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Cold-Storage Considerations: The Right Dock Doors Help Win

Continental Refrigerated Services is a full-service cold-storage warehousing and transportation provider offering a one stop shop and delivery system to combat accounts' freight costs.

Though CRS's University Park, Ill., facility has been open a very short time, its customer list includes a number of big names in food service and retail. CRS's success is based on innovative thinking and getting the most out of its facilities and equipment, managed by people that have been in the business for years. It is as important to CRS to attract new business as it is to continue growing them.

Part of that experience is reflected in the doors they selected for the University Park location. The two University Park buildings equate to a combined total floor space of 517,000 square feet (48,029 m2) with racking for 44,000 pallet positions. Fifteen million cubic feet (0.4 m3) of those facilities is cold storage, which can present particularly high operating costs due to energy loss resulting from door and track damage.

TKO ThermalWeight Dock Doors from TKO Dock Doors, Sussex, Wis., protect the 73 cold-storage shipping and receiving docks against energy loss. Chuck Balija, director of engineering for CRS, has been using these types of doors since the product came out in the mid-90s when he was with Atlas Cold Storage in Chicago. These doors can stand up to the abuse of forklift traffic while still helping to maintain temperatures in cold-storage and perishable dock environments.


The ThermalWeight door is designed with 4-inch- (102-mm-) thick insulation, and the panel-mounted gasket is protected from tearing to create a full-perimeter seal. The door's guidance mechanism allows operators to quickly pull the door back into its track and continue operation after being impacted.

Balija points out that though they have vertical storing dock levelers that provide some protection to the dock door when the platform is stored erect, management is well aware of the other ways a forklift can damage a dock door, such as hitting the guide track, and when that happens the door can be knocked out of alignment and the seal compromised.

"The point is," Balija noted, "when the door is up and forklifts are running in and out of trucks, the tracks are exposed to damage." The door has an Ultra-High Molecular Weight track that runs the full height of the doorway. This track is a solid, heavy-duty column of plastic that deflects forklift impact. The sheet-metal tracks on standard doors easily crimple and deform.

When a standard door track is bent out of shape, the roller guides that carry the door panels become harder to operate. Balija recalls seeing facilities where forklifts would be used to open doors when the tracks literally wrapped around the rollers, ultimately destroying the panels.

Keeping the doorways accessible and the dock doors operational is very important to the success of CRS. Thanks to the efficiency of its dock, CRS has also earned the business of one of the world's largest retailers.


To get the business, a distribution center has to turn product in 48 hours, so CRS set up 10 dock doors over three shifts to handle cross docking. CRS has the turn around time to just over 19 hours and is now one of the retailer's top warehouses, replacing an operation in Atlanta.

Another service CRS developed for this customer was to reduce the number of shipments to the chain's warehouses to lower costs. Due to the many manufacturers CRS serves that were primarily LTLs, or less than truckloads, to ship to their warehouses, CRS worked out a plan to pool loads and consolidate to full trucks, saving the account considerable costs.

For all its customers, CRS cycles 200 truckloads a day using a crew of 85 with three shifts during the week and a half shift on Saturday. CRS guarantees two-hour turnaround for every truckload. Generally when one truck is finishing, another is pulling up along side of it. Losing a door from damage jeopardizes that schedule.

"One of the things we don't have to worry about is door maintenance," Balija said. He remembers that before the introduction of impactable dock doors, he had to inventory panels and track to minimize down time from door damage.

That savings is also passed along to energy bills. The door provides a full perimeter seal, including the area along the floor, ensuring that the chilled dock stays at 35 F (17 C) without overtaxing the compressors from energy loss. No energy loss also means no condensation on the floor and no risk of employees slipping or losing control of a piece of equipment.

"Having done this long enough," Balija observed, "you learn that what you pay attention to when the facility goes up reflects on your costs in the future. Putting the quality in up front means you don't have costs later on."


Josh Brown is national sales manager for TKO Doors Inc., Sussex, Wis. More information is available at