How Rite-Hite Makes Loading Docks Smarter

Well before COVID-19 propelled many industries into contactless technologies to combat the new obstacles being faced today, warehouses, distribution centers and loading docks were adapting to new challenges such as:

  • The need for precise just-in-time manufacturing and shorter delivery windows for high volume of packages (online shopping)

  • Customer expectations for increased timeliness, cleanliness and quality

  • Maintaining safe and efficient workforces, always prepared for audits and inspections

  • Recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce amidst a skills gap

Just as the world adapted, what seemed like overnight to the pandemic, warehouses and facilities have quickly become responsible for not only storage but also just-in-time inventory management, supply chain communication and tighter delivery deadlines. And it has proven to not be an industry trend, but rather a need as Kevin Chung, assistant professor of Marketing at UW-Madison notes;

One thing that I’ve observed over the past few months is an incredible pace of digital adoption by industry and consumers- the pandemic has accelerated adoption by five years! And it looks like it is here to stay because people are realizing that [it] actually works really well and makes people’s lives more convenient.”

Smart Warehouse Technology Rises to Meet Modern Challenges

Facility managers have found new, innovative and exciting ways to overcome these modern facility challenges. New technologies, sometimes integrated with existing equipment, have been developed across the logistics chain from automations and picking equipment to cloud-based inventory management, all a part of the “Smart Solutions” movement. 

Smart loading dock technology, such as real-time communication systems and warehouse management systems (WMS), work together to help improve safety and meet demanding productivity expectations by:

  • Monitoring events at the dock, flagging areas of concern in real-time such as productivity bottlenecks and equipment faults

  • Collecting data surrounding immediate events and recognizing historical and current trends

  • Establishing custom thresholds and metrics to help improve performance and reduce costs

  • Proactively determine opportunities for improved safety behaviors and decision-making

According to Robotics Business Review;

“… efficient warehouses in the survey were 76% more likely to boost inventory accuracy, 36% more likely to have reduced labor cost, and 40% more likely to consistently ship within one day of an order’s placement.” (source)

Top Rite-Hite Solutions for Smart Dock Transitions 

In a truly modern warehouse environment, there is full visibility of the logistics process from material handlers in a warehouse to trucks in the yard. Ideally, this is achieved with a single birds-eye view at a moment’s notice by way of a fully integrated smart system connecting the product, equipment, people and trailers. 

There are several smart solutions from Rite-Hite, some new and some that are well-established, which can standalone or integrate with each other to bring loading dock visibility to any operation.

1. Smart Data & Analytics Warehouse Management Software

Smart Data & Analytics is an Industrial Software Platform unique to Rite-Hite equipment, creating a real-time network of communications for industrial facilities though sensors and smart solutions. At the loading dock, integrating Smart Data & Analytics connects vehicle restraints, audible and visual alarms, dock doors and more to deliver real-time status to any connected device. Capturing current events as well as historical trends, Smart Data & Analytics allows managers to analyze trends and efficiencies to improve:

  • Productivity by eliminating bottlenecks and equipment inefficiencies

  • Safety behaviors by proactively identifying training opportunities and near-misses

  • Energy Efficiencies to reduce costs associated with energy loss

  • Asset Management by tracking equipment downtime and aging assets

The accessibility to data allows facilities to answer the questions: 

  • Can we take on more trucks?

  • Do we load and unload in the established amount of time?

  • Where are the bottlenecks and downtime events?

  • Is our team following safety training and proper equipment protocol?

  • Are we spending more on heating and cooling than needed?

Recently, a large beverage distributor who implemented Smart Data & Analytics reduced unsafe events by 41% at their facility in less than 3 months!

2. Dok-Lok® Vehicle Restraints

In 1980, Rite-Hite revolutionized the loading dock with the introduction of the Dok-Lok. Today, the same rotating hook technologies first employed over 40 years ago are integrated with Smart Data & Analytics to deliver a smart vehicle restraint. Facilities are now able to monitor when a Dok-Lok is properly engaged with the rear-impact guard (RIG) and receive an alert if it goes into fault because the RIG is broken or not present. Dok-Lok's integrated with Smart Data & Analytics also allows facilities to identify improper use of the vehicle restraint, such as when a dock attendant erroneously attempts to engage the restraint without a truck present or disengage while actively loading or unloading a truck. 

Smart vehicle restraints help increase productivity when paired with sensors and alerts noting when a truck arrives, when restraint is engaged/disengaged and more. Tracking loading and unloading activities helps identify unnecessary downtime between events as well as alerting dock attendants which docks are nearing detention and demurrage

Recently, a cold storage facility in St. Cloud, MN was able to reduce their detention expenses by 73% YoY with the help of a smart loading dock.

3. Rite-Vu™ Hazard Recognition and Light Communication System

Along with the Dok-Lok, Rite-Vu Hazard Recognition and Light Communication System brings an additional layer of smart to a facility. Combining motion detection, line-of-sight notification, and audible alarms, Rite-Vu helps mitigate hazards around the busy loading dock. The system, consisting of six individual technologies, recognizes dangerous situations and communicates with pedestrians inside and out as well as material handlers. 

Considering OSHA reports that 25% of all warehouse injuries occur at the loading dock, safety and productivity can be greatly improved with the help of:

  • Rite-Vu™ Light Communication which offers enhanced communication between dock personnel inside the building and truck drivers outside the building. Dok-Style Light Communication System allows for full integration of additional/future equipment and interlocked sequence of operations.

  • Corner-Vu® which mounts above the upper corners of the dock door opening, providing status to dock personnel before entering the trailer.

  • Leveler-Vu® which mounts at the rear sides of the leveler, providing status to dock personnel while exiting the trailer.

  • Pedestrian-Vu® which detects activity inside of a trailer by utilizing sensors aimed inside of the trailer. If motion is detected an intense, flashing blue light is emitted onto the leveler which warns dock personnel to proceed with caution.

  • Approach-Vu® which utilizes a light and horn system to present a clear visual and audible warning to pedestrians in the drive approach when a backing vehicle is detected.

  • Lok-Vu® which utilizes a single or dual outside camera to help confirm, without stepping out on the dangerous drive approach, when a trailer is present and secured by way of interior monitor. 

When enabled with Smart Data & Analytics, the system tracks near-misses, equipment faults and potentially unsafe behaviors to facilitate a proactive approach to safety at the loading dock.

Is your loading dock smart enough to meet modern warehouse challenges?

Most challenges facilities face around the loading dock are not new: safety, security and productivity. But, as there are new issues, there are new solutions for the modern warehouse that can be implemented—in both small incremental improvements and large, overhauling systems. 

Industrial software solutions from Rite-Hite can deliver immediate impacts to productivity and safety as well as long-term savings at the loading dock. From smart vehicle restraints to sensors and alarm paired with Smart Data & Analytics, learn from a Rite-Hite expert to see what you’re missing! 

Schedule Individualized Virtual “Modern Loading Dock” Workshop Today!

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