What is a cross docking facility? Best Tips and Trick for cross dock

In the import-export industry, the term cross-docking facility is not unfamiliar. It’s the same when it comes to manufacturing firms and many other ones because it helps their supply chain save countless time, shipping costs, and storage costs.

It is undeniable that customers, nowadays, have an increasingly vital role in shaping the value of a business. The progressively fierce competition in the market is the clearest proof of this. Companies are trying their best to attract the attention of consumers, implementing various promotions to create competitive advantages.

So how do you provide benefits to your customers in the context of ever-escalating costs that, in the specific case of today’s post, are inventory costs?

The simplest answer is to use cross-docking, one of the most popular inventory management techniques.

But to implement cross-dock effectively, you’ll have to have a good plan of how it works and how to build a standard cross-dock facility. That is precisely what we will discuss below. So don’t overlook any supportive information for optimizing the location and design of your cross-dock facility in the future.

Let’s dive right in!

What is a cross docking facility

What is a cross-docking facility? What’s its role in the inventory management process?

Let’s get to the concept of cross-docking first. If you regularly follow our blog, you will probably know the basics of it, such as how it works or stages included, etc.

But if you don’t, stay with us. We will explain once again to give you a better look at this topic.

Cross-docking is a form of transporting goods by truck from the dock to the warehouse and circulating to other internal parts, such as factories, retail stores, or directly to customers. In particular, the storage process takes place very quickly or, even some kinds of items skip this step of storage. Hence, this model is run and rotated continuously. It is widely applied in many industries that require the speed in time to move and store goods, specifically we will talk later.

The cross-docking process will begin with loading the cargo from the dock onto inbound trucks, sending it to a non-product-storing distribution center for inspection, sorting, consolidation, and then loading on outbound trucks to send to other parts of the supply chain. The temporary warehouse or the distribution center is referred to as a cross-docking facility. In the supply chain, it is used right after the receipt of goods from the supplier and before the delivery of goods to the consumers, which is the main part helping the goods flow more quickly and logically according to each specific request of the order.

The questions here are: To get an efficient cross-docking facility,…

  • Where should it be constructed?
  • How many inbound and outbound trucks are needed?
  • How should it be designed so that the goods circulate in as little time as possible?

Without researching and planning a specific cross-docking facility, you won’t be able to answer the questions above. Not only do you have difficulty in cross-docking facility design, but you will also have many other problems ahead.

Move to the next section to know what they are.

Complexities of building a cross-docking facility

Resource limitations

Resources here include:

(1) space.

(2) workforce, and. 

(3) material handling equipment.

Firstly, while cross-docking is based on no need for storage of goods, it requires the enterprise to have enough space for the cross-docking terminal. Besides, you will also need space for inbound vehicle parking. Thus, the larger the number of goods is, the more area needed to build the cross-docking facility will be.

Secondly, if you do not have enough trained workforce and drivers, you will not be able to receive and sort goods in a short time to move them to other locations in time. Furthermore, the goods also need to be controlled in terms of quality, so your workers need to be able to perform this task as well.

Finally, to be able to load products on inbound trucks from the dock, move to different sorting areas in the distribution center, and then outbound trucks, the process will require the assistance of the appropriate material handling equipment.

Poor cross-docking facility design and layout

Complexities of building a cross-docking facility

The cross-docking facility design refers to many factors that you will need to consider, such as the position, layout, area, special requirements of the item (frozen, for example), or how far the vehicles are allowed to move, etc. Not only that, but you also have to factor in minimizing all kinds of costs, from transportation, labor to storage expenses, etc., when designing it. On the contrary, a cross-docking design that is not well planned will degrade its efficiency and, at a worse level, cost several times more.

Poor operational competencies and management

Since your products will constantly move from the dock to the end of the journey, the flow of information exchanged among points is not allowed to have any flaws as it will affect the entire process. If you are planning to shift from a traditional warehouse to a new cross-docking facility, you will need to train staff and build a unified, smooth network.

The best design for the cross-dock

The dock doors

For the cross-docking facility to operate efficiently, inbound trucks are assigned to suitable strip doors. It’s similar to outbound trucks parking on the stack doors. As such, the layout of the stack and strip doors when designing the dock is important when it comes to the shortening time and smoothness among the parts of the process.

The distance between the doors also needs to be noted because if it is too short, clogging inside the cross-docking facility is more likely to occur, causing delays and increased parking costs.

Shape matters

If it is a traditional warehouse, you will only have to care about its space and area so that it is large enough to store the goods and suitable for the cost. However, when it comes to cross-docking facilities, their shape matters.


If you build the cross-docking facility in an I shape, which means it is long and narrow, the freight flows will go one straight line from inbound trucks to outbound trucks, thereby saving labor costs. On the other hand, if the cross-dock is larger, the I shape will no longer fit because the total internal travel distance will become longer.

Specifically, if your cross-docking facility has less than 150 doors, the I shape is the best fit. From 150 to 200 doors, the T shape will save you more money. If it has more than 200 doors, the X shape is optimal. Also, the L, U, and H-shape docks are very popular.

Inbound and outbound transportation schedule

The best design for the cross-dock

We all know that outbound trucks will not be able to deliver goods if the inbound trucks do not arrive at the cross-dock terminal. If you schedule these two types of vehicles well, you can achieve the two biggest goals of cross-docking, i.e., maximizing productivity while minimizing costs. Outbound and inbound trucks will operate in the correct order, minimizing alignment and congestion in the dock.

Note that you’ll need to take account of truckload, transit times, vehicle waiting time, and factors that can affect the available schedules for the trucks, including weather, traffic congestion, or supplier errors, etc.

5 Tips and tricks to maximize cross-dock facility efficiency

Use conveyors

Investing in machinery is never redundant, especially conveyors. Using a conveyor system can help you reduce labor costs and handle your goods more accurately. The effort of unloading products to inbound trucks and loading them onto outbound trucks will also be reduced, making your employees happier.

Keep the dock area tidy

In a constant and speedy environment, keeping the cross-docking facility clean and tidy is essential. It will keep things from messing around and make sure everything is safe in the dock. Especially if you work in the F&B industry, it is even more strictly required.

Use enough the space needed

The space of the dock space should not be too large for you to save personnel costs and waiting time for outbound trucks. Besides, as we have said, the gap between the dock doors should also not be too close to avoid congestion.

Organize the shipment-staging area

You need to organize logical regions so that the biggest shipments will be listed at the closest doors, while further doors will be for smaller shipments.

Get the support of technology

In our experience, managing large quantities of goods by technology and machines will be more efficient in terms of time and data. Besides, the uniformity of cargo information between locations will also help the process operate most smoothly.

5 Tips and tricks to maximize cross-dock facility efficiency

Final thought

The benefits of cross-dock for the enterprise are obvious, but getting a cross-docking facility that improves performance depends on your planning and designing capabilities. Hope that our guide on the cross-dock facility will help you somewhat reduce the initial risks and costs of building it. However, if you still have any questions about cross-docking vs dropshipping, don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our blog. Please like and share the post if it’s useful to your current problems. Thank you.


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