Dock-to-Stock Efficiency: Warehouse Inbounding Tips

April 28, 2023
7 min read

Dock-to-stock time is a critical factor in supply chain management. Learn how businesses of all sizes are decreasing dock-to-stock time and streamlining the inbounding process.

What Is Dock-to-Stock Time?

Dock-to-Stock time is the amount of time it takes for a product to arrive at a point of origin (like a warehouse) and be stocked on the shelf, ready to ship. While logistics data can optimize demand forecasting for warehousing decision makers, streamlining dock-to-stock is a critical step for avoiding stock outs and guaranteeing 1-2 day shipping.


What Are the Benefits of Minimizing Dock-To-Stock?


Minimizing dock-to-stock solves three major pain points that affect businesses’ bottom lines and their ability to grow:


  • Faster time to revenue. As soon as money is spent on inventory, the clock starts ticking. Every minute that product sits on a truck, cargo ship, or warehouse dock is a minute that it can’t be turned back into revenue. Slow dock-to-stock times disrupt cash flow and budget forecasting- which is critical for fast-growing businesses.
  • Increased capital on-hand. The longer dock-to-stock time is, the more merchants feel the opportunity cost of not having capital on-hand. When money is tied up in inventory that has not been shipped or sold, businesses can’t afford to move quickly in other areas like product development or marketing strategies. Optimizing dock-to-stock keeps companies agile with capital on-hand to improve other aspects of their business.
  • Fewer stockouts. When inventory is moving fast, merchants face the threat of a stockout. Rush orders from suppliers are costly and may even cause a negative marginal revenue depending on how thin contribution margins are. Likewise, stockouts can have a knock-on effect of lost customer loyalty, especially for first-time customers.


How To Calculate Dock-To-Stock Time


Before inventory is considered “in stock” at a warehouse, it must go through four steps:

1. Inventory is received at the loading dock

2. Inventory is scanned into a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

3. Inventory is stocked in the appropriate warehouse zone and shelf according to SKU

4. All inventory records are updated 


However, as small to midsize businesses (SMBs) continue to adopt outsourced fulfillment, two main factors are affecting the dock-to-stock time equation: 


The warehouse labor market is in flux


According to 2023 reporting from The National Law Review, the warehousing industry finds itself at a historical moment of labor unionizing while also seeing record-high turnover. Without dependable labor, dock-to-stock time goes up.


Uncertainty around legacy technology systems


Adopting automation- both AI machinery and a WMS- to keep up with the eCommerce boom has made SMBs more aware of the benefits of technology. However, many are uncertain if their current providers are actually optimizing fulfillment. A 2023 survey of SMBs found that 39% of respondents have reevaluated their warehouse technology providers and costs over the past 1-2 years.


Why Can It Be Difficult To Minimize Dock-To-Stock?


Early in the life of an SMB it is typical to handle the inbounding process in-house with simple tools or more manual processes. However, streamlining logistical steps (e.g. demand forecasting, dock-to-stock time, time in transit) can be difficult to scale as a business grows. This is especially true when SMBs implement a multichannel strategy, which complicates pick pack and ship fulfillment.


Without the ability to truly scale and optimize, common pitfalls arise, including:


  • Miscounted inventory
  • Misplaced product
  • Inaccurate demand forecasting
  • Slower time to revenue
  • Missed sales opportunities 


Survey data has found that SMB decision makers are looking for warehouse management solutions that tick three main boxes:


  • An end- to- end solution for the entire fulfillment process (38%)
  • Comprehensive logistics technology (36%)
  • Ability to scale and automate (31%)


For more industry insights, read the full report on the future of fulfillment or learn more about the benefits of a WMS that automates and optimizes logistics.


Video: How Palouse Brand streamlines inbounding and fulfillment


When Palouse Brand, a fifth generation farm in Washington state, suddenly grew 4,000% overnight, they faced a significant challenge to their 1-2 day shipping commitment. By partnering with Ware2Go, Palouse was able to create a warehouse network across the United States. Using logistics data, Palouse increased certainty of how much inventory to stock and warehouse distribution.

Finding a fulfillment partner who could manage their full end-to-end supply chain – from inbounding to final mile – enabled Palouse to optimize their dock-to-stock time across their entire network.


“My customers get 1-2 day shipping, all the time, anywhere in the US.” 

Sara Mader, CEO of Palouse Brand


How a Supply Chain Partner Can Help Streamline Fulfillment


The time it takes to optimize processes like dock-to-stock time pulls decision makers away from their specialties. In fact, nearly 1 in 2 SMBs would like to divert their team’s time away from logistics management and back towards core competencies. This is where a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can help SMBs remain sustainable and increase certainty.


Before choosing a 3PL, SMBs should consider the following checklist as ‘must-haves’ in today’s eCommerce environment:

  • Provides an end- to- end Warehouse Management Solution that uses logistics data for every process within the supply chain. This includes optimizing demand forecasting, inventory distribution, dock-to-stock time, and time in transit.
  • Negotiates SLA agreements on your behalf that ensure shelf space, navigates minimum average order volume (AOV) requirements, and increases certainty for on-time shipping.
  • Uses the latest warehousing strategies like co-warehousing and partnering with retail brands.
  • Guarantees a on-time fulfillment rate of 99%% or higher.
  • Guarantees dock-to-stock time in under 48 hours.


Partnering with a 3PL is a great option for addressing the issues SMBs face to minimize dock-to-stock time and other logistics across the supply chain. Ware2Go is a UPS-backed company that provides an end- to- end solution, purposely built for SMBs. Explore Ware2Go and our solutions to learn more.

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