Cross-docking is a procedure where goods are transferred from inbound to outbound transport without a company handling or storing those goods. Cross-docking methods include continuous consolidation and de-consolidation. There are also two types of cross-docking according to whether the customer is known or unknown before goods are distributed. Cross-docking has obvious benefits for virtually any industry, but it is especially useful in food and beverage, retail and eCommerce, and chemicals.
- Understanding cross-docking
- Cross-docking types
- Cross-docking methods
- Where is cross-docking most beneficial?
- Costco cross-docking case study
- Walmart cross-docking case study
- Connected Business Concepts
Cross-docking is a procedure where goods are transferred from inbound to outbound transport without a company handling or storing those goods.
These costs arise from warehouse maintenance, storage, labor, transportation, insurance, depreciation, and shrinkage, to name a few.
This is where cross-docking can be useful. The strategy saves time and money since products are transferred from inbound to outbound transport with minimal storage and handling on the part of the business.
Cross-docking normally occurs in a custom warehouse or docking terminal that is partitioned into inbound and outbound lanes.
There are two main types of cross-docking:
Where the goods are unloaded, sorted and reassembled according to predetermined distribution instructions.
That is, the customer is known before the goods are loaded into outbound transport.
Where the goods are held in the cross-docking facility for a little longer while a customer is identified based on demand.
While post-distribution is not as efficient, both retailers and suppliers benefit from the extra time to make smarter, more profitable decisions on where to send their inventory.
Here is a look at a few of the ways cross-docking can be performed:
The most basic form of cross-docking with a non-stop and direct flow of inventory that moves from inbound to outbound shipping via the cross-docking area.
This is an ideal method for when the customer is known and many trucks are arriving at different times of the day.
Where multiple smaller shipments are consolidated into one larger shipment before it is sent out.
Goods awaiting consolidation are stored in a designated area and do not need to be warehoused in the interim.
The opposite of consolidation where a large load is broken down into multiple smaller loads such as the movement of goods from railcars to trucks.
De-consolidation is often used in direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses because it tends to be more efficient.
Where is cross-docking most beneficial?
The benefits of cross-docking as an operational system can be had in almost any industry. However, it is particularly important in the following industries:
Food and beverage
Restaurants, for example, require a continuous and reliable stream of goods to operate efficiently.
Cross-docking also reduces the likelihood that foods will spoil in transit since they are not stored for long periods.
Retail and eCommerce
Companies like Walmart and Amazon have redefined consumer expectations around availability, convenience, and price.
Cross-docking can move items quickly and reduce instances of low or no inventory.
The shipment of chemicals can be expensive and dangerous and as a result, inventory should be handled as little as possible.
This makes chemical shipments ideally suited to cross-docking.
Costco cross-docking case study
Costco generally sells inventory even before they’ve paid it.
As pointed out in its annual report:
We buy most of our merchandise directly from manufacturers and route it to cross-docking consolidation points (depots) or directly to our warehouses. Our depots receive large shipments from manufacturers and quickly ship these goods to individual warehouses. This process creates freight volume and handling efficiencies, eliminating many costs associated with traditional multiple-step distribution channels.
Walmart cross-docking case study
For instance, in 2018, approximately 78% of Walmart U.S.’s purchases of store merchandise were shipped through 157 distribution facilities located throughout the U.S.
The remaining merchandise gets shipped directly from suppliers.
Through these facilities, Walmart processes and distributes both imported and domestic products to the operating units of the Walmart International segment.
As Walmart explains, shipments typically spend less than 24 hours in a cross-dock facility, and sometimes less than an hour.
Sam’s Club uses a combination of our private truck fleet, as well as common carriers, to transport non-perishable merchandise from distribution facilities to clubs.
The segment contracts with common carriers to transport perishable grocery merchandise from distribution facilities to clubs.
Sam’s Club ships merchandise purchased by members on samsclub.com and through its mobile commerce applications by a number of methods from its dedicated eCommerce fulfillment centers and other distribution centers.
Connected Business Concepts
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