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Dock leveller turnaround

21 January 2013

Grocery distributor's loading bay reliability issues solved by specifying dock levellers from sara LBS.

Grocery distributor's loading bay reliability issues solved by specifying dock levellers from sara LBS

An efficient and quick loading/unloading process is essential to the profitability of any company that operates a nationwide distribution network, especially when the stock being transferred is fresh salad which needs to be kept refrigerated.

When a leading national distributor of fresh salad found that the loading bay equipment was failing regularly at its headquarters it turned to sara LBS to supply a high quality, reliable solution that it could trust.

Unlike many distribution networks for fresh food, this leading supplier works directly with the growers, providing them with sales and marketing services, which shortens the chain between the farmer and the consumer. This makes it a truly vertically integrated grower-to-market organisation which is well known for its flexibility and fresh deliveries.

The distributor's direct communication with the produce growers means that it has a reputation in the industry for being extremely flexible to demand; a reputation which is only enhanced by its contacts in Europe which allow it to supply popular stock year round. To support its ever growing network of growers, the company has built up a seamless distribution network which ensures that stock travels from the field to the shop as swiftly as possible; refrigerated at all times. Without this reliable network its reputation for freshness would be at stake.

A spokesman for the company comments: "We guarantee freshness for our customers by operating a cold chain throughout the transport process. All of our vehicles are refrigerated, as are our warehouse facilities.

We use dock levellers to allow us to have direct access to the rear of the vehicles from the warehouse so our forklifts only need to make one journey. To speed the process up further we use large forklifts which are capable of carrying two pallets at a time. While we have found this helps us to move our produce in higher volume, we have also found that it can lead to some reliability issues with the loading bay equipment."

Larger forklifts A standard forklift capable of moving a single 1 tonne pallet would weigh approximately 3.5 tonnes. In order to carry twice the load, and increase throughput volume, the distributor operates larger forklifts which are almost 5 tonnes.

Combined with two fully loaded pallets this means that the dock levellers need to withstand regular loading of almost 7 tonnes. Unfortunately the equipment which was originally installed soon found the pressure too much and began to fail within a matter of weeks from installation.

Despite several repair callouts the failures remained a regular occurrence so the decision was made to source a replacement.

The spokesman continues: "Our network has been set up to keep all of our produce as fresh as possible. With regular failures to the loading bays it was impossible to maintain efficient operations which presented a very real problem. I know that our lifting trucks are a bit larger than the norm, but you still wouldn't expect to see failures within weeks of installation. Elsewhere in the warehouse we have some sara LBS equipment which has performed faultlessly since it was installed in the '90s; with that level of reliability we approached the company to see if it could offer a solution." After conducting a site visit where the company's load requirements were measured and the loading areas inspected, sara LBS was able to recommend its TS range of electro-hydraulic dock levellers.

The range features an all-steel construction with a suspended sub-frame which is supported within the top rebate of the loading bay pit for greater flexibility. To further improve access to the vehicle a hydraulically operated telescopic lip is incorporated which extends from the leveller to form an infinitely adjustable bridge into the vehicle; even when parked unevenly.

Over the moon "From the point of our first enquiry all the way through to the post-installation support we have been over the moon with the quality of the dock levellers as well as the customer service provided. The sales engineer was keen to learn about our operations during the site visit so he could develop a high quality solution which was right for us, and the entire specification process was quick and clear. There hasn't been a single fault with the dock levellers since they were installed which has helped to strengthen our entire supply chain, and therefore our business." All TS dock levellers are supplied with a standard single axle load capacity of 6,000kg, though heavier-duty capacities are available to suit individual application requirements. The platforms are manufactured from 8mm thick durbar plate and two heavy duty steel cross-traffic legs provide stability when in the parked position at dock level. The dock levellers feature a side tilt facility of 70-150mm and a 380-420V 3 phase 1.1kW electric motor (with IP54 protection) with a six button control box, to provide flexibility with the positioning of the lip of the machine into the rear of the vehicle.