5 Absolutely Effective Ways to Maximize Cross-docking Performance

Customers always demand good products with fast delivery and lower price. Are they acting irrationally? Unfortunately, they are not. That’s why logistics managers always on a mission to find a better and faster supply chain strategy along with solutions to cut down all kinds of supply chain costs.

Fear not, logistics soldiers. You may already know that cross-docking is one of the best solutions for your supply chain strategy. Efficient cross-docking helps deliver your products to customers much faster while saves you a lot of money with little to no warehouse storage.

Benefits of cross-docking

Benefits of cross-docking – 2011 Cross-Docking Trends Report [1]

But do you really know how to boost up your supply chain and warehouse management at its full speed with cross-docking yet? In this article, let’s walk through 5 practical and easy-to-follow tips to improve your cross-docking system and be proud of your expert logistics management performance.

1. Automate your warehouse management and supply chain process

Cross-docking is all about moving an inbound shipment to an outbound shipment FAST, therefore, automated material handling tools and digital logistics software are crucial for cross-docking operation.

These automated tools push the product delivery process forward to create a fast delivery flow. Not just fast, these tools are suitable for operating many kinds of products, from grocery, foods to fashion, or high-end digital ones. Hence, they make cross-docking practical for various industries.

That’s not all. Reducing manual labor force, filling store shelves more easily and effectively, having higher accuracy hence reducing time handling products… – you can achieve them all with the smart use of an automated cross-docking toolset.

Consider adding these automated supply chain weapons to your system:

  • Excellent route optimization software for advanced shipment notices, automatically real-time fleet tracking, and optimizing delivery route (vRoute is one of the very few route optimization software with cross-docking support)
  • A series of conveyors, crane, pallet, or carts to help you quickly receive, sort, and set up different product shipments
  • Barcode printers/scanners for accurate and timely product distribution to retailers – by just one scan you know which package goes to which location

2. Work on a dynamic cross-docking plan

When working on a cross-docking system, you’ll see that the uncertainty always exists. Trucks may not arrive in time for unloading shipments. There’ll be changing demands from suppliers or retailers, broken packages while unloading, or other unexpected scenarios.

Cross-docking scenario
Cross-docking scenario

(Image source)

Don’t just rely on one single plan when processing cross-docking – even that plan is still running smoothly. Cross-docking is about distribution on demand for customer-compliant products. So, it’s more effective to act promptly according to the real-time status and updates of the whole cross-docking process.

That is to say, you’d better off planning a dynamic cross-docking plan based on predicting customers’ demands, your product’s quantity/availability and real-time report of your supply chains. For the latter, utilizing technology and automated tools like in #1 will do the job for you.

3. Pay attention to facility design

Cross-docking requires the facility to be able to support the cross-docking process – which needs enough space, no chunks on the way, and optimal layout. For example, if the cross-docking facility is only capable of accommodating a couple of trucks at once, it’s impossible to process unloading/loading shipments effectively. Or if it’s unnecessarily large, you’ll waste more time moving back and forth. In Transportation Science by John Bartholdi and Kevin Gue [2], the following facility layout design is optimal for space, distance and cost-reducing in cross-docking:

I-shaped cross docking terminal is the best for terminal with less than 150 doors

I-shaped cross-docking terminal is the best for a terminal with less than 150 doors, while T-shaped cross-docking terminal is the best for a terminal with 150-200 doors

X-shaped cross-docking terminal is the best for terminal with over 200 doors
X-shaped cross-docking terminal is the best for a terminal with over 200 doors

Make sure your storage is compact, well-organized, and clear so there’s no stumble in between the product flow throughout your warehouse. A truck loading/unloading point, it needs to be spacious enough for truck loading and unloading.

Additionally, the location of the cross-docking terminal should minimize the product delivering time between cross-docking terminal and suppliers/retailers. Hence, locate your facilities close to high-volume locations so you can shorten the transportation distance. If you can shorten the distance of your product travels after being cross-docked, the costs of short-haul delivery miles and freight will be greatly reduced too.

4. Team up like “close friends”


Cross-docking communication
Cross-docking communication

Believe that you’re having a great team. With the constant sharing of trusted information, clear communication, practicing confidence in the quality of goods and in product availability… all of these make your cross-docking successful. So, “close friends” here means a close relationship with all supply chain partners as well as your members. Be so close that you always know what’s up with your partners/members, and you can trust them with the given information. Unable to do so will easily lead to cross-docking failure.

To accomplish the precise flow of information between different people in different delivery stages with sufficient speed, it’s best to rely on automated tracking and communication tools. For example, with vRoute – a live fleet tracking tool, you know how much labor needed for the arriving freight. You can easily know if the truck is arriving on time or not to prepare for the next action. From this, you can create more efficient worker schedules.

5. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

Synchronized teamwork, precise cross-docking execution, fast delivery flow, or good customer service…they don’t happen after one magic night but with great effort in improving as well as flexible customization to real-life statistics. Just don’t sit back your chair and relax over the same old cross-docking plan. Open all of the automated tools you use for cross-docking, gather all the reports, and keep evaluating your current performances to design the best cross-docking scenarios for your business.

Wrapping up

“We touch a package twice. We touch it at unloading and again at load, that’s it.” – FedEx Ground’s Managing Hub Director. Undoubtedly, cross-docking simplifies warehouse management as well as supply chain strategy. Plan your cross-docking system wisely and you don’t have to worry much about your product’s delivery flow because both the unnecessary product handling and the cost of product storage are cut down effectively.

What cross-docking practice that works for you? Share with us by commenting below!


[1] 2011 Cross-Docking Trends Report by Saddle Creek Corporation, page 5

[2] Transportation Science, John Bartholdi and Kevin Gue, 2004

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