A Picture Perfect Doorway Thanks to TKO Doors
(Alatrade - Albertville, AL) The average consumer at the supermarket doesn’t know of the existence of Alatrade Foods. As far as they are concerned, the poultry they use to make dinner is from a national or store brand. However, it’s likely the chicken that has gone into their delicious meals has been processed at the Alatrade plant in Albertville, Alabama, or another of their facilities throughout the state.
The Albertville plant is a high-volume operation like the others in the company, and here at this six-year-old, 55,000 sq ft facility, maintenance plays a big role. This is especially true when it comes to keeping the dock doorways tightly sealed to retain costly cold-storage energy within the building. Nine TKO WelterWeight® impactable dock doors provide the front line against energy loss here.
According to Kevin Parnell, Plant Manager, “We are sending out this product fresh. 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.”
Alatrade is a three-shift operation—two for production and one for shipping the chicken breasts, wings and tenders. Most of the time the plant runs five-day production weeks, with six-day weeks being utilized 30% of the time to handle the high demand of holidays and the grilling season.
Maintaining that pace means maintaining their equipment, and one of Alatrade’s main problems were the dock doors. The area in the dock is very tight with staged pallets minimizing floor space, making it tough to weave forklifts through it.
As the shift gets busier, the dock becomes a slalom course. Workers were backing forklifts into the dock doors and door guides or shoving pallets into panels. Navigating this tight space means that drivers must watch as they drive over the leveler platform; it’s likely they don’t notice when the door has sagged into the doorway, causing the forklift mast to clip the lower door panel.
This created a challenge for the 45 degree loading dock. Even with the doors closed, the doorway was not effectively sealed. All of the doors have suffered some kind of damage, from bent panels to deformed tracks. This damage, no matter how slight, meant that the panels were misaligned, causing gaps between them and the doorframe.
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 the doors open between shipments, which is a big problem during the hot, humid Alabama summers. The escaping cold air meant that the chilling system had to work harder, costing the facility more energy and money to keep the dock cold. Parnell relates that when the plant wasn’t holding temperature, they could get written up by the USDA.
Winters were a problem too. According to Parnell, “With our constant washdowns, our target dock temperature kept the wash water from freezing. 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.
“We would also have to deal with pipes along the wall freezing and bursting.”
Parnell pointed out that his maintenance crew often had to replace door panels. They had begun looking for a solution when TKO representative Laura Starace stopped at the plant with her TKO Demo Truck in 2010.
“The TKO demo truck gave us a chance to check out the door and see how it operates,” says Parnell. “We could kick it to see how it withstands damage.”
The prime feature of the TKO WelterWeight door is the ability to absorb these impacts, perform smoothly, and seal the doorway completely and consistently. Unlike standard dock doors, 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, the plunger slides out of the track and the panel releases damage-free. The panel can be reset into the guides quickly without having to call the maintenance crew. The dock goes back to business as if nothing happened.
For additional proof of the impact their existing metal doors were having on the operation, Laura used a thermal imaging camera to take a picture of one doorway at the plant and revealed the tremendous amount of energy escaping around the door and between the panels. Once the facility installed the TKO doors, a follow-up thermal imaging picture showed little-to-no energy loss. Two more TKO WelterWeight doors were installed in other areas of the building.
In addition to the impactable design, the TKO WelterWeight doors feature 2” thick closed-cell polystyrene insulation. “The guys in the loading dock area,” says 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 unique feature that’s different from standard dock doors. In other doors, weatherseals are mounted on the doorframe, making them easy to tear off.
In many operations, the maintenance crew is reluctant to replace torn weatherseals because it seems they are doing it constantly. When weatherseals are attached to the door panels, they ride up with the door to keep them out of harm’s way and allow them to maintain a consistent doorway seal.
One other feature of these doors makes them ideal for this operation. Along with the high-strength polymer panel construction, AlaTrade added the optional galvanized springs and stainless steel hardware; this provides corrosion resistance and long door life in this moist environment.
The wide 1½” 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,” Says Parnell.
Alatrade has seen the benefits of installing the TKO doors, both in their ability to effectively seal the doorway and their ability to be easily cleaned. “The thermal images taken of the doors after installation,” says Parnell, “tell us that not only are we saving energy dollars, but we are keeping the USDA happy as well.”
“The dock doorways are no longer an issue for us and are off our hit list.”