On the surface, the dock operation at a typical warehouse, distribution center (DC) or manufacturing facility seems fairly straightforward: line up a truck trailer to the dock door, unload its contents and/or load it with fresh goods, and then send the trailer on its way to a new destination.

But anyone in the industry knows that there’s much more to the process. With safety always paramount, the various types of dock equipment involved must also operate in the proper sequence. This ensures that the entire operation at each dock position runs smoothly and in a consistent manner.

However, to achieve the highest degrees of increased throughput and improved processes, maximizing simplicity and efficiency are key. Here’s a brief look at one of the latest technological developments that will make a huge contribution to these efforts.

Next generation dock operation

Central to any facility’s dock operation with multiple positions and pieces of equipment (including levelers, doors, and restraints) is the master control panel.

Relied on for several decades now, this critical unit serves as a focal point that operators use to control the operation of all of the dock equipment at each position. Without such a centralized approach, all of the dock equipment would need to be controlled individually along with separate wiring for different circuits and voltage requirements.

While previous versions of master control panels served their purpose and worked quite well, newer technology means innovative new solutions can be applied. As a result, the latest generation master control panel has since evolved into a much more intuitive digital web-based platform that now resides on the cloud.

Such technology advancements also allow high-volume warehouses and DCs to now acquire actional data on dock and associated equipment usage. This translates to an increased capability to identify and eliminate which factors are contributing to inefficiency at the dock.

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HMI means simplicity

Using a single touch-screen HMI (human machine interface) — as opposed to multiple buttons along with complex instructions on the control panel’s face — a digital master control panel is much simpler and easier to use for operators and supervisors alike. The HMI screen intuitively guides the user through the proper dock equipment operation sequence.

The HMI screen allows the operator only one option to process at a time, such as “restraint engage” or “raise leveler”. The functions are illustrated with easy-to-understand graphic buttons, and the touch screen is very responsive, even while wearing heavy-duty gloves. This eliminates making wrong choices and the opportunity for errors. The HMI screen also means very little training is required for safe operation.

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Why replace?

So, if previous generations of master control panels have been adequately doing their jobs, why replace existing units with new digital master control panels?

The latest generation digital master control panel not only increases ease of operation, but it also provides levels of supervision unavailable with older control panels.

For example, the HMI screen allows for multiple levels of passwords. This is especially useful for overrides, providing operators limited HMI screen access while a supervisor has access to the entire screen.

The digital master control panel also communicates better visually. While still using standard green, red and amber colors, the control panel’s single LED light also combines O, X and dash symbols with the colors to indicate trailer presence or restraint status. The LED light also flashes to indicate when equipment is in-motion or an exception or fault — like a missed restraint — has occurred.

Need to improve control over your dock positions? Think simplicity and efficiency. Learn more today about how a next-generation digital master control panel will gain you the results you need for your dock operation.