Supply Chain 101: Cross-Docking Explained

In today’s uber-stressed Supply Chain environment, with large amounts of freight constantly moving across all points of the interconnected global networks, the speed and efficiency of your company’s supply chain is increasingly important. Cross-docking is a strategy that some companies employ to achieve faster transit times and to reduce the overall handling times of their freight.

Cross Docking facility

What Is Cross-Docking?

Cross-Docking is best defined as a supply chain strategy that involves moving freight from one cargo trailer to another immediately, without storing the freight for extended periods of time at a shipping facility. Generally, this takes place in a warehouse setting, such as a fulfillment center, or at centralized docking facilities that manage high volumes of freight. 

Typically, cross-docking works by offloading the cargo from one trailer to the floor, or “dock,” of a warehouse, and immediately re-loading that freight onto another trailer or shipping container. In essence, it removes the “storage” piece of the supply chain puzzle. The primary purpose is to reduce the amount of time freight is kept in storage and to increase the speed of transit from one place to another.  


There are several reasons a company may choose to utilize cross-docking as a competitive approach in their supply chain strategy.  One reason, known as Pool Distribution, is to consolidate multiple LTL shipments into a full trailer load to reduce the number of trips that must be made to deliver to the end destination. 

In Pool Distribution, instead of delivering multiple LTL shipments individually, which can congest a driver’s delivery schedule, a facility receiving numerous inbound shipments with the same delivery point may choose to consolidate the LTL pallets onto one trailer and make the delivery only once the trailer is full. This is a common practice in cross-docking facilities that aid in creating efficiencies for delivery schedules and reducing costs for the warehouse facility and its clients.

On the reverse side, cross-docking can also be used to break down large loads into smaller loads for deliveries to multiple end destinations. 

Another common reason a company may utilize cross-docking is if freight needs to be reworked. In this instance, a trailer may be loaded incorrectly, exceed weight limits, or freight may have shifted in transit and need to be repalletized. When these issues arise, cross docking facilities may be utilized to rework or repalletize the freight to ensure it will arrive safely at its destination without any further damages.

In the event of an overweight trailer, freight may be removed or transloaded to another trailer to guarantee the load abides by DOT regulations.  

cross docking pallets

This process will not suit the needs of every company, so it is important to make an educated decision about whether cross-docking can be used strategically for your business. As experts in the field, 5 Logistics has partnered with many companies over the years to rework, repalletize or transload freight. Reach out to us today to see if working with 5 Logistics is right for you!

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