A hi-tech management reporting and safety system designed to prevent the premature departure of vehicles from the loading bay is set to be installed at the Goods-In section of every one of Tesco's distribution centres across the UK.
The supermarket is investing in the Dock Management System, which was jointly developed by UK firms Easilift Loading Systems and Traka, after it impressed during a pilot scheme at Tesco's distribution centre in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
The system combines Easilift's dock door and associated control equipment with Traka's electronic key control system and was tailored to complement Tesco's existing safety processes, creating a high-tech solution to the problem of vehicle drive-off accidents.
The Dock Management System works by using electronic keys known as iFobs each containing a unique electronic chip, which is individually programmed to open or close one specific door when inserted into a control panel.
At Hinckley, the system is now an integral part of a robust protocol whereby drivers are required to hand in their ignition keys when they arrive at the Goods In office. The keys are clipped to an iFob, which is inserted into the main Traka control panel, allowing a corresponding iFob to be removed and handed to the driver.
Only then is it possible to open the bay door, when an authorised operative inserts their personal iFob into a secondary control panel located adjacent to each door.
Once loading or unloading is complete, the operative closes the door. This sends a message to the Goods In control box, permitting the removal of the driver's keys but only after the deposit iFob is inserted back into the box.
Tesco trialled the Dock Management System at 26 Goods In loading bays at the Hinckley depot. The bays are used by between 300 and 400 vehicles each day, many of which arrive from overseas, representing a stern test for the new Easilift system.
"We have an excellent safety record at Hinckley, but worker safety is paramount and there is always room for improvement," said Joe Carthy, distribution health and safety manager for Tesco UK and Ireland.
"It was important therefore that the system was tested in the Goods In section, where we deal with a high volume of drivers, many of whom will be unfamiliar with the layout.
"If the system worked there, we knew that it would be able to achieve our objectives at other loading bays too."
Fitting the system involved surface-mounting cabling on the inside of the exterior walls and linking 26 individual boxes stationed next to each loading bay door with the control panel in the Goods In office.
"The Easilift Dock Management System was attractive to us because by using control boxes and indicator lights, it lessens the chance of human error," said Joe.
"This was a limited trial, but the results were fantastic. The system was easy to operate and to understand, and it took a huge amount of human element out of the process. Importantly, it made people feel safe and put them at ease."
Although the system was developed with a health and safety angle in mind, it has a whole range of other benefits. The system minimises the amount of time the door is open which can save money and reduce carbon footprints for chilled distribution centres and, furthermore, can provide an audit trail, logging who used what door and for how long.
This can not only improve efficiency and assist companies in tracking down any missing stock, but can also help with servicing costs. By using the information recorded within the system and the reports generated, a company can devise a servicing programme which takes into account how much the door is used over a set period of time.
The Dock Management System can be easily retro-fitted to virtually any loading bay door and will now be installed in all of Tesco's distribution centres, representing what David Whyatt, sales director at Easilift Loading Systems, described as an excellent way to launch the product onto the market.
He added: "We are thrilled that Tesco has agreed to roll out the Dock Management System UK-wide and by doing so has shown great foresight by investing in a solution which has the potential to cut out serious accidents.
"There could have been no tougher test for the system than to trial it at Hinckley, which is an extremely busy depot where any shortcomings in the system would have been very quickly highlighted.
"It is testament to the technology and expertise at Easilift Loading Systems and Traka that the system proved itself to be watertight and demonstrated that it goes further than any other system on the market to offer peace of mind."
With 35 years' experience in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of high quality loading bay equipment and industrial doors, Easilift Loading Systems is the UK's leading specialist supplier of total loading bay solutions to some of the biggest names in retailing, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, warehousing, building, construction and the service sector.
In addition to its unique new Dock Management Anti Drive-Off System, the company provides a complete range of loading bay equipment, including dock levellers, dock shelters & seals, industrial & high speed doors, and lifting platforms, together with a wide selection of safety aids & accessories such as dock plates, dock bumpers, dock & traffic lights, wheel guides & vehicle restraints, and integrated control systems. Easilift also provides comprehensive service and maintenance programmes for all makes and types of loading bay equipment irrespective of the manufacturer.
Easilift was also one of the pioneers in the design and installation of dock pod systems, which are complete stand-alone loading bay enclosures that can be installed directly onto the external face of a building. Suitable for new buildings, extensions and refurbishments, they can be quickly and easily re-positioned, if required, and are ideal for use with the increasingly popular and highly cost-effective double deck trailer units.
Easilift was one of the first in its sector to achieve the prestigious SAFEcontractor accreditation in recognition of its excellent health & safety record and competence, confirming to prospective customers that effective policies and systems are in place.
Easilift is a member of the Loading Systems International Group, one of Europe's foremost manufacturers of loading bay equipment. The Group has over 450 employees across Europe and a total turnover in excess of 60 million Euros.
An active member of the Association of Loading & Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM) and the Confederation of Construction Specialists, Easilift operates to the International ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Standard. The company has Investors In People Bronze status accreditation and is a participant in the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), with all its engineers fully qualified under the CITB Site Supervisory Training Scheme.