Cargo Loading and Unloading: 10 Tips for Better Efficiency

05/04/2024

Cargo Loading and Unloading: 10 Tips for Better Efficiency

When we talk about risks in warehouse management and logistics cargo loading and unloading is often at the top of the list. 

Cargo loading and unloading or simply known as cargo handling is the process of getting your goods on and off the freight vehicles. The weight and dimensions of cargo can range from a few kilos to thousands of pounds. Without this crucial step, cargo cannot reach its destination, regardless of whether it is a warehouse or the fulfilment centre. Besides, different types of cargo transport pose different types of challenges in terms of safety, efficiency, and workforce. 

The reason why cargo handling is a different activity altogether is because of the extreme caution that is required. It is an accident-prone activity. Handling heavy goods and ensuring workers' safety becomes of paramount importance and at the same time, you want to optimise the process for the highest warehouse management efficiency

As a logistics manager, you’re constantly on the lookout for tips that makes loading and unloading freight safe, easy, quick, and effortless. Listed below are some of the ways you can adopt while cargo loading and unloading. 

10 Tips for Cargo Loading and Unloading

1. Have a Centralised Warehouse Management System

First things first, before implementing cargo loading and unloading practices, you need to be prepared. You can do that by having a centralised warehouse management system that acts as a meeting point for all logistics automation systems and involves the concerned parties under a unified platform. It includes data from dock management systems, master control panels and so on. 

This way, your employees can collect and analyse data about cargo loading and unloading in real-time. They can make the required presumptions and carry out their activities accordingly in the process. For example, dock management systems can identify inefficiencies in the processes through cameras, sensors, and lights. It can detect the arrival of new cargo and activate dock levellers based on the information they receive from the system. 

2. Use Dock Levelers

A dock leveller is the equipment used in cargo loading and unloading to level up the difference in height between the floor and the delivery vehicle. Based on the vehicle and the freight size, you can adjust the height using hydraulic levellers to ensure a smooth transition. Understand that the trailer can change heights during the loading and unloading as the weight fluctuates. 

A trailer can move up as the cargo is unloaded and the weight is reduced or down as more cargo is loaded and the weight is increased. Hydraulic dock levellers can keep the trailers stable despite these fluctuations and keep them at the same height to ensure the loading and loading process is safe and quick. 

An alternative to hydraulic is the mechanical leveller which is operated by a pull chain. However, the process of cargo handling becomes more manual in this case since the warehouse workers have to do some labour to pull up the chain. This is more dangerous as it can cause injuries and have a higher chance of failure. 

3. Install Barrier Gates

Barrier gates are another set of equipment necessary for safe cargo loading and unloading. It helps in the prevention of tripping or falling off elevated ledges. Even a minor gap in elevation can pose threatening issues and cause severe injuries to the employees. 

Dock safety barrier gates can provide strength, convenience, and reliability and provide a safety net between forklifts, pallet handling, and pedestrian walkways. They are constructed with a counterbalance that facilitates easy operations. 

Barrier gates that are synched with the main control panel, help recognise the moving traffic in the loading area and keep the workers out of risk-prone areas. The gates can be opened or closed based on the handling activity and even have lights that sync with the master control panel. 

4. Have a Maintenance Routine

Maintenance routines are a must at a warehouse and delivery management. A warehouse unit involves multiple pieces of machinery and equipment that decide the efficiency of cargo loading and unloading processes. 

Any minute malfunction can result in casual slips or fatal injuries and jeopardise the safety environment of the warehouse. Maintenance runs need to be a regular process. Try implementing it once or twice a week so that there are fewer risks related to safety and inefficiencies. 

While doing maintenance checks, you can encounter issues relating to the malfunction of docks, forklifts, crates, cranes, wires, chains, bins, or cables. Have a maintenance checklist where you go through every piece of machinery and pass on one to even supervisors and workers to follow before and after each loading and unloading process. It can also save you money in the long run and prevent machinery downtime. 

5. Use a Forklift

A forklift has become a must-have for warehouses dealing with heavy cargo. It is a small vehicle used for lifting and placing cargo from one place to another in the warehouse and even loading and unloading them from the vehicles. It has two power-operated prongs at the front that can slide under heavy loads and be lifted for carrying and moving the stacking materials. 

Forklifts are similar to docks since they fulfil the same objective. If you don’t have either, and you need to receive an urgent shipment, you can rent one and fulfil the cargo unloading requirements. Forklifts increase the efficiencies in the warehouse as it reduces the unnecessary mobility of employees in the facility and their activities since all they have to do is just operate the lift. 

6. Load Heavy Items First

While loading cargo, a tip you can follow is to load heavy cargo first. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, you want to optimise the space in the vehicle. Loading heavy cargo ensures all the goods that are going to take up the maximum amount of space are already loaded. It means that the smaller cargo can easily be stacked upon the heavy one and there is enough space for every item to be loaded. 

Besides, for loading all the heavy items, you’d need a loading ramp or a forklift. If you choose to load every heavy item first, you don’t have to use the machinery again and again for cargo loading. The work can be completed in one go which increases the efficiency of the process. 

7. Proper Employee Training 

Safety protocols aren’t just for a selected few employees in a warehouse facility. Cargo loading and unloading involves multiple machinery, inventory management, and preparation that spans various departments. Hence, safety starts and ends with your workforce. You don’t want any room for manual errors that can disrupt the processes and pose a threat to even one employee at your warehouse. 

As a result, provide end-to-end training to your employees who are involved in cargo loading and unloading activities. These training sessions can include 

  • Ergonomic movements to prevent physical injuries

  • Using the centralised warehouse management system

  • Equipment handling and communication

  • Safety protocols for using the machinery

  • Safety measures in securing and removing cargo 

  • Proper lifting techniques 

If the employees get comprehensive training, you can be rest assured that they can counter any challenges they may face in cargo handling and fulfil their tasks with utmost efficiency and safety. 

8. Label Everything

Damages and lost goods are a persistent threat while cargo loading and unloading. While labelling the packaging may seem like the most basic activity, it is nevertheless an important one. For example, consider if you have to load custom packaging items that require special handling such as glass, antiques, rare goods, etc. You’d want the employees to take special caution while using machinery to load or unload the cargo. 

9. Have Good Lighting 

Having good visibility is a must while you’re handling cargo. It can make processes move at a faster pace as workers can clearly see what they’re doing. This means having the right lights for the right areas to allow maximum visibility and brightness across the trailers and the warehouses. 

For lighting, consider having loading dock lighting, which is great for shipping containers from front to back, providing a wholesome view. Also, have LED High Bay Lights that are designed for high ceiling and illuminates the open warehouse space. Same way, linear high bay lights are perfect for aisles as they’re perfect for even light distribution. 

10. Consider to Outsource Cargo Loading and Unloading 

Cargo loading and unloading is a task that requires meticulous planning and attention. Efficiency in this process is measured from multiple factors such as seamlessness, timeliness, safety, and infrastructure. Instead of managing these activities and making a considerable investment, you can consider outsourcing cargo handling to a third-party logistics company. Since they already have the required expertise, training, and equipment, you can benefit from improved accuracy, reduced costs, and greater flexibility. 

While you do have to deal with potential communication issues and higher dependency, you can weigh your options and choose to outsource accordingly. If your business requires specialised skills for supply chain management and has the necessary volume of goods, you can always choose to hire an experienced logistics provider to help you get through the process.  

Need Help with Cargo Loading and Unloading?

PACK & SEND is your go-to logistics solution provider if you need cargo handling or courier services. We can help you handle and deliver all kinds of items with high efficiency and have the necessary tech integrated into our business processes. Contact us if you want to know more about our services and what would be the best suitable option for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is loading and unloading in the warehouse?

Cargo loading and unloading in a warehouse is the process of handling the cargo that arrives or leaves the warehouse from the freight vehicles. It involves using various machinery to transport the goods from and from the warehouse. 

2. What is the first thing to do before loading and unloading?

The first step to take before cargo loading and unloading is to check and ensure that the vehicle is stopped, braked, and stabilised. If not, it can result in accidents and damage to the items. 

3. What are the most common hazards in loading and unloading cargo?

Some of the most common risks associated with cargo loading and unloading include toppling of improperly stacked boxes, machinery malfunction, unsafe access, falling off the loading platform, etc. 

4. What are safe practices in loading and unloading cargo operations?

Some of the practices that warehouse managers need to follow to ensure utmost safety are:

  • Checking the forklifts and other equipment to ensure their safety. 

  • Carrying out loading and unloading activities at designated areas

  • Fixate the vehicles so that they don’t move while cargo loading and unloading. 

  • Not leaving the site without cross-checking stowage and securing. 

  • Train employees on safety procedures and rules

  • Report unsafe conditions and issues to supervisors.

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