Loading and unloading of goods using new technologies
By definition, loading is the act of placing goods in the cargo space. It can be carried out by a storekeeper or driver, traditionally using, e.g. a forklift truck, or, especially in the case of large quantities of loads, modern systems and technologies.
No matter which tool is chosen, the loading process must be designed to consume as little time as possible. Its efficiency has a direct impact on the waiting time of vehicles standing under the ramp and, consequently, on the smooth flow of the supply chain. Without proper organisation, even the most advanced technology may not deliver the expected benefits.
Therefore, when it comes to improving loading efficiency, the first step must be organisation, followed by the possible use of systems and solutions to support the entire process. They can be a great advantage, especially for companies that handle many shipments every day.
The use of new technologies during loading has many benefits:
- faster loading and unloading process;
- better work organisation and increased efficiency of loading operations;
- increased safety for drivers and people working at the ramps;
- fewer accidents and damage, resulting in increased safety of goods;
- shorter waiting times at the docks;
- reduced labour costs;
- better use of working space.
Technologies range from the most basic ones, which combine reasonable prices and ease of implementation, to those that are more sophisticated and require a little more investment, and those to which the warehouse or loading areas need to be adjusted to a greater or lesser extent.
The concept of Automated Truck Loading Systems (ATLS) has recently gained popularity. These systems are used for unloading or loading semi-trailers with Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) or conveyor belts. Given the need to increase efficiency in the supply chain, it is estimated that the popularity of these systems will increase in the next few years. The authors of the report predict that their value will reach USD 2.1 billion in 2022, and is expected to grow to USD 2.9 billion by 2026.
Applications and programs
The simplest solutions that can help increase the efficiency of dock operations, especially at the beginning, are the available applications and programs.
These include Goodloading, a system that uses 3D visualisation to show the most optimal pallet distribution on a semi-trailer or container. Simply add the list of loads and select the appropriate space so that the program arranges these loads in a few seconds, making maximum use of the available space. Goodloading works online, storing all data in the cloud, and all you need to use it is a computer with internet access. What’s more, the finished project can be opened on a mobile device, allowing the driver or storekeeper to start loading operations without hesitation.
Dock Scheduler is a solution designed to minimise waiting times for loading. The system allows carriers to book slots and change the status of bookings when their plans change. As a result, waiting times are reduced by 70% and warehouse productivity can increase by up to 25%.
The more advanced systems include WDX’s Q-Loader, which allows automatic loading. The fully automated platform places the goods inside a semi-trailer or container, and the entire loading process takes just a few minutes. Although the solution is very advanced, it does not require any adjustment of semi-trailers for loading docks.
A similar solution is Loadplate®, a semi-automatic machine that allows truck and container loading. It does not require any adjustment of the cargo space. It is ideal for loading complex or long loads. It is incredibly fast, being able to load 30 tons of goods into a 40-ft container within 5 minutes.
Another solution is ULTRA BLUE, a self-driving robot responsible for truck loading.The robot transports, then lifts and places loads in the space. It does not require rails or guides and can handle up to 2-3 loading docks simultaneously. Thus, it replaces the work of up to several people who, in the meantime, can deal with less repetitive tasks.
Certain forklifts can also be classified as autonomous systems. One of these is Trey, created by a Croatian start-up called Gideon Brothers. The vehicle is fully autonomous, it handles several types of pallets and is able to load 25 units per hour. It moves thanks to its 3D vision and is primarily intended to increase safety during loading.
Most advanced systems
The more advanced systems include a robot from Pickle, which can unload cargo space and sort packages. It has a movable arm that allows one to carry packages from a container or truck to a conveyor belt. The robot is expected to improve safety while maintaining high performance. Its speed is impressive – it can move up to 800 packages per hour.
NALON N8 is another system for loading and unloading. This advanced solution can move 150 pallets per hour, operate on any type of semi-trailer without the need for modification, or even move goods from trucks parked in parallel docks. It handles all types of pallets and can integrate with a warehouse system. The system consists of a transport car and a loading car.
Comprehensive loading solutions are also provided by Ancra Systems. Its offer includes, among others, various types of conveyors, which allow working with many types of loads – both palletised and mixed ones. These solutions require adjustments of the semi-trailer and storage space. Additionally, the company produces two systems that do not require any upgrade of semi-trailers.