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Cross-docking, long a feature of warehouses looking to unload their items more quickly, can bring a lot of convenience to your warehouse – if you implement it right.

The purpose of cross-docking is to allow you to move products more quickly to their destination, by reducing (or eliminating) the amount of time they actually spend on your warehousing shelves. By doing so, you can fulfill orders more quickly and reduce any potential downtime caused by processing or handling, making it an ideal solution for popular items or warehouses that have a short turnaround time for overnight or 2-day deliveries.

However, cross-docking can be a tricky method to implement correctly. Due to the impact it can have on your overall inventory and handling processes, you may find yourself running into issues with your cross-docking, or arriving at cross purposes (pun not intended) with the rest of your warehousing routines when trying to add cross-docking to your repertoire.

If your warehouse is implementing cross-docking and you want to avoid running into issues with other warehouse processes, here’s a few ways you can streamline your cross-docking for greater efficiency and less downtime:


How to Streamline & Implement Cross-Docking

Understand the impact cross-docking will have on your traffic

Traffic management in the warehouse is one of the trickiest things to get right, yet one of the most important – and cross-docking can have a surprisingly large impact on your traffic flow.

Depending on the position of your docks, you may need to clear a better path for your newly-arrived items to take between areas. Try to create a path between your warehouse shelves that allows for items to move from dock-to-dock (or even truck-to-truck) more quickly, but focus on making sure your standard warehouse procedures aren’t disrupted too heavily. If your cross-docked items are causing hangups in your other picking processes, it may be time to start relocating shelves, or shifting traffic in a different way.


Identify which cross-docking method you use

Cross-docking sounds fairly simple on the surface, but it can actually come in many different forms, and knowing exactly which method you practice can save you a lot of trouble. Unless your warehouse is part of the manufacturing chain (and deals in individual parts, not completed products), you’re likely using one of three methods:

  • Future cross-docking, the method of staging product between receiving and shipping for a shorter amount of time than the items being stored on your shelves in regular inventory
  • Distribution cross-docking, involving the receipt of full unit pallets and shipping them either as the same pallet, or as unit loads composed of sorted pallets
  • Current cross-docking, in which material moves directly from receiving to shipping with no staging in between


Focus on cross-docking the items you need to move most quickly

The temptation to cross-dock as many items as possible to save time may be strong at first, but this can actually overly-complicate your cross docking process over time. Focus on items that need to get to their destination more quickly such as perishable items (especially frozen/refrigerated items, if you don’t have the necessary cold storage available) and time-sensitive shipments, and leave everything else to the normal methods of shipping and storage.


Provide staging as needed

As mentioned above, many warehouses that utilize cross-docking use the future cross-docking method, where items are stored for a much shorter period of time before being placed into outbound shipping. If this is the case for your warehouse, one of the biggest mistakes you could make is to keep your cross docked item storage in the same area as your standard items. Set up some wire shelves, metal shelves, and workstations in an easily accessible area to keep your cross-docked items separate enough to make sure they can be prepped for shipping as fast as possible.

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