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Supply Chain Braindump

Updated on May 26, 2014
Item, Pack and Carton
Item, Pack and Carton

Carton, Case and Pack

A Carton is the outer packaging of goods, usually, a cardboard box.

A Carton can be given many different terms depending on who you speak to in the company. Within the distribution center, it is commonly referred to as an outer

  • Merchandising and ordering refer to this as the case pack or standard pack.
  • Warehouse Management Systems terminology refer to this as a case.
  • Customers may refer to it as a box

A carton, or 'outer' is made up of items, and in some cases these items are packaged together in groups, known as 'inners'. Now this can get confusing because an inner is also referred to as a pack. The best terminology I can use to describe it is a slab (or in america it may be called a case?) of beer. A slab will consist of 24 bottles, which are grouped together in six packs, which are the inners. So a slab has four inners, which have six items in them, making up the carton (case pack/standard pack) quantity of 24.

This packing and grouping of the inners is done in order to limit the amount of handling having to be done with goods when less than a full carton is to be handled. As warehouse handling usually costs per pick/sort, it is much more efficient to have the operator pick/sort the items in groups of 6 so it only counts as one pick cost, as opposed to sorting 6 individual items and it counting for 6 pick costs.

A pallet is another type of container which is commonly used in warehousing. A pallet is usually stored in pallet racking and generally used to hold cartons, although they can also hold individual items. Within a warehouse it is much more efficient to move cartons around on pallets rather than individually. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the labor of having to manually handle every carton, but in many cases also the operator having to scan every carton barcode. When moving cartons around on a pallet, only the pallet barcode is required to be scanned because the pallet contents and all its associated carton barcodes are already assigned to the pallet barcode.

How a carton is formed
How a carton is formed


Dealing the functions of a Warehouse Management System (WMS)
Dealing the functions of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) | Source

Cross Docking

Cross docking is the process of moving new inbound received goods from the receiving areas to a picking/sorting/shipping area to fulfill an order. It has the primary goal of saving time and effort within a warehouse. It assists supply chain operations with being proactive as opposed to reactive.

In essence, the cross docking process is principally the receiving the merchandise at the inbound docks, followed shortly after by shipping out the merchandise without the requirement to store the goods within the warehouse.

Cross docking assists with the fast distribution of goods without processing many of the steps involved in warehousing such as storing and retrieving of the goods in the warehouse.

It is not uncommon for cross docked goods to spend less than 24 hours within the walls of the warehouse. Sometimes this can be less than a couple of hours.


  • It avoids unnecessary handling and processes around having to store the goods before it is moved to the dispatch area for processing and is therefore beneficial for the reduction in costs associated with handling. This reduction in handling can also have an additional benefit of less damage to the goods occurring.
  • Even though racking can mean that pallets can be stored 10 stories high doesn't eliminate the fact that storage costs play a large overhead in warehouse operations. Another benefit of cross docking is the reduction in warehousing space required to store the goods.
  • Cross docking can help with increased volume of throughput – something that would be much harder to achieve an a facility based on more manual operations

Not every scenario is suitable for cross docking; cross docking every inbound delivery type would most likely prove to be unfeasible. Some scenarios where cross docking is likely to be used can include:

  • Customer or store orders where the goods arrive that have already been picked/packaged from another facility
  • Products where there is a consistent flow of demand ordering. This helps with the scheduling and planning of these orders.
  • Fast moving products are likely to be good candidates for cross docking, however slow moving goods can also be possible if the correct scheduling and planning is undertaken

Some considerations when implementing a cross docking solution:

  • A warehouse should have adequate space and racks for the sortation of inbound goods, as well as consolidating outbound dispatches.
  • Implementing a cross docking solution may require some modifications to the supplier’s manufacturing and acquirement processes.

Does your company use a WMS?

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