Hubs is now Protolabs Network. Find out more

Get instant quote

Cross-docking in manufacturing: how does it ensure quality?

Cross-docking is typically used as a logistics strategy for the distribution and transportation of goods. In manufacturing, however, cross-docking can also be used for quality control purposes. Find out about cross-docking inspections, and how they contribute to the Protolabs Network Standard.

Quality control procedure

What is cross-docking?

In the context of quality control, cross-docking refers to a practice in which products are inspected or tested at the point of transfer between different stages of the production or supply chain process. This process helps ensure that products meet the required standards before they are shipped to customers.

By incorporating quality control within the cross-docking process, companies can identify and address potential quality issues more efficiently. This helps reduce the risk of defective or non-compliant products reaching customers – and ensures that only products meeting the desired quality standards are forwarded for delivery.

How does cross-docking work?

Later in this article, we will take a look at how Protolabs Network uses cross-docking to ensure parts are of the highest possible quality. Generally, however, the process of cross-docking for quality control typically involves the following steps.

  • Receiving and sorting. Incoming shipments are received at the cross-docking facility. The products are quickly sorted based on their intended destinations or specific quality control requirements.

  • Quality inspection. Trained personnel perform quality inspections on the received products. They assess various quality parameters such as physical condition, packaging integrity, labeling accuracy, and adherence to established standards or specifications. Inspections typically involve visual and dimensional inspections to make sure that the parts were manufactured to the correct specifications and that they remain in perfect condition after transportation. 

  • Corrective action. For products requiring minor corrections, the necessary actions are taken to address the identified quality issues. This may involve making necessary adjustments, repairs, or rework within the cross-docking facility.

  • Outbound shipment. After the quality inspection and any required corrective actions, the products are directed to the appropriate outbound transportation, such as trucks or trailers, for immediate delivery to their final destinations or distribution centers. The goal is to minimize the time spent in storage and maximize the speed of shipment.

What are the benefits of cross-docking?

By implementing cross-docking for quality control, businesses can achieve several benefits that help them operate more efficiently and provide better service to their customers. 

  • Early detection of defects. Cross-docking allows for the identification of defects or quality issues early in the production or supply chain process, enabling prompt corrective actions to be taken.

  • Improved efficiency. By catching quality issues early, cross-docking helps prevent rework or rejections after they arrive at their final destination, saving time, resources, and costs.

  • Enhanced customer satisfaction. Ensuring product quality at each stage of the process through cross-docking helps deliver high-quality products to customers, thereby improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Effective supplier management. Cross-docking can be used to assess the quality of products received from suppliers, enabling businesses to make informed decisions regarding future collaborations or adjustments in the supply chain.

How does Protolabs Network use cross-docking?

Protolabs Network uses cross-docks as a quality control measure to ensure that parts are up to the Protolabs Network Standard. All orders, no matter where in the world they are manufactured, undergo extensive quality checks by the manufacturing partner after they have been printed, machined, molded or fabricated. In addition to this, many globally produced orders (depending on the complexity of the part and location of production) are then sent to our internal cross-docks in Amsterdam or Chicago for a second inspection before making their way to the customer. 

Our cross-docking teams inspect parts visually and dimensionally, checking that they are up to spec, have the intended surface finish, threads and dimensions are as requested, and are correctly packaged. Inspections also verify that parts have not been damaged during transit. Both cross-docks are equipped with state-of-the-art calibrated tools for industrial inspection capabilities.

At Protolabs Network, cross-docking for quality control is an eight-step process.

  • Sample size inspection. Using ISO-2859 general sampling Level II, a sample size of a batch of parts is determined and inspected.

  • Visual inspection for cosmetic quality. A visual inspection is used to observe the surface of an object and look for cracks, scratches, misalignment, corrosion, and other physical defects.

  • Dimensional checks with ISO-calibrated equipment. A dimensional inspection assesses the geometric characteristics of machined parts to verify their compliance with design specifications. It ensures the accuracy of the part’s features that can affect reliability and functionality.

  • FAI (First Article Inspection) with golden samples. Parts are compared with a pre-approved sample to ensure compliance with specifications and quality standards.

  • Full review of official and requested documentation.

  • Compliance and standards review. Parts are given a final check to ensure they meet regulatory standards.

  • Non-conformity reports and follow-up with manufacturers. Any quality issues are documented, after which the manufacturer is contacted to reach a solution.

Packaging checks. Parts are wrapped individually and securely, placed in Protolabs Network boxes, and covered in plastic, to which a shipping label is attached.

Find out more about the Protolabs Network Standard and how we ensure the quality of parts. You can also download an overview of the quality documentation we offer (PDF), and information on technical standards for industrial manufacturing.

CNC machining, 3D printing and sheet metal fabrication parts

Frequently asked questions

What is cross-docking for quality control?

Cross-docking for quality control is a process in which products are inspected and sorted to ensure adherence to quality standards.

How does cross-docking help improve quality control processes?

Cross-docking improves quality control by allowing quick inspections, sorting, and corrective actions, reducing the risk of delivering defective products and enhancing customer satisfaction.

What are the benefits of implementing cross-docking for quality control?

Benefits of cross-docking include faster product flow, reduced inventory holding costs, improved order accuracy, minimized product handling, enhanced customer satisfaction, and better compliance with quality standards.

What types of quality control measures are typically performed during cross-docking?

Quality control measures can include sampling, visual and dimensional inspections, testing, label verification, packaging checks, and adherence to established standards or specifications.

How are quality issues identified and categorized during the cross-docking process?

Quality issues are identified through inspections and categorized into acceptable products, items needing minor corrections, or products requiring major corrections or rejection.

What happens if a product fails the quality control inspection during cross-docking?

Failed products may undergo corrective actions within the facility or be returned to the supplier, ensuring that only products meeting quality standards proceed for delivery.


More resources for engineers

Show more

Show less

Ready to transform your CAD file into a custom part? Upload your designs for a free, instant quote.

Get an instant quote