Sensors, Data Up Efficiency at Loading Docks

Solutions Spotlight—
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The pandemic has shed light on the importance of cutting-edge technologies and products among members of MHI’s Loading Dock Equipment Manufacturers. As supply chains have become even more critical during this time, LODEM members are aiding warehouse managers, grocers and other customers with a number of innovations, from IIoT technology to optimize operations—especially amidst labor shortages—to specialized products for cold storage facilities protecting essential food and pharmaceuticals, including COVID-19 vaccines.

IIoT technology

E-commerce exploded during the pandemic, further elevating the significance of the supply chain—of which the loading dock is a critical link, said Brad Stone, director of engineering at MHI member Rite-Hite Products Corp. and current LODEM chair. To enhance loading dock operations, some LODEM members are now incorporating Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, automation and intelligence into their products.

“Augmenting loading dock equipment with sensors combined with a powerful IIoT analytics platform gives actionable data that companies can use for improvements in safety, productivity and energy use,” Stone said.

For example, with smart equipment in place, companies can monitor the amount of time a particular trailer is at the loading dock, he said. They can drill into data to determine whether the prolonged time is due to a maintenance issue, productivity issue or whether that trailer belongs at another dock.

“Capturing the right data and making it meaningful and actionable is really what matters,” Stone said. “Broader adoption and use of sensors are helping companies capture additional data and use it to be more efficient, which is on everyone’s minds these days because of labor shortages and the impact of COVID on the workforce.”

Indeed, increasing efficiency has become even more critical in this era of the “Great Resignation,” said Brett Lindstrom, director of marketing and connected experience at MHI member Systems LLC.

“One customer told us that it’s actually helped them during this time of labor shortages,” Lindstrom said. “They had an employee quit who used to manage all the communication with truck drivers, but with this IoT technology and dock management alerting supervisors when and where trucks were at, they found they didn’t need to fill that position—they had all the tools they needed to manage the docks efficiently.”

IIoT technology is also built with data security, he said. When transmitting data from the sensors to the loading dock management software in the cloud, the data is encrypted to make it more secure while in transit through a WiFi network or over cellular data, without using a local network. Similar to other companies leveraging IIoT technology, Systems LLC also conducts third-party penetration tests on its hardware and software twice a year to ensure data security and integrity. For servers, the company uses Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, which have their own security measures in place.

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