Expert interview: Loading dock equipment, critical issues to think about
Equipment such as lift tables is being installed increasingly in loading docks across industry. We talked to Stefan Petersson, Marketing Director at Marco, to get the low-down on what buyers need to know about these solutions.
Carry out a risk analysis
“Safety first, and always!” says Stefan. “Whatever regulations cover your business, safety has to be your top priority. And that has to cover the whole work environment, not just the equipment you install. Flooring materials and loadings, for example. The way cargo is moved. The number of trucks involved, and their types and weights. Everything has to go into the risk evaluation.”
He recommends that buyers insist on potential suppliers carrying out a full risk evaluation. The solution must meet local requirements, of course. “But if you can exceed those requirements, you really should, because it means you can increase safety. And the safety of employees is always the top priority. Furthermore, when you build in high safety, you avoid the need for costly upgrades later on. A future-proof solution right from the start is always better, both for your people and your bottom line,” he advises.
Critical point in the supply chain
Stefan points out the loading dock’s critical role in the supply chain: it is the single link between the facility and the outside world. Failure here jeopardizes the whole operation, yet this interface is exposed to all weathers. “Corrosion is an obvious challenge,” he says. “It is important to choose rugged lift equipment that can stand up to the local climate and conditions.”
If a loading dock experiences a breakdown of some kind, the pressure to keep it operating is enormous. “That is when things can get dangerous,” warns Stefan. “It is tempting to organize temporary solutions, just to keep the factory going. But safety may then be given a very low priority. And people often have little idea of the hazards and true loadings involved. So, make sure that you purchase from a supplier with a track record for quality. It may be tempting to buy a low-cost solution, but the true cost can be very high in the end.”
As loading docks become increasingly standardized, one-size-fits-all equipment seems to be the obvious solution. “High-quality standard equipment is a good place to start. The standard products and accessories will cover many applications, but there will always be the need for customization of some parts.” He mentions loading flaps as an example.
“They are the critical bridge between the vehicle and the lift. They must be carefully chosen, and will most likely need customizing to suit your dock equipment and vehicles perfectly. Otherwise, you risk damaging the goods or injuring operatives. You also have to make sure that all safety railings and gates, etc., comply with local regulations.”
Global supplier, local partner
Stefan recommends choosing a supplier with a global reach, to take advantage of the economies of standardization.
“But also make sure you can have a local partnership with them to ensure they are aware of your specific conditions and regulatory environment. They will support you during installation as well as in the long term. Global business, local partner – that is the route to compliance, efficiency and low costs.”