Logistics Wordbook

Cross Docking

Logistics Glossary

What is Cross Docking?

Cross docking is a type of order picking in which the goods are distributed directly to the user without going through a previous storage period . It matters little whether the products are raw materials, finished items or components destined for factories, physical stores or end customers. Cross docking can adapt to any of these scenarios.

Following the cross docking strategy , the goods remain in the warehouse for a very short time after they are received. In addition, it is not placed on the racks, so it is not necessary to carry out the picking process . Therein lies the origin of the term in English, as the operation simply requires crossing the docks of the warehouse ( cross the docks ).

Let’s see in detail what this logistical activity is for and the most common types of cross docking .


cross docking


How do cross docking operations work ?

In a traditional supply chain , the warehouse represents a crucial link connecting suppliers (supply) to consumers (demand). This flow is discontinuous , since supply and demand are not synchronized and the connecting link is based on the warehouse figure. In it, the goods are stored until demand is activated .

However, the advancement of information systems and software applied to logistics has given rise to increasingly agile and integrated supply chains. In this context, cross docking is popularized , since an essential requirement for it to work successfully is the perfect coordination of all those involved : suppliers, stockists, transporters and end users.

Even within the installation itself, it is necessary to have a powerful warehouse management system (WMS) as an essential tool to effectively respond to the requirements of cross docking .

Cross docking phases

In general, we can conclude that the main phases of the cross docking operation are:

Types of cross docking

The cross docking activity can be carried out with different load units (pallets, boxes, kits…). There are different ways to organize the cross docking typologies , but if we follow the steps required to carry it out, we can highlight:

1. Pre-distributed cross docking

Pre-distributed represents the most basic cross docking model . In it, the load units are already prepared and organized by the supplier considering the final demand. Therefore, the cross docking operation is “reduced” when receiving the goods and dispatching them, requiring little intervention from the warehouse workers.

2. Consolidated cross docking

In a consolidated cross docking scheme , the goods must be handled to be adapted to the requirements of the end customer. Soon the received cargo units are transferred to a cross docking area or packaging area to be examined and adapted to the orders demanded.

This can mean organizing pallets from smaller load units or the other way around: dividing merchandise into individual packages or product kits.

3. Hybrid cross docking

This is a more complex type of cross docking that consists of preparing orders in the packaging area with a part of the goods coming from the trucks received and with another part of the goods stored in the installation. In such cases, incoming goods can be moved to a temporary storage area instead of cross docking directly .

It is a more flexible type of cross docking , which allows for a greater variety of cases to be dealt with, but which also requires effective coordination of all tasks linked to this operation.

Cross docking is not a new concept, but many companies are making use of it to meet the needs of an omnichannel supply chain . In any case, before adding it to our order picking strategies it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of cross docking and the situations where it has proven to be a successful tactic. Only then will we be able to assess the suitability of this practice for our company.

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