So what is cross-docking? Simply speaking it is transporting goods to a transit warehouse, repacking them and then dividing them between vehicles which will transport them further. What makes cross-docking different from other handling operations is the absence of long-term storage of goods in the warehouse - they are loaded on waiting vehicles on the fly.
A combination of cross-docking with good route planning allows for minimizing distances covered by transport vehicles. Rather than delivering shipments to various places to consignees, they deliver them to a cross-dock warehouse and then pick up cargo going in the opposite direction. Less fuel is used, less CO2 emitted, and money is saved. Also warehousing time is cut to minimum so there are quite a lot of savings.
Cross-docking enjoys great popularity everywhere where efficient distribution of goods is a must, i.e. manufacturing companies, retail chains, etc. More and more and more often, however, companies decide to base their whole supply chain on cross-docking, staring from delivery of raw materials and half-finished products to transport of finished goods to retail outlets. Nevertheless, good organization of the cross-docking process is not easy and it requires knowledge of warehouse logistics.
SCALE OF OPERATIONS
One could say that a cross-dock warehouse, more commonly known as a cross-dock, is a place where many vehicles bring shipments and pick up others. And although the very concept seems simple, the real challenge is achieving the appropriate scale of operations. And this can be huge, especially when it comes to international transport.
For instance: in September Raben Logistics Polska is opening a new cross-dock warehouse near Legnica. The location will service transports to and from Germany, among others, as well as the Southern direction. In order to do that it has to be large enough. In this case, it will be a complex of warehouses with the area of 20,000 square meters, with 7,000 square meters of cross-dock and 72 loading and unloading ramps!
Only when we realize the size of this location and the volume of goods which go through this place, will we be able to understand the challenge of optimisation of handling operations in the cross-docking process.
CROSS-DOCKING HAS MANY FACES
The general term of cross-docking covers several types of processes. The most common are:
- cross-docking of full pallets usually used for bulky products. Full homogeneous pallets are dispatched directly to the consignee (e.g. a shop).
- cross-docking of orders picked by the consignor. This method is based on picking and sending goods by the manufacturer directly to consignees (the manufacturer must know their individual demands).
- cross-docking with picking in the cross-dock. Full homogeneous pallets are sent to a Distribution Centre where products are picked and packed according to specific orders (it is necessary to have a certain stock surplus usually used on the next day).
All of these processes take place simultaneously. And if we add that Raben Logistics Polska has 26 cross-dock warehouses in Poland and the whole Raben Group has over 80 in Europe, the challenge of coordinating work of the whole network will become fully visible.