Crossdocking represents a major advance in how goods get moved. It is a supply chain process that reduces warehouse time, lowering costs and speeding deliveries.
Very rarely do goods arrive at their end destination on the same truck or rail car that took them from the factory where they were produced. Instead, as the product goes from place to place, it gets unloaded and reloaded multiple times. Usually, there is a waiting period between unload and reload during which the goods sit in a warehouse.
Crossdocking eliminates the wait.
In a crossdock facility, two sets of doors literally sit across from each other. That’s where the term comes from. A worker could drive a forklift into one truck, remove a pallet, do a u-turn, and place it directly into another truck. With crossdocking, goods go directly from an inbound truck to an outbound truck, with little or no waiting.
Including crossdocking in your logistics system brings three key benefits:
- The waiting time that a traditional warehouse would introduce is eliminated, potentially shaving days or weeks off of delivery times. In a crossdock warehouse, when goods go in, they go out.
- The labor hours required to take an item off of a truck, log it, shelve it, track it, then take it off of the shelf and put it into an outbound truck are eliminated. Instead, workers simply take the item from one truck to another.
- The risk of loss and damage that comes into play whenever an item gets warehoused gets eliminated. As long as the items survive shipping and the reloading process, they are not in a position to suffer harm.
A crossdock facility doesn’t just take items out of one truck by the truckload and load them in another truck by the truckload. During the short time that the goods are outside of a truck, they can be reconfigured. This means that, for instance, if a facility receives a a shipment of large flat screen television sets, a shipment of sofas and a shipment of living room tables, it could take those three items and load up three outbound trucks with a blend of all three items, fully stocking stores for a “new living room promotion.”
Crossdocking isn’t a simple process. For it to work at maximum efficiency, it requires perfect timing since if the outbound truck isn’t there, the items will end up having to be warehoused. The warehouse staff will also need to be able to move quickly and carefully to avoid making loading mistakes or inflicting damage during the unload-reload process. The 3PL behind the process also needs to carefully plan outbound transportation and the mix of items that get loaded to avoid sending out partial loads.
Done right, crossdocking can improve your company’s logistics. Clark Logistics Services operates crossdock facilities in and around St. Louis, one of America’s leading transportation markets. Contact us to learn our our 3PL services can improve your company’s supply chain efficiency.