Although there are many variables that influence the overall throughput of a distribution operation, one that seems to get overlooked often is the setup of the outbound dock. Whether it’s a staffing imbalance or as simple as the method order selectors use (or don’t use) to stage their pallets, the outbound dock can have a negative effect on your overall operation if not managed properly.
On many of my recent projects, pallet staging has been the main issue. Typically, I see order selectors staging pallets on the dock with no rhyme or reason and not always in close proximity to the assigned outbound door. In turn, loaders spend a significant amount of time both searching for pallets and then re-staging them within their work area. As the loading operation falls further behind due to this extra work, less room is available on the dock for order selectors to stage properly and more unavoidable delay is encountered by loaders and orders selectors. These issues typically compound themselves as the shift wears on and are “corrected” at the end of the shift when additional staffing is put on the load function to help. When assessing your own dock layout, there are a number of questions to consider:
- Are order selectors staging pallets at the assigned dock door in a manner that makes unique pallet orders easy to distinguish?
- Does the current pallet staging method minimize the amount of time spent on the dock by order selectors as well as maximize the space available?
- Does the current pallet staging method minimize the amount of dock travel for the loading associate when traveling between staged pallets and the outbound trailer?
- Are loading associates assigned to a group of consecutive doors in order to minimize travel in between assignments and create accountability for a given area?
These are just a few of the items to consider when assessing the overall “health” of your outbound dock area. Simple changes to your methods for pallet staging and loader assignment areas can have a significant impact on your overall operations.