Digitally accelerate cross-docking

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Stacked packages stand on pallets in a warehouse

Cross-docking is one of the most important core processes that a freight forwarder does – and makes the freight forwarder irreplaceable in logistics. Freight forwarders consolidate packages for transport. They have to do this efficiently, particularly when handling general cargo, if they want to reap benefits as well. Luckily, they can get high-quality support from digital, dynamic processes.

Everything is tightly organised in general cargo transports:

  • Clear definition of services
  • Truck fleets for local and long-distance transport
  • Pickup and delivery of goods
  • Exchange of pallets
  • Handling of goods

This is the only way for the networks to transport shipments throughout Germany, including overnight delivery. It is an important distribution service in industry and commerce. For the partners in the systems, on the other hand, it is often a major challenge. They have only a few hours to transfer the goods from one means of transport to another. That's not much time to perform all organisational tasks and physically handle the goods at the warehouse. These companies need all the processes to be smoothly integrated with one another. Continuous process optimisation is essential, especially as customers ship larger and larger volumes. It is particularly important to optimise vehicle utilisation and use these scarce means of transport as productively as possible. That requires the use of a digital solution that automatically adapts service plans and processes to day-to-day production demands.

Data analysis: the basis for cross-docking

Companies can enjoy all the benefits of a cross-docking software solution as soon as current order data is entered in the system. The software helps to assign warehouse doors and zones in the handling area based on the quantities scheduled for each route. This shortens forklift routes within the warehouse and thus speeds up line-level handling. In addition, the application can directly assign special shipments to specific bays for storage. These packages cannot be cross-docked in daily operations because they have to be announced first or delivered on a special day. Separating out these packages enables faster cross-docking. Proper zoning makes it easier for loading personnel to find their way around and locate packages as quickly as possible. As the name "groupage" suggests, these workers have to quickly negotiate a wide variety of goods.

Stay informed at the control centre

A digital cross-docking system also allows work to be managed more precisely at the control centre. Using this type of software, warehouse managers can assign tasks to employees in clearly defined areas, where they receive instructions from an app on their mobile device. This kind of support is particularly beneficial for temporary workers. Managing spaces right down to level of individual shipments and packages makes it easier to track goods' location. The control centre and employees equipped with mobile devices can then locate a package without having to embark on a long search. However, if the package location is not obvious at first glance, they can access footage from the video search system in the app and compare the images, right then and there, to the actual goods in the warehouse.

Software and apps ensure flexibility in cross-docking

Digital solutions give freight forwarders new scope in their warehouse processes. The software optimises organisation and routes, helps warehouse managers perform their tasks and supplements their professional expertise. At the same time, the apps support new capabilities. For example, multiple devices can work in the same process and expedite the process of unloading a truck that has arrived late. They also offer the option to quickly capture data on incoming shipments without referring back to EDI transmissions. They just need photos of the package and the address label, which are transferred directly to the office. The packages can then be barcoded from a continuous roll at the same time. The software then independently recognises consecutive package numbers in a shipment for the same address. In addition, the app's scan function also enables central incoming and outgoing management in emergency scenarios. To do this, the shipment data is synchronised with the shipping alliance's central platform instead of the transport management system (TMS). This means that both the freight forwarder and the general cargo network can continue their operational activities without any restrictions. Other features supplement the core functionality of a modern IT solution:

  • Damage to packages documented directly in the app on the mobile device
  • Automatic generation of shift reports
  • Vehicles on the freight forwarder's site are guided to gates and rest parking areas

The cross-docking software solution can also receive current status data from the trucks' telematics apps on the estimated time of arrival (ETA) and include it in real-time planning.


Digitalised cross-docking combines process improvements

Modern software solutions for cross-docking integrate many physical processes into the freight forwarding data flow and enable a new level of agility with quantity-based warehouse mapping and route optimisation, software-based employee management, research and documentation functions as well as automatic reporting and analysis. Freight forwarders using these dynamic solutions benefit from IT-supported processes, especially when handling large freight volumes.

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.

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