Last Mile Logistics and Vehicle Loading Solutions
Retail and e-commerce are revolutionising logistics systems and, in particular, Last Mile Logisitics – the final step in distribution to the end customer.
As reported in an article published on Osservatori.net, this phenomenon is even having a significant knock-on effect on the property market, in which a substantial increase in demand for properties very close to cities has been seen. This is being driven by the need to shorten lead times (the time from the issue of order by the customer to the effective delivery of the product) by as much as possible. The speed of delivery has in fact become a critical factor even in traditional trade, not only in the distribution of foodstuffs. The aforementioned article contains certain figures published by the World Capital logistics bulletin board concerning the demand for increasingly larger factory buildings in proximity to urban centres.
These changes will also directly influence the design and operation of unloading/loading yards and, in particular, will require the optimisation of loading bays to make goods handling operations faster.
When choosing the loading bay and dock leveller, the type of vehicle which will be docked with the system must also be taken into consideration. In the case of last mile logistics, light commercial vehicles with standard bodywork are generally used. These pose a number of different problems, among which the fact that they cannot be docked to the same dock levellers used for semi-articulated trucks because:
- their automotive bodywork is easily damaged
- their limited maximum load capacity means that the weight of a standard dock leveller compresses their suspension springs to maximum travel
- they have a very low load bed, which is only reachable with a dock leveller approximately 5 metres long and with a dangerously steep gradient for handling goods
- they must be parked approximately 1300 mm from the dock to allow the two rear doors, which measure approximately 1150 mm in width each and are mounted on two vertical hinges, to be swung open
To resolve these problems at least in part, a very long dock leveller is used with a gradient of 12.5% (the maximum gradient permitted by EN 1398). This means that neither manual nor electrical transpallets may be used, which have a maximum permitted gradient of 2% and 4% respectively, while the very long dock leveller needed is very bulky and encroaches into the warehouse space.
The VANDOCK docking system, developed by Campisa during the first few years of the 2000s, consists of a traffic light signal activated by two photocells, which lets the driver know when the vehicle is in the ideal position for loading, and a hydraulic dock leveller. This system allows the driver of the commercial vehicle to open the van doors to an angle of 90° without risk of impact, and deploy the dock extender simply and quickly between the doors to place it perfectly onto the load bed with the smallest gradient possible.
The entire procedure can be performed either from a conventional dock or from a loading bay with sectional door. In the latter case, the same hydraulic system is used to operate both the dock leveller and the sectional door, minimising costs.
Used in conjunction with a sealing system to prevent heat losses between the van and the loading bay, the VANDOCK system may also be utilised for “cold chain” logistics. The dock leveller remains within the building until the sectional door is opened. Either a standard seal may be used or an inflatable seal, which encloses the entire rear of the vehicle.
Using VANDOCK avoids the risks of working with steep gradients, saves tens of square metres of space from being taken up by very long dock levellers and makes work simpler and more effective while saving considerably on purchase costs. Many logistics centres have already chosen this solution.