Inside the Automated Process of Automatic Truck Loading Systems (ATLS) |

Inside the Automated Process of Automatic Truck Loading Systems (ATLS)

Inside the Automated Process of Automatic Truck Loading Systems (ATLS)

By Jack Smylie, North America Sales Manager, Ancra Systems

Fully automatic loading and unloading always requires two combined systems: one system in the truck or trailer and a fixed installation on the loading platform or in the warehouse. Truck loading conveyors and other automated solutions allow increased efficiency. By adding elevators, lift platforms, turntables, and conveyors which interface with the automatic loading and unloading systems the rate of truck turns increases dramatically.

As 3PLs (third party logistics) companies, distribution centers (DCs), and warehouses all get ready for the all-important holiday picking, packing, and shipping season there is a fundamental flaw in how space utilization is conceived. Most warehouse managers are sure if they had double the number of loading and unloading bays, their operation would be twice as efficient. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Automatic truck (un)loading systems, also known as ATLS, moves product from standard systems to customized solutions. Geared to industry sector applications and uniquely calculated to meet logistic requirements, streamlining trailer loading and unloading processes worldwide captures the core lean manufacturing principle of eliminating waste (time, resources, and labor).

The most commonly used ATLS solutions are for shuttle services between production facilities and distribution centers.

Labor savings can be realized with ATLS solutions since fewer logistics personnel are required thanks to automation of the loading and unloading process.  Fewer forklifts and associated training, maintenance, and repair costs are another potential benefit.

Fewer loading and unloading docks are required because each dock can handle higher volumes. The time trucks are loaded and unloaded is reduced; previously contemplated DC or warehouse expansion becomes unnecessary. The high price of warehouse space and full capacity occupancy rates translates into a paradigm shift where the current number of docks is more than adequate once an ATLS system is implemented.

Cost-savings are realized as fewer trucks, trailers, and drivers are required due to increased fleet utilization. Less warehouse space is needed due to more concentrated flow of goods. Less buffer stock is needed, allowing for JIT (Just-in-Time) inventory, due to quicker inbound and outbound transportation of goods. Similarly, there is less space outside needed with the quicker turnaround times of trailers.

Reduced damage of goods and equipment due to controlled loading and unloading is a quantifiable benefit as well as creating a safer working environment for personnel, which generates employee satisfaction and retention.

The Skateloader ATLS system was developed and engineered for the automated loading of non-modified trailers. When no trailer modifications are required, the Skateloader is a solution for one-shot loading of standard pallets for outbound transport.  The loading process takes approximately 6-8 minutes (depending on the required height adjustment and alignment).

The Skateloader has two special functionalities for loading. It is equipped with a scanning system controlled by dedicated software to ensure the correct alignment of the loading system with the trailer. It is able to follow the trailer’s height which changes continuously due to the air suspension. The system deposits the pallets on the floor of the trailer in a controlled way, without any friction to the pallets and its cargo.

The Skateloader can be integrated into any automated production or warehouse system. The shorter truck turnaround time at the dock is accomplished while creating a safer work environment, for employees and product.


About the Author

Jack Smylie is the North America Sales Manager at Ancra Systems. Ancra Systems supplies material handling systems for automatic truck loading and unloading and the connection to new or existing internal transport conveyors. Leading clients include DHL, Toyota, Bavaria, Federal Express, Procter & Gamble, and Friesland Foods.

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