Cross docking (Three)

As I promised in my previous posting I would now like to go through an approach on transportation cross docking in Dynamics AX. This article is meant for experienced Dynamics AX professionals that have deep knowledge both functional and technical to Dynamics Ax, and is a follow up to the last two articles on Cross docking (See Cross docking I (one) and Cross docking II (two))

First a small reminder what transportation cross docking is. Transportation cross docking is used in distribution scenarios, where you have pure cross docking services. The cross docking facilities are often not the legal owner of the goods. The following figure shows the supply flow.

Here the cross docking warehouse is a pure service provider and do only push forward the goods from received from the vendor and internally transport the goods to the correct outbound dock. The warehouse A is not the cost owner of the goods, and it prefers pallets or cartons. At the distribution warehouse B, C the goods are properly received. Some are placed into the warehouse, but some is cross docked again to the outbound dock.

So what do we need to achieve this in Dynamics AX? As far I have seen it is possible, but will require many manual processes. Here an extension to dynamics AX is required. The first steps are to identify the main concepts needed.

Inbound logistics

I would often describe the inbound freight as a trailer or container that delivers goods to a destination or a HUB. If you are using third party bulk transportation, then the cargo is the entity that communication to the carrier is overall based on. The inbound cargo does not have any directly information of the contents, cross docking information, but contains volumetric information, status and delivery time information. Like when it is planned to ship from the vendor/source hub, and when it is planned to arrive to the warehouse/destination hub. There are some industry standards that are commonly accepted, and that is the Cargo 2000 standard, that contains all needed milestones statuses for a carrier. Getting insight into these milestones is vital to be able to plan forward in the supply chain and to be able to plan cross docking. The milestones should be stored as transactions related to the inbound freight to track the goods. Another register called Yard movements should keep track of the goods/trailer/container as it is received at the yard, and scheduled for receive.

Inbound cargo is the first required concept for cross docking, and standard Dynamics AX do not have this term, but in the To-Increase WM&D solution, the Inbound cargo screen looks like this in AX 2009, together with the cargo 2000 milestone statuses:

When receiving goods that should be cross docked, the goods will be directed to the outbound dock, and associated with the right transportation route(See outbound logistics later for a description).

SSCC(Serial Shipping Container Code)

The next requirement is a unique identifier for the goods arriving. This is very often required to be able to handle the incoming goods. With handling we mean being able to plan and execute the needed steps to cross dock. Without a unique identifier this becomes very difficult. What exists in standard AX is the concept “Pallet”. But in AX the pallet is just an identifier, and do not contain any more information than the identifier and the location it is placed. The content of the pallet can be seen as the “On-hand” overview or the transactions related to the pallet.

But in transportation cross docking the warehouse performing the cross docking services do not necessarily have any insight into the purchase order, sales orders or inventory transactions. Another concept is required to support a transportation cross-docking scenario. In WM&D this is the SSCC (also called Outbound Cargo).

The idea behind the outbound cargo, is that it is an entity that do contain all the required information of the SSCC, without having a transactions associated to the SSCC. This is information like ID, status, carrier, addresses and contents information. But there do not need to be any associated inventory transactions related to it. It could be that the SSCC do have reference information at the final receive warehouse/hub. The information on the SSCC is either received as ASN information, or is registered and labeled at the first receive. Labeling is often very important in these scenarios, and must often be carrier compliant.

In WM&D there are also possible to transfer a pallet ID or license plate to a SSCC, and this is automatically done at picking, packing and shipping.

Outbound logistics

Having a good system for outbound freight is vital, because often the planning done here ‘beats the drum‘ for a large portion of the operations. Quite a large portion of the people in a warehouse has tasks related to the picking packing and shipping. In standard AX, the shipments are the tool used for doing outbound logistics. A shipment is a collection of items that are packed in the same container for transport by, for example, ship, rail, truck, or plane. A shipment includes an entire order, a part of an order, or a consolidation of multiple orders. Based on the contents of the shipment, one or more picking routes, one or more internal transports, or both are created. Output order is a request for picking requirements and is the basis of a shipment. From the shipment you can activate an internal transport, a picking route, or both. The shipment status is based on the lowest denominator of the shipment lines status. The shipment is mainly a tool to create picking routes and pallet transports. But more advanced picking, planning and execution is lacking.


Figure: standard AX shipment form.

The architecture in standard AX consists of the following tables :

Figure: standard AX architecture for shipments

As we see here the standard AX do not have any good systems for handling SSCC. It is possible to simulate that the picking routes could “simulate” SSCC, but this leads to many customizations. You may have problems in doing planning and automation, since not much of that exists. Ability to short ship is manually possible, but do require good insight into the transactions. The processes are manual and people must control most of the planning. In WM&D it has been introduced a overlaying system called transportation planning. The transportation planning approach can be visualized like this :


Figure: How transportation planning is related to standard AX processes.

Here all the functionality of std. AX is used, but a planning system has been created. The shipments and picking routes are then the result of the transportation planning.

A transportation route line is the actual route that the transportation needs to go. It can be several pickup addresses and several delivery addresses on a truck route, and each of this combination will have a transport route line. Each transportation route line will have properties like estimated weight, volume and body length/width. A sequence of transport route lines is the destination addresses.

A transport route is in this defined as a planned transportation. The transportation is most often related to a mode of delivery. The transport route has some physical limitations like max payload weight, max volume, max cargo body length/width. The transport route is the “header” of a set of transportation route lines, and is most often represented as a truck or container.

Picture : Transport route and transportation route lines


Picture : Transport route visualized to Google maps. Driving sequence is the numbers on each stop. Truck loading sequence is the reverse of the driving sequence.

The idea here is that all the required output orders will be associated to a transportation route line. These lines can then be planned, either internally in WM&D/AX or in an external route planning tool (or even at the freight forwarder). Then the optimal route can be built, and this is the transportation route. Each line is therefore associated to a transport route.

This gives the possibility to do multisite distribution scenarios with cross-docking capabilities:

Figure : Warehouse D can be set up as a cross-docking warehouse, where items are received from other warehouses or from vendors.

The process will then go through the following steps:

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