September 21, 2016
As leading weather forecasters predicted earlier this year, the summer of 2016 throughout the U.S. has been hot along with especially high humidity levels on the eastern half of the country.
Back in March, they all agreed that the summer months ahead would see their fair share of 90-plus degree temperatures. Readings in many areas of the country have repeatedly soared into the 100s as well.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), its Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI) ranked August 2016 as the second hottest August in the past 122 years due to above-normal temperatures which increased cooling demand in the heavily-populated Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and South.
Are you retaining your conditioned air, or is it leaking out unnecessarily due to gaps in and around your doors, causing you higher energy costs?
And to maximize your facility’s energy efficiency, do have a good handle on when your doors need to be open or when they should be closed? And when your doors do appear closed, are you sure they’re fully closed so that they’re sufficiently sealed to keep the hot air out and cool air in?
What about humidity levels? Trapped inside your facility, high humidity can even be a bigger problem than keeping the heat outside. Excess moisture, sometimes in cloud form in larger warehouses, will condense on cooling system components. That dripping moisture will quickly turn otherwise dry and safe floors into wet and dangerous surfaces for personnel.
The challenge of optimizing advanced unloading/loading options
With so many warehouse facilities and DCs still using manual dock doors, keeping track of door status is a huge challenge in and of itself.
Effective door management also entails how a door is used once a refrigerated trailer has arrived for unloading or an empty reefer is waiting to be loaded. Evaluating and optimizing your advanced unloading/loading options is critical.
When a reefer trailer arrives at your facility and is backed up to a dock door, you’re obviously faced with a limited number of options to keep the cargo properly refrigerated:
- run the reefer on diesel (only if allowed by law)
- plug the reefer into an electrical system (if the reefer is equipped for such a connection, such as a hybrid unit);
- or to save money on fuel or electricity costs, rely on the cold air in the facility to help keep the cargo at the proper temperature by both opening the dock door and reefer hoping that the dock seal will do its job to keep cold air from leaking out.
The last option might work out when outside temperatures are somewhat reasonable. But if you’re faced with temperatures of 90 degrees and higher, forget it. Not only that, if a reefer is in bad condition or won’t seal properly at the dock, a mere 4-inch gap on a cooler dock can result in a loss of thousands of tons of refrigerant in one day.
That’s when 4SIGHT’s intelligent door management software will allow you to source the pertinent data to optimize your dock door activity. Working together as part of the entire door management system, a variety of sensors work around the clock to gather real-time data to ensure a more efficient use of your dock doors and save you money on energy costs.
Heat and humidity are not the only issues . . .
Protecting valuable refrigerated cargo at the dock during intense summer heat and humidity will always be an ongoing challenge. But there are various non-weather-related issues to monitor and prepare for as well. These include meeting the growing demands of government regulation, increasing audit requirements and new accountability standards.
Unlike the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which requires food distributors to have a trailer present and secured at their dock before opening the door, the U.S. has no such requirement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—signed into law in 2011 and still in the process of being implemented and enforced nationwide—does contain, however, expanded guidelines concerning inspections and compliance. Whether the U.S. will ever face something similar to the CFIA’s trailer present requirement remains to be seen.
If such a requirement should ever become law in the U.S., the key here is that 4SIGHT provides a solution. 4SIGHT will record and document whether a door was open without a trailer present, what was done to correct the problem and how fast the problem was corrected. This would, in turn, eliminate the traditional need for extra mechanical hardware (i.e. secondary locks) on doors that also need to be serviced and maintained.
When faced with issues of uncertainty—whether they’re related to weather or involve increased accountability—it’s always best to prepare.
While hot summers come and go in intensity, inspection audits have a long history and are here to stay. By maintaining more control over managing your dock doors and associated data, you’ll be well-prepared not only for the summer heat in years to come but also for any new or expanded government regulations, audit mandates and accountability requirements.