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Aiming for safety ‘gold star’

12 May 2015

Safety is one of a number of key benefits brought by effective entrance systems argues Allan Stockdale, sales director of industrial doors and docking solutions at ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems.

Five key factors can improve efficiency when selecting entrance systems for storage and handling facilities. In any storage and handling facility there is a regular flow of people and vehicular traffic, both into and out of the building and between different zones inside the premises. Consequently some doors may open and close hundreds of times a day.

With well-planned systems, the doors become "invisible”, opening and closing seamlessly with the traffic flow, contributing to an effective operation. Whereas, poorly specified and maintained doors can lead to unnecessary costs and safety hazards.

Paying attention to five main factors can significantly improve efficiency. The first efficiency which all logistics managers seek is operating efficiency, the goal of ‘seamless flow”, which helps with "put away’’ of goods inwards or achieving "on time - in full” customer delivery targets.

This requires an in depth scrutiny of the flow or movement of both people and vehicles, both externally for HGV’s and internally with the movements of MHE. 

In many facilities it can also be important to clearly segregate and define areas: for example chilled or refrigerated storage sections may require more hygienic ‘cleanroom’ attributes to minimise or prevent dust, chemical or particle contamination.

Just as is the case with the M25, busy routes in logistics hubs are prone to congestion and bottlenecks, slowing pick-rate and increasing the risk of accidents.

A poorly performing door can be the equivalent of a motorway lane closure, slowing traffic significantly. Forklifts waiting for doors to open fully may create wholly avoidable hazards, particularly when high speed doors offer ever improving capabilities. Sensor activation, impact breakaway features and better insulation values make them a smart investment in busy operations.

Well organised processes for vehicle loading and unloading is essential and the choice of dock leveller, which bridges the gap between a vehicle and the loading bay, can have a huge impact on operating efficiency. 

Poorly positioned trailers can cause operators of fixed width dock levellers problems. Even when parked perfectly, the issue of levellers adjusting to the vertical movements of the trailer during MHE movements remains and should be considered.

As well as operating efficiency, every logistics manager also needs to achieve safety efficiency. On a human level, everyone has the right to expect to return home from work uninjured and a "gold star” accident record is rightly a source of corporate pride. The blunt fact is that safety of personnel is vital: accidents are expensive, not just in terms of compensation and damage to reputation, but indirectly through subsequent repair and downtime.

Using doors to segregate areas and zone activities; ensuring the doors are not an obstruction to movement; and that they do not open or close too slowly or too quickly; plus integrating them into overall emergency exit planning system, are all important considerations in improving health and safety.

The third factor to consider is energy efficiency. It may not take a rocket scientist to recognise that leaving a loading bay door wide open in winter will haemorrhage heat, but how to make the most of equipment options available to logistics managers is somewhat less glaring. Some may even claim energy efficient loading to be more art than science. Energy efficiency surveys and calculations should help decision makers to understand their operations and the needs of the facility. Inflatable dock shelters and insulated dock leveller pits are useful retrofit tools for energy loss prevention.

The next factor is security efficiency. Balancing the free movement of people and vehicles to achieve "operational flow” with the need to ensure that only authorised personnel and vehicle movements are permitted can be tricky. "Leakage” of stock in any warehouse or distribution centre is a perennial challenge and integrating doors into the overall building security system will help significantly.

We have seen an increase in the number of projects where we supply the aesthetically appealing "front” entrance doors, the external loading bay and exit doors and the internal zoning doors. All, or a selection, can be optimised with access control systems.

Last, but often the deciding factor, is the issue of cost efficiency. It may seem bizarre upon reflection, yet some organisations spend freely on a high profile automated entrance system at the "front of house” and penny pinch on the industrial doors, which could be working far harder in terms of opening cycles. Taking a lifetime costing approach and scheduling planned preventative maintenance is essential to achieve true cost efficiency. Competency of the engineer, who should be trained on the particulars of each door model and type, access to the manufacturer’s genuine parts and physical location of engineers are factors which are well worth consideration.

Hopefully this quick summary of just five factors highlights where the right entrance system can improve handling and storage efficiency. A door is "more than a door”. That’s why the free consultancy and expert advice services available from leading suppliers can make a real difference.