Cross-docking is a concept of transferring products/materials directly to the client, other forms of transportation, or production line. In other words, it’s an idea of transferring the order material directly to where it’s needed without storing it in the meantime.
The benefits of this are numerous, ranging from the fact that your needs for storage space are reduced all the way to simplifying your supply chain. If you consider your supply chain as a multiple-step process (which it is), you’re actively eliminating one step by choosing cross-docking. By continuing with the same analogy, it reduces the amount of space you need to travel in order to get from point A to point B.
Still, what are some of the best cross-docking practices, and how can all of this benefit your enterprise? Here are several suggestions.
Speeding It Up
To increase the efficiency of your production process, you need to increase the speed at which the goods are unloaded from the truck/freighter.
The unloading time is sometimes considered the downtime for the truck, seeing as how it’s currently not performing its primary function (transportation of goods). Also, if you’re relying heavily on cross-docking for your business model, you’re probably in a scenario where a delay would cause a halt in production or late delivery.
Remember, speeding things up may lead to mishandling of resources. Unloading in haste may damage some of these products, which is a direct material loss for your organization. This is why it’s a priority to speed things up while keeping the efficiency and safety while handling materials.
The way to achieve this increase in efficiency would be to use proper materials handling equipment. This equipment should rely on forklifts and conveyors for optimal efficiency. Still, the nature of handled materials might dictate something a bit more specific.
Outsource Your Logistics
Keeping an in-house fleet is a convenient and effective but incredibly expensive method of handling your cross-docking processes. It also creates problems with the diversity of your strategic vendors, seeing as how your transportation capacities will be limited and difficult to expand. This is why outsourcing to freight specialists might be a superior choice.
Remember that cross-docking isn’t something that is efficient only when applied locally. Some of the goods may be ordered from other countries, which would mean that you also need to handle a lot of paperwork. In other words, handling this in-house is an administrative challenge, as much as it is a logistical issue.
Another thing you need to understand is the importance of preparing the premises where the cross-docking is taking place. As discussed in the first section, the biggest challenge is handling this unloading as quickly as possible. This is why you don’t want to declutter the unloading area/docking area while the shipment is arriving.
Make sure everything is clean, decluttered, and ensure that everyone is in their place. Being understaffed in these situations can be bad. This is why you need to have a steady and reliable staff, as well. You also need to be able to find replacements if things go south. Knowing that you can reliably move the goods as soon as they arrive is essential for the process.
Careful Selection of Products
Remember that there are some goods that just don’t feel like a good match for cross-docking. What do we mean by that? First of all, you have some products that can be pre-inspected. This means that you won’t have to conduct quality control when the products finally arrive to your site. Products that need to be checked and controlled before the delivery/production are not ideal for cross-docking.
Perishable goods are just made for cross-docking, seeing as how this method ensures that these items remain in your possession the shortest. Storing these items would require special conditions, putting further strain on your operational cost and the entire organization.
Seasonal items are another group of goods that fits this category. You don’t want to keep some items for months, seeing as how you have a limited time to sell them off. Therefore, you need to facilitate the process of getting them off the trucks and on the shelves.
Finally, there are some products that are newly launched, which is why they’re currently in such demand. In a lot of scenarios, getting these items to your audience before your competitors can gain you a significant competitive edge. Cross-docking can help you out.
The key thing for you to keep in mind is that if you’re dealing with multiple product types, you may have to use a traditional storage system, as well as cross-docking. Knowing which products should be prioritized for cross-docking is a way to increase the entire system’s efficiency.
Introduction of Technology
There are many systems that can make the management of your cross-docking process a lot quicker and more efficient. Picking the right fleet management software, for instance, can make a world of difference.
While there are a lot of warehouse management tools that you can use, not a lot of them are optimized for cross-docking. Still, with a bit of skill and the right adjustments to the way you’re using the tool, you can use these tools for this particular purpose.
The concept of IoT is one of the best ways to augment your business with technology. This is something that can be especially effective when it comes to your supply chain. Why not use this opportunity to get even further ahead of your competitors.
To get the most of your cross-docking, you need to learn a couple of tricks. First, you need to learn to identify scenarios in which cross-docking is a great idea. Knowing why you do something is a prerequisite to the method’s success.
Second, you need to learn how to organize this system and apply all the most efficient cross-docking practices. Only this way will you be able to unlock the full potential of this system and get all the benefits.