Scan and deliver

29 October 2021

Automated door dock scanning is the answer for safe and efficient loading bay processes as supply chain pressures grow, argues Martin Hurworth.

AS AN industry, logistics has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. But despite efforts, it still has often lagged behind when it comes to automation and embracing the benefits of industry 4.0. Under the pressures of scaling up, fulfilment centres have tended to stick with what they know works, instead of what can actually be done better through new technology. 

But for the bigger logistics companies doing many thousands of movements each day, the focus is now increasingly turning to efficiency - seeking out time and cost savings. The impact of Brexit and the pandemic on labour shortages have only made this challenge more acute.

Eliminating unnecessary manual tasks like scanning ticks all of these boxes as the loading bay becomes the single biggest opportunity for automation. 

In the highly controlled world of logistics, the loading bay still has an uncontrollable element of risk. This aggressive and fast-paced environment has forklifts moving at speed, carrying multiple pallets to vehicles for distribution. 

Ensuring that the right pallets reach the right doors quickly would be impossible without barcode scanning, but this process is still almost always a manual one which requires personnel to dismount forklifts. How can we change this? By automating the door dock barcode scanning process.

How does it work?

Handheld devices are replaced with a series of fixed-mount readers on either side of the dock door. These offer full scanning coverage, from the ground up to 2.4m, on both single or double stacked pallets as operators drive through the door. When integrated with traffic-light ‘pass and fail’ systems, the devices confirm the operator has the correct pallets for that door.

Advanced vision technology can achieve accuracy rates of 99.9% or above. This includes reading barcodes that are crinkled, badly printed or damaged behind shrink wrap. This accuracy alone produces extensive time savings.

The data can then be sent at a speed that works with existing systems - and the system can be programmed to only read certain barcodes while detecting and discounting old or rogue barcodes which may have been placed on a pallet in error. 

Who benefits?

The bigger your logistics operation, the more potential benefits there could be from automating your door dock scanning. That’s not to say that smaller sites can’t take advantage - but, as always, feasibility depends on the level of throughput and automation.

Saving half a minute per pallet can make a big difference if your operation moves hundreds or thousands of pallets each day, and can mean impressively fast returns on investment. 

“Advanced vision technology can achieve accuracy rates of 99.9% or above, including reading barcodes that are crinkled, badly printed or damaged behind shrink wrap.”

Not only does automated dock door scanning produce immediate time savings in terms of reliability and accuracy, but, automated door dock scanning is a future-ready system that can be integrated alongside further developments for forklift automation, such as automated guided vehicles.

Automated vision in the loading bay can help to overcome both the immediate challenges from workforce and energy issues while helping to overcome long term barriers to growth.

Martin Hurworth, CEO, Bytronic Vision Automation

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