The average age of warehouses in the U.S. is 34 years old, and the majority of buildings are more than 50. But, as any professional working in logistics knows, a lot has changed over the past three decades. Today’s warehouses and distribution centers must keep up with customer demand for fast fulfillment and deliveries.
Consumer expectations often can’t be met with outdated equipment. As such, more warehouses today are either being replaced with modern designs or retrofitted to accommodate the fast-paced logistics environment. One important component common among all warehouses, no matter how old, is the dock door. Like most other types of loading dock equipment, dock doors have evolved to accommodate the needs of today’s supply chain.
Improving energy efficiency in your facility
Reducing your energy use throughout your company has numerous benefits, including cost savings and the potential to earn public respect. More legislators and business leaders are focusing on net-zero-energy buildings, which is an accomplishment that can only be obtained through careful selection of all facility components. A net-zero-energy building is one that produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy demand. This is no small feat, especially considering buildings tend to emit high amounts of greenhouse gasses. In New York State, facilities account for nearly as many carbon emissions as transportation.
The most common reason for energy use in commercial buildings is space heating, accounting for one-fourth of energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Additionally, the larger the building is, the higher the percentage of overall energy use it accounts for. As warehouses and distribution centers grow larger to accommodate greater demand, facility managers must find ways to keep their energy use in check to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Ensuring you’re using the right dock door can help you save energy at your warehouse or distribution center. Dock door models today can be built to be heavily insulated, ideal for any facility that wants to maintain a specific climate inside the building, such as food and beverage or pharmaceutical warehouses. They can also be fitted to limit airflow between the outdoor and indoor environments.
A damaged dock door, no matter how small the defect, can be a major barrier to energy efficiency. Even a small dent or crack can lead to hundreds of dollars of energy costs each year. Doors built to withstand impact from fork trucks or other equipment may prevent this type of energy loss.
For high-traffic doors, employees may find it tedious to open and close doors continuously throughout the day. Leaving the door open decreases energy efficiency immensely. Investing in a door that automatically closes when not in use can thus help reduce costs.
When choosing a door that supports energy efficiency, it’s important to consider the local weather conditions. For areas that are prone to intense winds, there are resistant materials that reduce the effects wind can have on the indoor climate.
Taking the lead with LEED
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognized green building rating system, and many companies today strive to meet the program’s requirements. To achieve one of the LEED certifications, facility managers must take into consideration all aspects of the building, including its envelope, the materials used in its construction and the accessibility of environmentally friendly features.
There are several levels of LEED certification, and only new construction can meet the highest level. One feature to include in new distribution center or warehouse construction is electrical connections at half or more of the dock door locations. This is meant to limit truck idling while waiting at the dock.
Another way to increase LEED compliance is by selecting a door that’s designed to improve energy efficiency. Some models are created specifically to be used in conjunction with vertical storing dock levelers, which reduce air exchange between the outdoors and indoors.
Accommodating trailers of various sizes
Dock doors must be sized correctly according to the types of trailers that will access your facility. A door that’s too large can decrease energy efficiency while a door that’s too small can limit mobility during the loading or unloading process. Additionally, door sizes that don’t match the requirements of the trailers accessing your facility can lead to off-center docking positions, which either allow for energy loss or cause the driver to have to reposition the truck.
Most trucks are 8 feet wide, though more trucks are built larger, up to 8.5 feet wide. Door sizes shouldn’t be the exact dimensions of the trailers accessing your facility, but rather slightly larger. For an 8-foot-wide truck, an 8.6-foot-wide door would work well. For an 8.5-foot-wide truck, a 9-foot-wide door is better. If your facility will receive larger trailers on a regular basis, or there’s a chance that the occasional oversized load will arrive, investing in larger doors on some or all of your loading docks could be highly beneficial.
Door height is just as important as width, as gaps here can cause inefficiencies as well. Most of the time, an 8-foot-high door will suffice, but this size doesn’t usually allow for floor-to-ceiling loading. A taller door will make it easier for workers with larger loads to pass through the door opening and stack product higher, which serves to maximize the space in the trailer. At a time when freight cost calculations have changed for several major shipping companies and space optimization is critical to keep costs low, most companies strive to take advantage of floor-to-ceiling loading. A higher door frame also reduces the risk of product damage due to loads being carried too high or brushing the top of the trailer ceiling by mistake.
Ten-foot-tall doors are the most versatile, but it’s also important to consider energy efficiency with this size. Investing in door seals and shelters can facilitate trucks that are shorter.
Improve worker safety
Worker safety is a critical consideration to make when designing or improving a loading dock. An accident at this part of a warehouse or distribution center can be particularly harmful, as the edge of a loading dock can lead to damaging or fatal falls, and malfunctioning equipment can cause employees to use workarounds to position all loading dock equipment properly for loading or unloading. A door that doesn’t open correctly or a leveler that doesn’t deploy as expected may seem like small issues, but they can give way to major injuries.
Fortunately, many advances in technology and engineering have allowed for safer loading and unloading processes. One excellent way to keep workers safe at the loading dock is by installing interlocking systems. With these, doors cannot open unless the trailer is positioned correctly and secured in truck restraints. If these conditions aren’t met, the door will remain closed, preventing accidental falls from the dock.
Slips, trips and falls are common risks at loading docks, especially when the area is wet because of condensation or precipitation. Doors that create a tighter seal when not in use and when around trailers during loading and unloading reduce moisture that creates hazardous work environments. When rain, snow or sleet can’t gather on the floor of the loading dock, employees can work without worrying about losing their footing.
Wet or damp conditions can also reduce the efficiency of material handling equipment. The tires on most indoor lift trucks aren’t designed for slippery surfaces, so it’s critical that fork trucks and other such vehicles travel on dry floors. Wet, snowy or icy loading dock floors can cause tires to lose traction, which impacts the stopping distance drivers need when braking.
How to decide when it’s time for a new loading dock door
The loading dock is arguably the most important piece of equipment in the supply chain. It is the barrier through which goods flow from the warehouse to the consumer. How can you tell if your dock doors may not be right for your operation? Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- How old are your dock doors? If they’re a few decades old, chances are there are newer models on the market that can better support your operation.
- Are there dents or other imperfections in the door? If so, they may not be as energy efficient as they could be.
- Do your trailers fit easily against the door? If trailers are too large, too small or frequently need to be repositioned, you may have the wrong size dock seal or shelter around your door.
- Is your loading dock frequently slippery or wet? This could be a sign that you need a door that better protects against weather conditions.
- Is it hard to maintain a consistent temperature in your facility? If so, you could be losing heated or cooled air through your loading dock door.
- Do your doors open as expected, every time? If not, your employees could be risking injury when loading or unloading trailers.
Find out how an upgraded dock door can improve your facility and your business. Reach out to Miner to learn more about the door options available to you today.