4 Preventative Maintenance Plan Tips to Reduce Downtime at the Loading Dock

Equipment downtime at the loading dock means delays in shipping and decreased productivity.

If a product isn’t moving in and out of a facility at peak efficiency, business is lost, and profits are diminished.

Here are four tips to reduce equipment downtime using a preventative maintenance plan at the loading dock.

How Does Preventative Maintenance Reduce Downtime?

1. Avoid equipment failures

Regular maintenance will help equipment run at peak efficiency and shorten an equipment's downtime. While facility maintenance staff might be able to help in some instances, outsourcing with a Planned Maintenance Program (PMP) that brings in highly trained certified technicians is going to provide additional specialized insight.

Having a preventative maintenance plan helps to detect small problems that can become larger problems, which can lead to breakdowns.

One of the biggest sources of equipment downtime at the loading dock occurs when equipment failures cause entire dock positions to go down.

Unscheduled emergency repairs can take precious time, causing operational delays which can last longer than 24 hours. Not to mention, costs associated with this type of service are typically much higher than regular maintenance expenses.

Preventative maintenance plan service technicians are trained on the exact type of equipment that is used on the loading dock – from dock levelers and vehicle restraints to control boxes and industrial doors.

Service technicians will also have the right tools, parts and safety equipment for the job to provide quick and safe maintenance to get the loading dock position back up and running in a timely fashion.

Another thing to consider is that preventative maintenance plan service technicians can efficiently perform regular maintenance. This can help to minimize loading dock downtime so the workers at the facility can do what they’re paid to do – move products in and out.

2. Upgrade equipment, don’t just replace it

When existing equipment has outlived its usefulness, purchasing new equipment seems like the only route to take. Even though new equipment is generally going to work better and more efficiently than old equipment, the option to enhance existing equipment might be a more cost-effective route. Replacing existing loading dock components with upgraded components is where the most value can be realized.

Advancements in loading dock technology offer new levels of integration and safety. Together, these factors play a big role in increasing efficiency and productivity at the loading dock. Programmable, push-button controls allow a safe sequence of operation between the loading dock door, leveler, and vehicle restraint make work safer for personnel.

Dock equipment with motion sensors and LED safety lights provide employees and truck drivers more communication, control and peace-of-mind than ever before. Forklift drivers can concentrate more fully on their work knowing they are entering and leaving trailers that won’t unexpectedly depart while they are inside them or that fellow employees milling around the trailer opening could get blindsided as they exit, further reducing any unexpected equipment downtime

3. Build in safety with the right equipment

If equipment breaking down isn’t the most common reason for loading dock downtime, then employee injuries might be. The two are often tied together, but it isn’t always equipment failure that causes the problem – sometimes operator error or improper training can lead to easily avoidable injuries. While the implementation of proper training and procedures are critical, safety equipment can also help facilities protect workers in a variety of ways.

Loading dock safety barriers are a good example. The 4-foot drop-off at the loading dock opening is a real risk for forklift operators and pedestrians; falling from that distance can lead to an injury or worse, in addition to the downtime associated with such catastrophes. A retractable safety barrier positioned at the edge of the loading dock can mitigate these types of accidents. Look for barriers that are at least 58” tall and can withstand an impact of 10,000 pounds.

Limiting the number of workers on the drive approach is another way to reduce risk and decrease downtime. Automated vehicle restraints are a great first step in this direction. However, many facilities now go a step further and use an indoor camera focused on the vehicle restraint. This camera (whose images display on the dock control box or viewing screen) shows trailer engagement. With dual camera set-ups, the internal images can also show the status of the trailer’s landing gear. These cameras are an easy way to keep boots off the ground in the drive approach, an area where workers are exposed to potentially deadly back-over accidents.

4. Reduce loading dock downtime

By installing the right equipment at the loading dock and implementing a preventative maintenance plan with certified service technicians, facilities can greatly reduce downtime. When all of the equipment and workers on the loading dock are operating at maximum efficiency, safety – and profitability – are sure to follow.

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