Yard and Dock Management

Security must step in to mitigate rising costs of business

Facility managers and warehouse executives are facing unique challenges as logistics continue to increase and become more complex worldwide. While many of the issues and costs associated with moving materials and products are beyond your control, there are product solutions and systems available that increase operational and logistics efficiency by optimizing yard, dock and warehouse processes while keeping a close watch on your facility’s security.

The costs and challenges associated with supply chain management are on an upward trend with little relief in sight. Rising fuel costs, increased labor costs and even loss due to theft or misplaced loads have hit all-time highs. Companies are tightening their belts and looking for solutions to combat these issues. Controlling costs by increasing the security of yard and dock operations is a good place to start.

Designed to eliminate the common and often most-costly losses around the loading dock, there are yard and dock management systems available that uniquely use real-time and physical data to assist facilities in efficiently managing operations such as loading dock visibility and live and staged trailer coordination. These systems integrate loading dock equipment with intelligent software to monitor, communicate and, finally, manage loss prevention in the yard and on the dock.

Many of these management systems use a variety of GPS, RFID and equipment sensors to gather real-time data that allow companies to monitor and manage activity at each dock door and in the yard. From providing dock door status to truck and trailer access, these systems deliver an accurate picture of a facility’s overall operations—authorized and unauthorized.

Prior to installation of these systems, companies had no way to track dock door movements except with a visual inspection, which is hardly an efficient method of managing security operations. These systems monitor things such as the amount of time the trailer is being loaded and unloaded and then compare that data to how long the trailer sat idle at the dock door, leaving it open for theft and damage.

One of the most valuable features that management systems and integrated dock equipment offer to companies is a cost-effective means of providing additional security to the dock doors. Users have the ability to remotely close all doors from a single location and monitor trailer departure from the dock after loading and unloading. In the event of high-value loads, the systems can use biometrics such as fingerprint identification to lock out equipment, allowing for only authorized personnel to be on the dock during that time. As an additional feature, some systems have the ability to recognize the difference between a security breach and regular operations, which saves time and money on investigating false alarms.

These easy-to-implement yard and dock management systems and the supporting dock equipment do more than simply track trailer movements. They act as an extra set of eyes, which provides more accurate tracking of your facility’s operations and saves time and money associated with securing your yard, loading dock and warehouse logistics.

Start beyond the dock. Stopping problems with theft, crime, vandalism and lost loads before they start is the foundation of yard and dock management systems. So, why not start in the yard and outside the dock before problems and thieves make their way into your warehouse?

Look for systems that use the latest in RFID and various sensor technologies as well as GPS tracking so every trailer movement is recorded. This increased visibility and monitoring creates real-time performance reports with the ability to reduce yard check time by 90 percent, in many cases.

Once at the dock, using a vehicle restraint prevents premature trailer departure as the forklift accesses trailers. The constant impacts on the trailer floor as the forklift goes in and out can cause the trailer to “creep” away from the dock, leaving the back open to major injuries and potential theft, but powered vehicle restraints engage a trailer’s rear impact guard with enough restraining force to ensure the trailer remains encased at the dock more effectively than with rubber wheel or manual chocks, providing an increased level of safety and security.

LED communication lights, a standard feature on some vehicle restraints, provide a highly visible indication to the driver when the trailer is engaged or when loading and unloading is complete and it is safe to drive away from the dock.

In addition, many companies use dock seals to completely envelope the back of a trailer. As an extra measure of protection, the seal has a head curtain with sensors to accommodate a variety of trailer heights. This total doorway seal provides an added measure of security.

For additional security and operational efficiency, the equipment on the dock is interlocked to operate in a particular sequence. Once a truck is parked at the dock, a master control panel allows the operator to activate the restraint; typically, the dock leveler is not activated until the restraint is fully engaged. When the truck is ready to leave, the restraint cannot release the truck unless the leveler is in the stored position and the dock door is closed. LED interior communication lights provide an at-a-glance status, telling dock workers if a trailer is secured by the restraint or not, maintaining reliable, on-time and secure deliveries.

Use tools to control the variables you can. Seeking a better option for managing third-party drivers? Management systems combined with the proper dock equipment can provide a single interface that captures all dock statuses. Drivers can be equipped with a variety of paging devices to make trailer movements timely and efficient. Increasing the monitoring of non-employees on the dock and yard can lead to great savings by ensuring people are where they need to be, when they need to be there, with access afforded to only the authorized.

Run at full potential. Raising the bar on your yard security is just the beginning of the information and cost-reduction potential that yard and dock management systems can bring to your transportation needs.

The most advanced security system interfaces use auto-activated cameras at each loading dock to effectively reduce theft. In addition to proving equipment with a network of sensors, many systems use truckpresence indicators, door sensors and trailer restraints to provide visual confirmation that all doors are closed, all staged trailers are accounted for and the building is secure. In the event of a breach, the system automatically notifies the appropriate call center and managers.

Don’t settle for cookie-cutter applications. Your facility is as unique as you are, and these systems’ dock equipment can be tailored to suit your facilityspecific application.

Some manufacturers offer a full line of specialty and impactable dock doors equipped with thick foam panels and compression-bottom seals, providing high-quality thermal protection to preserve the facility’s temperature and security. Some doors have a unique impactable design that allows them to stand up to the abuse they experience on the dock. They use heavy-duty, retractable plungers and ride in a Vgrooved track. When a fork lift or truck collides with the doors, the impact causes the plungers to retract, allowing the door to release from the opening and prevent panel damage. After the door is knocked out from the track, a light pull on the door handles resets the door, putting it back in operation quickly without damage. The design makes sure that doors are able to be closed and there is no damage to the panels and tracks that could create a security issue by allowing thieves a way to enter a facility.

After completing the seal on the loading dock doors, many facilities turn their attention to dock levelers to create an additional level of loss prevention and an added layer of protection against the elements, debris and impacts. Stored upright, the steel platform stands guard in front of the dock door, protecting it against impacts that can damage the doors and leave them open to break-ins.

Whether your goal is knowing where your trailers are at all times, keeping a tight seal on your dock or minimizing on-site driver time, yard and dock management systems and the right equipment can help you realize savings and impact your bottom line in as little as 12 months. And if such measures prevent the loss of an entire trailer, the ROI can be instant. The systems get you out of the business of managing software and running security and back to what you do best: managing your transportation needs.

Track, measure, change, repeat. Proactive change on the loading dock and in your logistics security is a proven method to help reduce excess costs associated with lost, stolen or damaged goods. But how do you know what to change and when?

Yard and dock management systems do more than simply track and provide raw data to the decision makers. Many develop detailed reports based on an almost unlimited set of parameters, such as carrier arrival and departure times, loading and unloading times and even labor hours. These reports provide you with the information you need to make important decisions that can affect the security and ultimately the profitability of your entire operation.

Integrating these advanced systems with equipment will help take your operation to the next level by monitoring your yard, loading dock and warehouse logistics. From the moment a trailer enters your yard to the time it leaves, you’ll know exactly where it is, what is on it, where it needs to be and who should have access to it. That’s the definition of security.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Security Today.


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