Properly managing a warehouse requires having the right equipment and devices on hand to streamline the loading and unloading processes. Among the most important items you should have in your warehouse are ramps and loading docks. Depending on the type and size of warehouse you own, there may already be several permanent ramps on the premises. However, you can improve the functionality and convenience of your warehouse by obtaining portable loading docks.
Portable loading docks are meant to provide you with more durability for loading operations in practically any environment. However, there are some basic safety risks that need to be addressed if you use these loading docks in your facility. If you maintain the correct operating techniques and provide your employees with training, you should be able to use portable loading docks without issue. This article provides a closer look at portable loading docks and when you should use them.
What are Portable Loading Docks?
Portable loading docks are meant to be used in combination with portable loading dock ramps or dock-to-ground ramps. This type of material handling equipment is designed to accommodate parallel loading applications on docks or carriers that don’t provide much space. They can also be used in areas that don’t have permanent facilities.
Keep in mind that these loading platforms are only available in steel and can’t be purchased in concrete or other materials. However, the steel construction is durable enough to withstand as much as 30,000-40,000 lbs.
Portable loading dock platforms make it easy for lift trucks to complete right-angle turns. You can also customize these platforms to meet your specifications regarding weight capacities and heights. For instance, the fixed height can range from 42-57 inches.
If you purchase loading dock ramps, it’s possible to lock at least two of these ramps together to create a large portable loading dock. You can also install edge-of-dock levelers to all sides of the platform, which means that the dock should function properly with all your existing vehicles and equipment.
Components of Portable Loading Docks
Portable loading docks consist of steel legs, two curb sections, lift sleeves, and steel-tread decking. You can use either yard ramps or dock-to-ground ramps to create a portable loading dock. The platform curbs are usually around 6″ to ensure accidental runoff doesn’t take place. As for the decking, it’s typically made from serrated steel to deliver superior strength. The all-weather surface ensures slipping hazards are kept at bay.
If the portable loading dock you obtain has lift sleeves or loops, it will be easier for the platform to be handled and moved with a forklift. The dock itself can reach a length of 12 feet. While these platforms need to be moved with a forklift, they have higher capacities than other options.
There are several customization options at your disposal when choosing a portable loading dock for your facility. For example, handrails can be installed on any of these platforms at your preferred length. These handrails are built with long-lasting steel that will hold up well against the elements.
These platforms often have adjustable heights and capacities. If you’d like to obtain a smaller portable loading dock with a weight capacity of 15,000 pounds, you can do so. Consider requesting different material and construction options as well. While steel is the primary construction material that most manufacturers offer, it’s possible to obtain an aluminum portable loading dock. These temporary platforms can be built for specific applications.
Applications and Industries
There are many types of portable loading docks, each of which is suitable for different settings and scenarios. For instance, a loading dock ramp can be fashioned into a dock-to-ground ramp or custom hydraulic dock when you need to load or unload items from your trailers.
Portable dock ramps allow you to convert your workspace into a small but convenient freight handling center. If you work in an office building that doesn’t have a permanent ramp or loading dock, you can use a portable loading dock to make your shipments. This solution is best for facilities that only receive shipments on occasion. These ramps offer ground-level access to trucks, buildings, and railcars.
You might also be interested in a forklift dock platform, which is designed specifically for heavy-duty applications. When you’re loading large items and machinery, these dock platforms accommodate forklifts and allow you to maintain productivity.
Consider a truck dock ramp to obtain a portable loading dock that comes with solid-filled pneumatic tires for easy transport and quick raise times. These platforms are designed specifically for applications that involve ground-level access to trucks.
Safety and Efficiency Considerations
Portable loading docks must be used correctly to ensure the safety of everyone in your facility. First, make sure that the ramp is properly installed before you use it as a loading dock. The ramp you use should be secured to the vehicle, truck trailer, or dock that you’re pairing it with, which ensures that the ramp remains in place regardless of the weight of the items you’re loading or unloading. Even the smallest of gaps can create hazardous conditions for workers.
It’s also essential that you keep the ramp clean and well-maintained. Over time, the buildup of dirt, ice, snow, or mud can lead to your ramp becoming slippery, which will make it difficult for employees or forklifts to move up the surface. Cleaning the portable loading dock on a regular basis allows you to reduce the risk of falls, slips, and similar issues. Keep in mind that serrated metal is less slippery than a wooden deck.
You might also consider the weight of the equipment and materials that are being moved on the loading dock. Every ramp comes with a maximum weight capacity. You should never transport anything that’s above this capacity. Perform routine maintenance and recurrent inspections to make sure the loading dock remains in great condition. If you notice a crack in the material or a component that seems worn down, take the ramp or loading dock out of commission until you address this issue.
Advancing Technology in Portable Loading Docks
The latest advancements to portable loading docks come in the form of powered functionality. This functionality allows the loading docks to be moved forward, reversed, or raised with hydraulic technology. Some portable loading docks have been outfitted with modern signaling systems that tell truck drivers when they can safely move away from the dock.
It’s possible to add mobile capabilities to your portable loading dock, which will allow you to view the status for each dock on a smartphone or tablet. The status could be updated to tell employees when a restraint is engaged, a door is open, or a leveler is currently in place. You could then share this data with all warehouse managers and supervisors for enhanced safety and efficiency.
More advancements are being made with IoT integration and smart solutions. For instance, forklifts can act as autonomous guided vehicles to move portable loading docks without requiring someone to manually operate the forklift. The integration of IoT technology into your warehouse may allow you to monitor all your portable loading docks in real-time.
Choosing the Right Portable Loading Dock
Before you purchase a portable loading dock, there are several factors to consider, the primary of which is the dock’s weight capacity. If your cargo needs to be moved with a forklift, take this into account when estimating how much weight will be moved onto the dock at a given time.
Consider the dock’s material as well. While docks can be made with aluminum, they might not last as long and usually come with smaller weight capacities. Choose a serrated steel deck as well as stainless steel construction for the most durable option. Additional factors to consider include:
- Inclusion of safety accessories
- Supplier and manufacturer
Evaluate the supplier and manufacturer before making a final purchasing decision. If the dock’s manufacturer has a poor reputation, consider other products.
Tips for Effective Use
To ensure your personnel remain safe while on the job, the portable loading dock in your facility should be equipped with such safety accessories as guardrails and platform curbs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires guardrails to be installed on any loading dock or ramp that sits 30 inches or more above the ground. Some of the most common loading dock hazards that you should be on the lookout for include:
- Slipping on an oily or wet surface
- Falling off an unprotected edge
- Improperly carrying or lifting cargo
- Tripping over uneven surfaces
- Guardrails being improperly placed
You can maximize performance and safety by training your operators and personnel to following loading dock best practices, which include the following:
- Anyone who uses a forklift on the dock must have the proper training
- Don’t climb down or up to an elevated dock
- Use personal protective equipment as needed
- Check the dock surface for uneven edges or spills
- Report possible hazards as soon as they occur
- Wear toe protection or slip-resistant soles
Portable loading docks are highly recommended for any warehouse because of their more affordable price, quicker raise times, easy operation, and slip-resistant materials. When you begin to use these loading docks in your facility, you should experience substantial productivity and efficiency gains.
Over the next decade, portable loading docks will likely be equipped with more advanced technology as well as more durable materials for higher weight capacities. To determine which portable loading dock is best for your facility, assess your needs and consider your options.