There has been a marked growth in demand for cross-docking capabilities in the country, considering the many benefits this service offers businesses by being able to move products directly to a customer or retail chain with marginal to no handling, or storage time.
However, there is more than meets the eye to running a successful cross-docking operation, notes Quinton de Villiers, managing director of Bridgewater Logistics, a respected leader in this specialist field of transport logistics and supply-chain management.
“We have also experienced a high demand for cross-docking services, and our competitive edge can largely be attributed to the way in which we conduct these operations. This continues to set us apart from many of our closest competitors. It may seem a simple concept, but the devil is in the detail,” De Villiers says.
Firstly, the Bridgewater Logistics team maintains a neat and tidy dock area to ensure optimal operations and a safe working environment.
In addition, ideal use is made of dock space to reduce travel time in moving goods from inbound to outbound trucks, while careful consideration was also given to the location of the operations and available yard space to cater to many trailers.
Planning of the shipment-staging area is also critical to a successful cross-docking operation.
An optimal configuration ensures that the goods-in and goods-out doors are on the same dock, with the goods-in doors located at the centre. The goods-out function is established in such a manner that the largest outbound shipments can be loaded at the closest doors on either side of goods-in. Meanwhile, the furthest doors from goods-in are reserved for the smallest outbound shipments.
Sound investment into technology is vital to ensure members of staff receive advanced alerts of inbound goods via shipment notifications from suppliers, while mechanisation and automation ensure a swift and effortless handling of items.
However, De Villiers attributes most of the ongoing success of Bridgewater Logistics’ cross-docking operations to the skills and capabilities of his team.
This is considering the degree of synchronisation that is required at a successful cross-docking operation, relying on some of the company’s best supervisory staff and warehouse operatives.
They ensure the efficient unloading and loading of trucks and trailers; staging, marshalling and sorting of goods; as well as the spotting of vehicles at the correct doors.
So what is driving demand for this specialised service from company?
De Villiers says that there are a number of factors that have kept Bridgewater Logistics’ cross-docking operations very busy in 2017 and during the start of 2018.
“Cross-docking is ideal when current order cycles and traditional distribution methods cannot handle customer needs. In some instances, outdated distribution strategies and networks have created extended cycle times and compromised shelf-life guarantees. Then there are limitations of existing distribution networks that have created plant inefficiencies, or that transport networks have become over-extended, resulting in unacceptable on-time performance rates at excessive costs. Finally, businesses turn to us when distribution cost increases have outpaced sales growth!” he concludes.