09.12.2022 - Magazine

Cross-docking – logistics at top speed

Efficient supply chains have become an important growth factor for companies. In addition to smooth processes, the speed of processes is particularly important. Cross-docking, as a special method for handling goods, can achieve significant improvements in the throughput times of goods. The big challenge here is the smooth flow of data and information along the supply chain.

LLP: Lead Logistics Provider

Definition: What is cross-docking?

Cross-docking is a logistical procedure for the handling of goods. In this process, the goods are already pre-commissioned by the supplier or sender. This means that the goods do not have to be stored, but are prepared for direct dispatch to the recipient – the end customer. In the so-called cross-docking distribution terminal, the goods are then assigned to the corresponding outgoing goods without an intermediate step and seamlessly forwarded. Put simply, the items to be shipped (usually) arrive by road transport at a goods-in dock on one side of the cross docking terminal. After docking, the products are unloaded – sorted and checked if necessary – and transported by forklift truck or conveyor belt to the outbound dock. There they are loaded into the appropriate trucks for direct transport to the end customer.

Variants of Cross Docking: Transhipment

In the broadest sense, cross docking replaces the functions and processes in the warehouse (storage, warehousing, order picking). Depending on requirements, other services can also be performed in the cross dock in addition to the pure handling of goods. Three variants of cross docking can be defined:

  1. Single-stage cross docking

The goods have already been picked by the supplier and are transported as a logistical unit to the goods receiving area of the cross docking terminal. There, the goods are handled and then sent directly to the recipient.

    1. Two-stage cross docking

    The two-stage system of cross docking is also called “transshipment system”. Here, the goods are sent unchanged to the transshipment point. At the terminal, they are then picked into new goods units before being transported from there to the various recipients.

      1. Multi-stage cross docking 

      The multi-stage system includes further process steps in the cross-docking process. For example, the goods are not only re-picked at the transhipment point, but further services – so-called value-added services – take place. These include, for example, labelling or quality inspection.

      Logistik mit Höchstgeschwindigkeit

      Logistics without a warehouse: When is cross-docking used?

      In many cases, warehouse logistics is one of the most important stations in the supply chain. It is therefore important to make an informed decision about whether cross docking can increase productivity, costs and customer satisfaction in the company at all. But for some goods, picking, handling and distribution can be realised more efficiently through the cross-docking process. For example, non-preserved or temperature-controlled items such as foodstuffs that need to be transported as quickly as possible are suitable for cross docking. In the same way, already packaged and sorted products that are ready for transport to a specific customer can be transported faster and more efficiently by cross docking. Overall, cross docking is particularly suitable for companies with many incoming and outgoing goods and plannable quantities. This is the case in retail, for example.

      2PL: Second Party Logistics Provider

      Advantages of cross docking

      As an inventory-free distribution method, the overriding goal of cross docking is to replace the warehouse for the corresponding type of goods. Direct handling in the cross dock scores with the following advantages:

      • shorter throughput times
      • on-time delivery
      • minimised storage capacities
      • reduced warehousing costs
      • optimised inventory
      • reduced transport costs

      Logistik mit Höchstgeschwindigkeit

      Smooth flow of information and data as a condition

      In cross docking, the most important thing is a smooth process along the supply chain. To be truly successful, the entire logistics from transport to the IT solution must be coordinated. As a lead logistics provider, Huettemann takes care of all process steps along the supply chain and ensures a coordinated supply chain at all levels. In this way, optimisation opportunities can be precisely identified – including whether cross docking is the better solution than the “warehouse” system in some cases. Huettemann’s supply chain experts identify these and other solutions both in independent supply chain consulting for new customers and in existing supply chain management.

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      In the Huettemann Group we bundle our extensive service portfolio for one goal: to find the perfect, customised logistics solution for you. In addition to our global transport and warehouse services, we offer you numerous logistics services along the entire supply chain. In this way, we develop logistics concepts with added value that suit you.


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      Every industry has its own logistical requirements. As a broadly positioned logistics company, we adapt to the goods flows and wishes of our customers. We go one step further: we become an integral part of your process chain.