Maximising Cross Dock Efficiency
While cross docking is a very simple concept, it can be surprisingly difficult to execute successfully. With no stored inventory on hand to buffer against supply chain interruption, operators must have complete confidence in the availability and quality of the goods to be handled through a cross dock facility.
In most cases, there will be more than one supply chain company involved in a cross docking arrangement, so partnerships must be managed with care and precision.
Without effective communication and tight management of the cross dock location, synchronisation of inbound and outbound shipments can easily fall over, leaving customers waiting on delayed deliveries and operators incurring up the excessive costs of firefighting.
How to Keep a Cross Dock Running Smoothly
The following six tips will help you to organize people, processes, and facilities to prevent sub-par cross dock efficiency from hampering your logistics operation:
#1: Use conveyors if you can.
Gravity rollers or a similar conveyor system can greatly reduce the need to handle goods. They should be used if possible to move pallets or cartons between unloading and loading doors in your cross dock facility.
#2: Keep on top of housekeeping:
Your teams can’t maintain maximum cross dock efficiency if fork trucks are impeded by clutter on the dock. Keeping the dock area clean and tidy will maximise safety as well as operational efficiency.
#3: Don’t use more dock space than necessary:
The larger your cross dock space, the more travel time will be expended getting goods from the inbound to outbound trucks or trailers. Utilizing a compact floor area will help you to increase cross dock efficiency, as long as you follow tip #2.
#4: Choose a location with plenty of yard space:
Cross docking generally requires some staging of inbound and outbound trailers, so yard space must be adequate to hold the maximum amount of trailers you might expect to queue up.
#5: Organise the shipment-staging area:
The ideal cross-dock configuration has the goods-in and goods-out doors on the same dock, with goods-in doors at the centre. Goods-out should be set up so that the largest outbound shipments are loaded at the closest doors on either side of goods-in. The furthest doors from goods-in should be reserved for the smallest outbound shipments.
#6: Make use of technology:
Ideally you will want your cross docking operation under the control of a WMS and/or TMS solution. You will also want to be sure your staff can receive advanced alerts of inbound goods via shipment notifications from suppliers. The more you can automate and make use of supply chain IT systems, the more you can optimise cross dock efficiency.
Finally: The Importance of a Great Cross Dock Team
Although you’ll have no picking operation, cross docks can be very busy workplaces. Trucks must be unloaded and loaded efficiently, goods may have to be staged, marshalled, and sorted, and somebody needs to ensure inbound and outbound vehicles are spotted at the right doors.
If anything, you should hand-pick the best supervisory staff and warehouse operatives, due to the high level of synchronisation required in cross docking. If you put a good team in place and follow the six tips in this guide, you should have all you need for a cross dock operation that truly benefits your supply chain streamlining and speed.