n 20 MAY 2015 | PHARMACEUTICAL PROCESSING
nFACILITY MAINTENANCE ■ PHARMPRO.COM
Pharmaceutical warehouses are busy places. And while a steady flow of shipments in and out generally puts a smile on managers' faces, the repeated open- ing of loading dock doors also generates concern.
Open doors create opportunities for heated or cooled air to
escape the building and rain, wind, snow and contaminants to
get inside, creating safety, security and cleanliness risks. Open
doors also invite potential airborne intruders – like bugs, leaves,
dust or dirt – to enter. If not sealed properly, even closed dock
doors may leave facilities vulnerable to these threats.
Fortunately, warehouse managers can significantly address
these problems with the right system of dock seals and shelters – improving facility safety and security while saving thousands of dollars per year in wasted heating/cooling cost expenditures. Here are some considerations for getting started.
LOSING ENERGY (AND MONEY) AT THE LOADING
While it’s a vital link between a facility and the pharmaceuticals shipped in and out every day, the loading dock presents
the greatest opportunity for energy losses and damage to
precious materials and products. Any opening can allow conditioned air to leave and foreign contaminants like dust, water
and even rodents to enter. Larger openings only exacerbate
Even when trailers are at the loading dock, gaps often exist between the trailer and the edges of the dock opening.
Swing-open trailer doors usually lead to 1” to 2” gaps. While
that might seem insignificant at first glance, it equates to a
2.5-square-foot hole at just one dock opening. Depending on
the climate of the facility, this represents anywhere from $600
to $1,200 quite literally flying out the door every year. Now
extrapolate those figures over multiple dock doors and the
financial loss is significantly more profound.
But the sides of the dock opening aren’t the only gaps in the
building’s perimeter. Many facility managers forget about the
“fourth side” of the dock – the bottom end, where the leveler,
trailer, and dock seal or shelter meet. Depending on the size of
the opening, that gap could result in another $200 to $900 lost
Sealing all gaps at loading dock doors can protect the facility
from potential contamination concerns as well. Gaps between
the loading dock wall and the trailer can let in dust, debris, rain
and sunlight – which is potentially damaging for some light-
sensitive products. Exposure to these elements can damage
products and equipment, leading to even more profit-erosion.
And while the pharmaceutical industry is held to the highest of sanitation and hygiene standards for manufacturing,
processing and storage applications, the loading dock is often
overlooked. Preventing potential contaminants from entering
is a good start to maintaining a clean environment and secure
LOOKING FOR LIGHT
Every loading dock and dock opening configuration and
structure will be different. Understanding the size and types
of trucks that come to the facility also plays a major role. For
example, trucks with hydraulic lift gates will have different impact points against dock walls than trailers whose doors swing
open. In almost all cases, however, the first rule of thumb is
to look for light leaks along the dock door perimeter – where
there’s light coming through, there’s energy leaving the facility
and an opportunity for contaminants to enter.
These light leaks are no different than the ones that often appear on the sides and sometimes tops of trailers.
Remember, even the smallest, most seemingly harmless gaps
can add up to hundreds of dollars in lost energy annually.
If you can see daylight at your loading dock doors, that
means there’s a gap to be filled and you’ll need to source the
right product to fit each type of gap. Understanding these
things can help lead to more informed decisions on properly
sealing these gaps to save energy and help you pass your next
Not all seals and shelters work for every situation at the
loading dock. Determining the best products that work in concert with one another to properly seal the dock opening is essential in maximizing energy and cost savings.
While foam compression style dock seals generally offer a
great deal of energy efficiency, even highly durable fabric can
suffer from significant wear-and-tear due to constant friction.
Seals can also present potential access issues. Dock shelters,
in contrast, tend to offer greater access to loads, but unless
the right model is selected, energy efficiency tends to be lower
than that of a seal (80-85 percent compared to 90-95 percent).
Dock Management: Sealing
n By Mary Blaser, director of marketing and business development, Rite-Hite Environmental