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Automated Vs. Hand-Operated Hinged Dock Levelers: Convenience, Safety, And Precision

New dock spaces are always welcome as they increase the ability to ship and receive more items. If your facility is expanding and plans to increase its shipping and receiving capacity, now's your chance to set up equipment that will make the job as easy as possible. Dock levelers are no doubt on your list, but when you install these necessary bridges, you'll have to choose between automated and manual models.

Storage Space

Hand-operated or manual/mechanical dock levelers typically fold up or down (or both) to form the bridge between the back of the truck and the raised dock. Many models of manual levelers are attached right at the edge of the dock, and a worker first lifts up a plate that's attached to a hinge and that has an extension on it. The extension is fitted onto the floor of the truck as the device is lowered back down. This is an extremely efficient and unobtrusive model that takes up little room, but it does require constant maintenance to ensure smooth movement. It also requires someone to lift the dock up to extend and retract it, so back, shoulder, and wrist/hand safety become an issue.

Automated dock levelers do not require effort beyond pushing a button to extend and retract the plates. However, many models involve a ramp lifting up off the warehouse floor and then extending, so you do have to ensure clearance before operating the ramp. If you will have a lot of traffic in the area, an edge-of-dock leveler might be better because you won't have to wait for people to get out of the way before extending the leveler.

No Power Needed

Manual levelers, of course, need no power. If your new warehouse will be in an area prone to power outages, either from storms or from public safety shutoffs such as those that now happen in California when the fire risk is high, a manual leveler is a must. These allow your warehouse to keep functioning and to let trucks move through quickly even when the power is off. And when power grids are strained, such as during heat waves, you know you're not using any power to operate those levelers.

That being said, the automated levelers don't use that much power, even though you have to extend and retract them constantly. If your area isn't prone to outages, or if you'd have to stop operations during a power outage for other reasons, the power-use issue won't apply.

Keep in mind you can also find levelers in other styles, so these two main styles aren't your only options. However, they are among the most common, and they're the ones you'll likely see a lot of once you start looking. Contact a few companies to find out the clearance requirements and other specifications to find the best docks for your expanded warehouse space.

Contact a dock equipment supplier for more information.