Inflatable shelter helps stabilise loading bay temperature

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When a major logistics company won a contract to handle temperature sensitive cargoes, it turned to loading bay specialist sara LBS for designing and installing a dedicated vehicle dock at its west London depot. The new dock would have to provide a stable temperature for loading and unloading, whilst also remaining cost-effective in operation

Inflatable shelter helps stabilise loading bay temperatureThe parcel delivery industry has enjoyed sustained growth over many years, and this looks set to continue with the rise of on-line shopping and home delivery services. Of course, growth inevitably means that there are obstacles to overcome and unexpected requirements to address — and rising to such challenges often secures ongoing business for successful companies.

One emerging challenge is the increasing need to carry temperature sensitive (or time and temperature sensitive) items. These could include time and temperature sensitive pharmaceutical products (TTSPPs), healthcare items, frozen materials, luxury foodstuffs, live animals, rare or exotic plants, cut flowers, medical samples, biological specimens etc.

While these will often be transported in temperature controlled cases or packaging, or in refrigerated vehicles, there is also a need to minimise the risk of ‘temperature excursions’ (temperature changes beyond defined tolerances, for significant lengths of time). In such cases, the depots where items are transferred from one vehicle to another are often identified as ‘critical control points’ — stages in the logistics chain where risks are heightened and so extra care needs to be ensured. Here the haulier may agree a service level agreement which defines ambient temperate ranges, handling procedures, time limits, etc.

Shipping temperature sensitive items

sara LBS was recently contacted by a major parcel delivery company that had a new requirement to handle regular shipments of temperature sensitive items. The company had already partitioned off part of its warehouse and installed temperature monitoring equipment ready for the new contract. Within the partitioned area was a level access door and a dock leveller loading bay, which was to be upgraded to meet the new requirements.

“The bay was fitted with a curtain type shelter and the client initially thought it would need a PVC strip curtain for the level access door plus a new shelter for the loading bay,” says Nick Cox, sara LBS Area Sales Manager. “I conducted a site visit and consulted about what could be achieved. In the end I suggested an inflatable shelter would be a better option. It would offer significantly improved thermal insulation compared to a curtain type shelter, and would therefore practically guarantee the stability of the ambient temperature.”

In fact, measurements and calculations showed that sara LBS could supply one of its standard inflatable shelters, which would fit the bill perfectly and thus there was no need for a bespoke solution.

Temperature stability

sara LBS offers a range of shelters, including fixed, retractable and inflatable. The inflated shelter creates a watertight seal around the vehicle which protects goods from adverse weather during loading and unloading. It also helps to maintain the internal temperature of the warehouse while the loading bay is in use. This is most commonly required when the warehouse interior is heated as preventing heat loss can have a significant effect on energy bills. It is also useful where the warehouse is cooled, say in food handling operations, while a third situation is when temperature stability is required, as was the case at the west London depot.

The inflatable dock shelter takes up minimal space once deflated and is compatible with all loading docks from sara LBS. Features of the standard design include a 3.5mm PVC storage curtain that protects the side mounted air bags, while the top air bag seal has an automatic retract function. Inflation is performed by a three-phase motor and fan mounted on the underside of the roof panel. The machine-stitched heavy-duty air bags are made of PVC or polyester and they seal to the vehicle within ten seconds of it parking in the loading bay.

Says Cox: “We wanted to ensure that trailers did not pull away from the dock while the shelter was still inflated. Fortunately we were able to reuse existing traffic lights, and also fitted a timer to give the shelter time to deflate before the traffic light turned to green. We also installed yellow wheel guides to ensure the shelter was protected from being damaged by vehicles reversing onto the dock off centre.”

01 March 2017

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