The hidden costs of specifying low-quality loading bay equipment...

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Distribution centres and warehouses are at the very heart of any logistics network. To maximise efficiency, and therefore profitability, it is essential that goods can be loaded and unloaded quickly. A key cause for concern for any Warehouse Manager is the reliability of the loading bays as a failure can cause massive disruptions to the entire network. This makes it essential that suitable loading bay equipment is specified and that a regular maintenance schedule is kept. Christopher Knollys, Managing Director of sara LBS, explains how industry certifications can help end-users to specify parts with confidence and the importance of loading bay servicing.

The secret to running a profitable logistics operation is ensuring that the transport network doesn't suffer from any bottlenecks which reduce the overall efficiency. To this end it is not uncommon for even modest-sized distribution centres to feature upwards of ten loading bays. Considering the amount of equipment that each loading bay requires, such as doors, dock levellers, traffic lights, bollards, dock shelters etc., it isn't surprising that during specification the procurement team may often be tempted by lower cost quotes.

While keeping procurement costs low is an understandable goal, it is important to remember that loading bays are often subjected to heavy use and, more often than not, take the brunt of any vehicle collisions during reversing. If, while trying to deliver an extremely competitive quote, a supplier recommends a component which is not able to withstand this kind of environment then it is likely to fail prematurely which can put the loading bay out of action. This can cost thousands of pounds worth of delays to the logistics network on top of the repair costs which will be faced.

A recent example from one of the sara LBS sales team highlights this issue. A national distributor of fresh salad had specified dock levellers from a local supplier based on the incredibly competitive purchase cost.

Unfortunately the supplier hadn't taken into account the weight of the fully loaded forklifts during the specification process and the dock leveller began to fail within a week. After several failures which led to downtime and repair costs, it was eventually decided that a replacement was needed and the company got in touch with us. Fortunately our sales team are all CSCS qualified and we were able to specify and install a product which has worked faultlessly since installation.

With this story in mind, how can an end-user identify between a supplier who will recommend a product based on their needs and one who will recommend a product based on keeping the quote low? After all, there are now so many ISO, BS and EN standards for every market sector that it's impossible to keep up-to-date on what to look for with every purchase.

Fortunately for UK end-users, our industry has some well respected associations which set extremely high standards for membership. Suppliers who are members of ALEM will all comply with the standards and regulations which should be met by loading and elevating equipment manufacturers. Other associations such as Safecontractor, IPAF and DHF also serve to offer confidence to the end user. Manufacturers who are certified by associations such as these should all offer comprehensive site visits and products which will meet the needs of the application.

Having specified suitable equipment it is equally important to schedule regular servicing to avoid downtime. Again most suppliers should be able to provide a maintenance service, but where they are unable to it is important to source a certified supplier. sara LBS, for example, employs a nationwide network of maintenance engineers who are able to service and repair any loading bay product which is on the market today. A regular maintenance contract should ensure that all loading bay equipment is kept to a suitable standard while also identifying ageing components and recommending a suitable course of action before they fail.

With cost savings being more important than ever it's often tempting to take the route of short-term savings: buying budget components or missing service intervals.

However, the best way to ensure real-life savings throughout the total life of a component is to make sure that you specify parts which are fit for purpose and that recommended service intervals are maintained.

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