How cross-docking can accelerate your despatch

Anyone who has managed any form of traditional warehouse can understand how precious time is to daily operations. So even the slightest improvement in efficiency or accuracy can be a huge benefit and boost to warehouse productivity. Time and process strategies such as Lean management can help reduce some wasteful processes but tend to focus on existing processes rather than implementing new ones. Standard operating procedures (SOP’s) can often lead to the dreaded “its always been done that way…”

Before we look at cross-docking lets first look at a simplified overview of some of the standard processes for a traditional goods warehouse using a warehouse management system (WMS).

Goods In Processes:
  1. Delivery via Goods In location
  2. Goods are unpacked
  3. Warehouse receipt created
  4. Bay location allocated and Put-Away created
  5. Goods physically moved from Goods In to bay location as allocated
Goods Out Processes:
  1. A warehouse shipment and pick note are created
  2. Goods are physically picked from bay location and moved to Goods Out
  3. Goods are packed and details such as weight and dimensions are recorded
  4. Shipping documentation prepared
  5. Goods labelled ready for despatch

So, from the goods arriving in the warehouse to being despatched there can be ten (or more) administrative and physical processes taking place with the goods being handled multiple times.

So, what is cross-docking?

Cross-docking is an advanced warehousing technique for moving goods directly from in-bound locations directly to out-bound warehouse locations with minimal handling and administrative processes. Effectively the goods ‘cross’ from one loading bay (or dock) directly to another. 

Loading Docks at Distribution Warehouse

To understand how cross-docking can help, you need to understand why you have procured the goods entering your warehouse facility – i.e are the goods:

  • Made-to-Stock (MTS) – standard stock items or base products which can be modified
  • Made-to-Order (MTO) – items made specifically for a customer order 

If your company uses Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Manufacture Resource Planning (MRP) system you should already be aware if the goods are MTS or MTO goods and if you have an outstanding customer requirement for the goods. Therefore you can start to plan the despatch of the goods using cross-docking as soon as they goods arrive. Most ERP and MRP systems have the cross-docking feature already built in.

Cross-dock feature in Microsoft Navision

MTS items that currently do not have an outstanding customer requirement can be processed in the usual way and put-away ready for future customer orders. 

For MTS and MTO items which do have an outstanding customer requirement cross-docking can help accelerate your despatch. Lets look at how the process could compare:

Cross-docking process:
  1. Delivery via Goods In location
  2. Goods identified for customer requirement
  3. Goods moved to Goods Out location
  4. Shipping documentation prepared
  5. Goods labelled ready for despatch

The cross-docking process has helped remove, the now unnecessary, put away and picking stages from the goods effectively halving the number of steps involved. Not only reducing the processing time but also the physical handling of the goods. A simple but effective way of streamlining your despatch process.  

Cross-docking using a 3PL

If your company uses third-party-logistics (3PL or TPL) warehousing solution they may be able to provide a cross-docking service too. Many 3PL companies operate vast cross-docking systems across all industries from fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) to medical and manufacturing. 

Published by A Kennedy

An award winning, UK based, International Logistics Manager for a multinational tool company. Over 25 years experience in international logistics and supply chain management. Elected ‘Chartered Status’ by the CILT and ‘Expert Status’ by the IoSCM.

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