August 2010 | How-To | Ten Tips

Enhancing Cross-docking Efficiency

Tags: Warehousing, Cross-Docking

Cross-docking operations increase throughput at critical distribution points by unloading shipments from an inbound trailer or railcar directly onto outbound transport. This practice eliminates the need to store freight.

To improve throughput, you must minimize travel, footsteps, material handling distance, and freight touches. Discover how to increase cross-docking efficiency with these tips from Nelson Bettencourt, senior vice president, domestic products, at Houston, Texas-based global logistics company CEVA Logistics.

1. Handle each piece of freight only once. Moving the shipment directly from the source to the outbound load area eliminates wasted effort and time. As an added benefit, reduced handling also minimizes opportunities for product damage.

2. Make dock layout as compact as possible. Even if extra room exists, you do not want to increase travel time by using space that is not absolutely necessary.

3. Line up outbound loads effectively. Outbound load staging areas should be organized with the heaviest outbound loads on either side of the inbound freight source location. The next heaviest points should be just outside of the heaviest, and so on to the lightest outbound loads.

4. Consider timing. Just because an inbound truck arrives does not mean that it must be processed immediately. Work backward, loading the earliest outbound trailers first. Determine which inbound shipments to process based on the outbound schedule.

5. Keep freight visible. Store freight that won’t go out in the current load directly behind the staging area so dock workers can quickly and easily locate shipments.

6. Always review the inbound product quantity. Sometimes the heaviest load out from a particular vendor will be what is normally a light load out and you need to adjust an unload location for a short time. One of these adjustments can save 25 to 40 extended distance trips.

7. Match staff to shipment volume. Track direct labor productivity numbers along with pre-alerts of freight due to arrive. This can help create more efficient worker schedules.

8. Configure TMS properly. For transportation management systems, properly configuring shipping schedules, routing, and key performance indicator measurements creates benefits such as route and load optimization.

9. Keep the dock floor clean and organized. An orderly loading dock is imperative to maximize forklift speed without sacrificing safety. Minimizing the amount of freight on the dock provides forklift operators easy access to loading doors.

10. Use materials handling tools to speed movement. A section of gravity conveyor will allow cartons to travel directly from the unloading trailer to the loading trailer, eliminating travel time and extra handling.