It goes without saying that better visibility leads to peak performance in loading operations. To manage rising complexity and customer expectations, many manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and transportation companies are enthusiastically embracing innovations in advanced technology to help them make smarter business decisions and achieve stronger operational results than ever before. It appears that one operational area that is unfortunately overlooked is the loading dock, even though it is an area inside (and outside) of the four walls that could benefit the most from visibility-enhancing technologies.
Logistics operations have generally seen little change over the last decade and still rely on mostly manual processes to get packages and other goods loaded and distributed onwards. Package loaders, often temporary or seasonal workers with very little experience or training, use “best guess” manual loading techniques to stack parcels onto trailers or containers. Dock managers spend their time moving from one loading dock to another to visually check that trucks look fully loaded and ensure on-time departure. With the speed of operations, trailers are given no more than a quick glance to see if there are any visible issues.
If the wrong parcel goes on the wrong lorry or key freight is missing, chances are no one will know until the trailer is unloaded at the destination, which is too late. It may seem insignificant to lose sleep over the loss of one package when hundreds or thousands are processed each day. However, a single small oversight such as this can have significant consequences on customer satisfaction, retention and your bottom line. That one parcel could be a high-value parcel, and this may not be an isolated incident. Misloading could become a systemic issue as the volume of orders increases and workers are pressured to subsequently increase loading speed. But this isn’t an issue that more thorough visual inspections can necessarily solve.
5 Reasons Why Creating a “Smart Dock” is One of the Smartest Things a Warehouse Can Do Right Now
Visibility into key load metrics can give logistics companies a performance edge and empower them to get packages out faster, eliminate costly errors in the shipping process, reduce the number of trucks on the road, save on fuel and maintenance costs and improve worker productivity, accuracy and safety. A smarter, more connected loading environment leads to smarter decisions.
Let’s take a quick look at five of the top outcomes you can achieve with a smarter dock that delivers greater visibility into your loading operations to both front-line workers and back-office leaders:
1. Enhanced worker efficiency: Visibility helps to optimise the use of dock resources and increases worker productivity. By monitoring key performance indicators like trailer fullness, load rate and load density in real time, managers can correct loading errors or reallocate underutilised labour resources quickly.
2. The ability to fix loading errors in real-time: Dock managers now have the capacity to monitor dozens of dock operations simultaneously – particularly using a solution like Zebra SmartPack™ Trailer and its interactive dashboards. By simply clicking on each of the dock door views, supervisors can see time-lapse images of the entire loading process from start to finish, enabling them to see if package walls are being built correctly and identify possible load density issues.
3. Improved worker safety and training: With the ability to view real-time images of multiple docks, supervisors can immediately see when a worker is not using proper lifting techniques and correct the problem, potentially reducing the number of worker compensation claims. Managers can also print out and/or email images of improper (or proper) loading techniques and use them for training purposes.
4. Boosts to line haul and yard efficiency: A line-haul manager can also receive alerts that offer greater visibility into current worker and workflow performance, which helps them more quickly and effectively optimise yard operations. To illustrate, when load density reaches a specific threshold, alerts can be sent to notify the manager that a trailer is about to be closed out. This allows the manager to better synchronise of the movement of trailers at the dock and yard.
5. Easier efficiency evaluation across the total operation: Intelligent loading solutions automatically aggregate massive amounts of detailed operational data from all connected business systems. This enables organisations to analyse historical trends within one distribution centre or across multiple distribution centres to identify key performance trends. Using those same smart loading technology systems, they can then establish and enforce standard performance thresholds that their docks should be meeting – and subsequently uncover why those thresholds are not being met at certain locations if needed.
In other words, smart dock solutions do more than just sense what happens throughout your operations. They give you an easier way to continually analyse that data and, most importantly, take action on it so that you can continue to move packages and cargo safely, efficiently and cost-effectively amidst labor constraints or rising shipment volumes.
Editor’s Note: Need to increase oversight of your loading operations? Want to learn more about intelligent loading dock design? Please consider reading our latest whitepaper for recommendations on how to improve loading efficiencies, protect sensitive goods and meet delivery deadlines with greater ease.