What is cross docking and is it for me?

Reduce your warehouse needs while increasing stock

A few weeks ago, I talked about drop-shipping in another blog, an alternative shipping method that allows you to avoid excess stock and speed-up deliveries.
Now, here's another approach that's sure to interest you if you have a high volume of items that needing dispatching, but want your warehouse to be as small as possible.

It's called cross docking and is a bit more complicated than drop-shipping. You need to have a warehouse for cross docking, but it's not really used as a storage space. Instead, items that come from different suppliers are placed in a docking station. In the docking area, they are sorted and put together in a single shipment package for each destination. Then, the shipments are loaded onto trucks and vans and shipped to their final destination.
The whole process should normally take no more than a day, so that your stock is actually always at the point of sale and your warehouse serves as a sorting area rather than storage space. Cross docking seamlessly integrates within our Warehouse Management System as a standard function.

Although your needs may be specific, here are a few tips that will make your life easier when setting up your cross docking rules.

Organizing your docking area

  • First of all, it's very important that you organize your dock floor. Define areas where items can be stored (temporarily - as there should be a fast turnaround). Designate other areas that should be kept free at all times, and a perimeter for loading and unloading. This is important for safety of course, but it also helps speed up the process.
  • Keep the areas as small as possible, even if you have more space available. Allowing more space means more travel time for each item and therefore more time spent on loading and unloading.
  • Efficiently distribute weight within your defined areas. As the carrier needs a good weight distribution both for safety on roads and vehicle efficiency, it's important to organize packages with care so that they are loaded in the correct order.
  • Finally, avoid blind zones where items are hidden. This will ensure that all your delivery vehicles leave fully loaded with no 'lost' item and save on the time workers spend looking for items.

Organizing the loading & unloading rules

  • Keep track of schedules for incoming and outgoing goods and make sure the rules you have set apply to every single load that arrives. If necessary, don't hesitate in adapting the rules.
  • Each item should move only once. The more items you're able to unload straight from the inbound carrier to the outbound docking area, the more time you save and there's less chance of an item getting damaged.
  • The priority might not always be to unload as fast as you can. You could save a lot of time by keeping an inbound carrier waiting a few minutes so that you can transport the shipment straight to an outbound carrier.
  • Workers are still the best way to organize things, but some tools (such as conveyors) can help you save on time and labor, especially for getting items from A to B in a straight line.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or experience on this topic!

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