TKO WelterWeight dock doors deliver
knockout punch to Alatrade’s energy loss
May 3, 2012 7:00 AM
Average consumers at the supermarket don’t know Alatrade Foods even exists, let alone what service it provides. However, the chicken in their meals likely has been processed at the Alatrade Foods plant in Albertville AL, or one of its other facilities throughout Alabama.
The Albertville plant is a high-volume operation. Here at this six-year-old, 55,000-square-foot processing facility, maintenance plays a large role in keeping operations running efficiently. This is especially true when it comes to keeping the overhead dock doors tightly sealed to retain cold-storage energy within the building. As a front line of defense against potential energy loss, Alatrade installed nine TKO WelterWeight impactable dock doors.
Alatrade is a three-shift operation: two for production and one for loading and shipping chicken breasts, wings, and tenders. Most of the time, the plant runs five-day production weeks, with six-day weeks 30% of the time to handle the demand of holidays and the summer grilling season.
“We are sending out this product fresh,” said Kevin Parnell, plant manager. “That means we must keep our dock at 45 degrees, and it must be washed down continuously to satisfy both the USDA and our customers. We don’t just sell product, which in our case is the front part of the chicken. We also sell service to just a few major players, so equipment performance must not get in the way of keeping them all supplied.”
One of Alatrade’s main service problem areas was the overhead dock doors. The dock area is tight with staged pallets minimizing floor space, making it tough to weave forklifts through when traffic picks up.
As the shift gets busy, the dock becomes a slalom course with workers backing forklifts into dock doors and door guides or shoving pallets into panels. Navigating this space means drivers must watch when going over the leveler platform. They may not notice if the door has sagged into the doorway, causing the forklift mast to clip the lower door panel.
This tight space and forklift rodeo created a challenge for the 45-degree loading dock. Even with doors closed, the doorway was not effectively sealed as all of the doors had suffered some kind of damage, from bent panels to deformed tracks. No matter how slight the damage, panels were misaligned, causing gaps between them and the doorframe, creating the perfect opportunity for energy loss.
Deformed tracks can grab the door’s guide rollers, making the door difficult to open. The dock crew is often tempted to avoid back strain by leaving doors open between shipments—a big problem during hot, humid Alabama summers. Cold air slipping through cracks and open dock doors means the HVAC and cooling systems had to work harder.
Keeping the dock cool was only part of the answer the TKO WelterWeight door provided to Alatrade. Parnell said, “We are constantly washing down our docks, and our target dock temperature kept the wash water from freezing in the winter. Yet the colder outside air—which could drop to 5 degrees—could come into the dock through the doorway gaps and turn the floor into an ice rink, making it dangerous for those on foot in addition to having to deal with pipes along the wall freezing and bursting.
Parnell also said his maintenance crew often had to replace door panels due to the weather and impacts. They had begun looking for an answer when TKO representative Laura Starace stopped at the plant with her TKO Demo Truck.
“The TKO demo truck gave us a chance to check out the door and see how it operates,” said Parnell. “We could kick it to see how it withstands damage.”
Prime features of the WelterWeight door are the ability to withstand impacts, perform smoothly, and seal the doorway completely and consistently, preventing damage and energy loss. The TKO panels attach to retractable plungers that ride along a rugged 12-gauge steel V-Groove track.
When the door is hit, the panel does not resist the force of the blow. Instead, retractable plungers slide out of the track and the door panel releases damage-free. The panel can be reset into the guides quickly.
Starace conducted a Free Energy Efficiency Analysis using a thermal imaging camera to take a picture of one doorway at the plant, which revealed the energy loss around the door and between panels. Once the facility installed the TKO doors, a follow-up thermal image showed a substantial increase in energy efficiency of the dock. Two more WelterWeight doors were installed in other areas of the building.
WelterWeight doors feature 2-inch-thick, closed-cell polystyrene insulation. “The guys in the loading dock area,” said Parnell, “confirm that we are able to maintain our target temperature, thanks to the seal and insulation, and we are doing a much better job of it in summer than in years past.”
To ensure the seal, the TKO door’s weatherseals are mounted to the side of the panels, a feature different from standard dock doors.
Along with the high-strength polymer panel construction, Alatrade added optional galvanized springs and stainless steel hardware to provide corrosion resistance and long door life in this moist environment.
The 1-1/2-inch brush-bottom design combined with dual-compression loop seals provide an airtight seal along the floor. In winter, “We have noticed that there was no ice build-up and the pipes have not burst,” said Parnell.
Alatrade has seen the benefits of installing the TKO doors, both in effectively sealing the doorway and their ease of cleaning and maintenance.
“The thermal images taken of the doors after installation,” said Parnell, “tell us that not only are we saving energy dollars, but we are keeping the USDA happy as well.”
Visit www.tkodoors.com for more details.
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