October 8, 2019.