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What is Cross Docking (And How Does it Help Your Business?)

A loaded pallet sits on a jack ready for cross docking
What is Cross Docking (And How Does it Help Your Business?)
The world of warehousing and distribution is often fast-paced, with the goal of quickly transferring freight. It takes a good logistics plan to make it all happen smoothly and keep everything moving. So what is cross docking and is it a good logistics solution for your business? In short, cross dock
By Transload Services USA
 | October 21, 2019
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Last Modified: November 10, 2022

The world of warehousing and distribution is often fast-paced, with the goal of quickly transferring freight. It takes a good logistics plan to make it all happen smoothly and keep everything moving. So what is cross docking and is it a good logistics solution for your business?

In short, cross docking takes shipments from inbound trucks and loads them onto waiting outgoing truck trailers. There is usually a short turnaround time for this process to occur from the time the inbound shipment arrives at the warehouse dock on a truck and is then loaded on an outbound truck.

Here’s a closer look at this niche process in warehousing and how it can help your business.

A cross dock warehouse employee looks up at shelves of product

What is Cross Docking?

Supply chain managers researching what type of logistics solution may be a good fit for your business, a cross dock terminal could be the answer. Let’s start with a definition of what is cross docking to make sure we are on the same page.

Cross docking takes goods arriving at the docking terminal from the vehicle and moves the shipment to an outbound truck for delivery. In essence, this process streamlines how your freight gets from the production floor to the end user.

It typically involves goods placed on pallets that can easily be moved by a forklift from the receiving dock to another dock to the outbound truck. It means less handling of the freight and eliminates the need for storage in the fulfillment warehouse. The ultimate goal is to get shipments in and out of the warehouse in a minimum time period.

Cross Docking Versus Traditional Warehouse

Many are familiar with the long-term practice of storing boxes of inventory in a traditional warehouse awaiting the fulfillment of an order when placed. In this type of traditional warehouse, a large amount of space is needed to accommodate the items prior to shipping. And while that method may have served a purpose for certain businesses, for others it may not have been a cost-effective option.

The switch to utilizing a cross dock warehouse means the shipper saves time in getting products to customers. A key to success is the use of technology in every aspect of the process to track shipments in real-time. Businesses are able to see exactly what is moving through the warehouse and adjust shipment levels as needed.

In making the case for cross docking versus a traditional warehouse, it comes down to shorter shipping times, cutting costs and a more efficient process. Cross docking provides all those factors and allows shippers flexibility to adjust volumes as needed based on demand.

Need to cross dock your temperature-controlled cargo? Check out our article on refrigerated cross docking.

Types of Cross Docking

Businesses can choose which type of cross dock solution fits their needs. There are several options based on the industry sector and other factors.

A couple of cross docking types include:

Retail – is a booming niche as online shopping explodes in popularity and retailers must find efficient ways to deliver goods. It means a fast turnaround time from when an order is placed to arrival at a customer’s door. Cross docking allows a bulk item to arrive inbound and be consolidated and routed to outbound trucks.

Distributor – an assortment of inbound products arrives from several vendors and is then grouped into a single shipment for an outbound truck for delivery.

Find out how cross docking compares to other services, like transloading and break bulk shipping.

A row of semi trucks sit outside a cross dock loading bay

Cross Dock Goods

The nature of a cross dock facility is to get things in and out of the warehouse facility quickly for delivery to the customer. However, all things may not be the right fit for this specialized service. Suitable shipments for cross docking vary and tend to include products that have a limited shelf life or are marked for expedited delivery.

Popular items for cross docking include:

  • Parts
  • Perishable items
  • Pre-packaged and sorted items
  • Large quantities of products

For instance, eCommerce businesses are good candidates to employ cross dock services.

Consider Cross Docking

Now that we’ve taken time to learn more about cross docking in warehousing, let’s discuss how it can help your business.

A number of things should be considered when it comes to cross dock operations. One of the most important is inventory control. Any business looking to outsource cross docking services should make sure their products are tracked accurately through each step of the process. Starting at the point of inbound arrival in the warehouse to being loaded on outbound trucks; cross docking should be well planned to make sure nothing is mixed up. A mistake with inventory management can delay a shipment and may ultimately disrupt the overall supply chain.

Technology plays a major role in this warehouse service when it comes to inventory. Businesses that are able to integrate with the warehouse to keep tabs on shipments will benefit from the service. Others who have lagged behind in updating technology and tracking goods may find it overwhelming to remain as competitive.

Want to know more about the costs involved in cross docking? Check out our article on cross docking rates.

Benefits of Cross Docking

The list of benefits of cross docking are many with savings being one of the major positives. Now, who doesn’t want to save money? The bottom line for business owners centers on showing a profit without spending too much upfront.

The benefits add up for cross docking beyond saving money to include:

  • Eliminates the need to store inventory in the warehouse
  • Reduces material handling
  • Quickly process inbound and outbound shipments
  • Ability to consolidate LTL shipments
  • Reduces labor cost and transportation costs
  • Utilize electronic tracking for inventory management
  • Shipping time is faster

A business can likely realize the benefits of cross docking in a short amount of time. And implementing cross docking into the distribution channel can be a seamless process. Discover what is cross docking and the many advantages the service can provide to businesses.

A pallet jack is loaded with boxes

Help Your Business with Transload Services USA

At Transload Services USA, powered by R+L Global Logistics, we know that when you need a distribution solution, you need it done right and you need it done quickly. Our logistics professionals are ready to assist you in finding the right warehouse solution for your shipments.

In addition to cross dock, we also offer:

Let our team provide an overview of what cross docking is and how your business can benefit. Give us a call at (866) 757-1109 to work with an agent on options to suit your needs.

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