Cross-docking is the method in logistics of moving materials and goods from an incoming truck or train car and loading them directly into outbound vehicles. Effectively it is receiving incoming goods and unloading those and then directly loading them into outgoing vehicles.
The purpose of using cross-docking can be because it helps to sort material that is going to different endpoints or points of consumption. It can also be used to combine different products from different origins into transport vehicles with the same destination.
Originally this was developed in the trucking boom of the early 1930s and 1940s through the USA. Since then it has taken off and has been used in a wide variety of areas such as the military, food products, and e-commerce.
Obviously cross-docking is a quite specific method and generally used by very large organizations that are moving a large variety of goods across vast areas. So cross-docking will not be used by all warehouses or supply chain firms but it is always good to understand when it is needed and when it can be beneficial. Cross-docking can be beneficial when the products are already packaged and are in transport to a particular customer. It can help to use cross-docking methods to make the delivery of the product tot he customer more efficient and faster.
Within food delivery and transportation where it can be time-critical to have the food delivered on time cross-docking can also be used to improve the time of delivery. In general, though using this method within transportation is beneficial to provide a site for product sortation and fast delivery to multiple destinations. Another benefit is by combining smaller product deliveries into one and this lowers the overall costs of transportation and is often referred to as consolidation arrangements. This can also work the other way which is what many local distribution centers do. This is breaking down larger incoming shipments and categorizing products into many smaller means of transport for easier final delivery to the customer. This can be referred to as deconsolidation arrangements.
In summary, cross-docking can work very well if it used in the correct logistics context. Using this method of improving product transportation doesn’t work for every type of product delivery but can provide great benefits in large logistics networks which are covering huge areas.