Hail to the hearty dock workers tasked with unloading a floor-loaded trailer or container.
First, the work is physically taxing, especially if the product being unloaded is greater than 50 lbs per box.
Second, the can is a less-than-ideal place to be. In warmer climates, as the sun bakes the sides of a container, the internal temperature can easily exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Combined with little air flow, the conditions can be extreme. In colder climates, it can be an uncomfortable environment due to frigid temperatures.
Third, lighting, especially as you reach the front of the container or trailer, can be very poor.
Under these working conditions, it seems odd to expect all incoming floor-loaded product to be accurately sorted and palletized inside the can. Yet, that is what is happening in warehouses, DCs and 3PL operations around the world.
At ELS, we have started calling the receiving area FIDA, meaning Forgotten Inbound Dock Area. While many outbound docks are rooted in technology, inbound docks have not realized a similar transformation.
For most inbound dock workers, the only ‘technology’ available is a portable step stool and a lamp clamped to the back of a trailer. Some workers use the step stool to reach product stacked at the top of the box wall; others strategically remove boxes to build a make-shift stool out of inbound product. Either way, it is a cumbersome, possibly dangerous way, to work in a dark & dingy environment.
In the can, only one or two pallets can be loaded at a time. When multiple SKUs have been received, there can be issues effectively loading pallets, not to mention the amount of walking required to reach multiple pallet locations for sorting. When completed pallets are removed by forklifts, there is a noticeable interruption in the flow of product being removed as workers are required to stop until they receive empty replacement pallets. The overall amount of downtime may be further increased if workers are required to vacate the container when a forklift is operating inside.
To improve working conditions of the inbound dock worker, Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc. designed the Destuff-ITTM. This ergonomic assist properly positions up to 2 operators next to the box wall, enabling an efficient transfer of floor-loaded product onto an articulating conveyor.
Operators experience greater throughput as well as reduced muscle strain and fatigue. It also allows the product to be conveyed onto the dock where workers can accurately sort and palletize in brighter, more temperate conditions.
Employees are easily able to handle multiple SKUs and are encouraged to palletize product on one side of the conveyor. The positioning allows employees to work uninterrupted while forklift drivers remove and replace pallets on the other side. The overall result is a more efficient unload operation in an improved environment.
Even if the area is not air conditioned during summer months, the conditions dock side are far superior to those in the can. Regardless of the temperature, the dock will always be a more spacious, brighter and pleasant environment to work.
Put yourself in their shoes. Where you would rather palletize product? Inside the can or on the dock?