Multiple-touch: Products are received and staged on the dock, then reconfigured for shipment and loaded outbound directly from the warehouse dock. This method offers the greatest opportunity for customization and end-user value-add.
Cross Dock is Hard for Manufacturers, Says Jim Barnes
Traditional cross docking, in which inbound goods from suppliers or manufacturing plants is moved straight to trucks or staging areas for later shipment without being put away, is hard for manufacturers for a number of reasons, says Jim Barnes, president of consulting firm enVista, who’s company has helped many retailers implement cross dock/flow though processes.
“Very few manufacturers are doing cross docking today,” Barnes told SCDigest, adding that “I think it is important that you define cross-docking for the audience. I see a lot of cross docking and flow through for retailers, but flow through is straight forward in retail because order integrity (customer, SKU, and quantity) is not as critical.”
Barnes added that he sees that whatever cross docking is done by consumer goods companies, for example, tends usually to be “opportunistic-based upon a back-order or if they know in advance of an inbound shipment that will be used for a large order. But it is rarely a systemic approach.”
Barnes says there are both technology and operational barriers to cross docking in manufacturing.
On the systems side, Barnes says that many ERP or order management systems “do not send the sales order down to the WMS unless the inventory is physically in the building. In the sales order interface, there is typically a business rule that does not allow the order or order line to be sent to the WMS, hence the WMS has no record that there is actual demand.”
He also says that many warehouse management systems require a physical order prior to “hard” inventory allocation. Additionally, many WMS solutions need to first perform “wave” planning and wave release in order to hard allocate the inventory – making it hard to include in-transit goods or those in trailers in the yard.
Barnes also notes, as SCDigest has many times in previous years, that effective cross docking generally requires detailed, advanced ship notices from suppliers – a step still missing for most manufacturers, as we have noted many times at SCDigest.
“Maybe we are looking at the problem from the wrong angle,” Barnes adds. “Instead of looking at customer order flow, perhaps we should be looking at purchase order flow - what I call PO Flow Management - providing visibility of inbound inventory to the OMS/ERP and then based upon ship dates of the order and inbound receipt date making a hard match.”
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