Differences Between Warehouses and Distribution Centers

Warehouses and distribution centers serve similar purposes. They often look alike and tend to have other superficial similarities, but the two are anything but the same. These facilities feature different internal operations, and each is designed to handle different responsibilities.

If you’re unsure about whether you need a warehouse or a distribution center for your business, this guide will help you choose the right solution for your company.

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What Is Warehouse Distribution?

A warehouse, in most cases, is a spacious commercial building where large quantities of goods are stored. The warehouse environment is typically designed for storage only and is most commonly used by manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and exporters, and transport businesses.

The typical warehouse has docks where cranes and forklifts load and unload goods received directly from trucks, trains, planes or ships. Consequently, warehouses are usually located near major transportation lines, including airports, docks, highways or railways. Warehouse storage is commonly designed for long-term needs with distribution typically involving the large-scale movement of bulk products or materials, as opposed to shipping individual items.

What Is a Distribution Center?

Unlike a warehouse, a distribution center is designed for retailers and wholesalers to store, pick, pack and ship products directly to customers. A distribution center represents an all-in-one storage and shipping solution that’s essential to both online retailers and e-commerce companies.

With a distribution center, goods are typically delivered to the storage facility, offloaded and stored until an item is purchased. At that time, the order is picked, packed and shipped directly to the customer.

Distribution centers are usually located near main roadways and highways, which makes it easy for trucks to unload or pick up products for final delivery. Whereas a company might use only one warehouse to store inventory, it is not uncommon for several distribution centers to be part of a company’s broad network. With this type of setup, a business can more reliably ensure that delivery times are quick, even when serving customers located across the country.

What Distinguishes a Warehouse From a Distribution Center?

In most cases, a warehouse tends to be best suited for long-term storage of products or materials. A distribution center, on the other hand, is usually the best option to handle the movement of goods in and out of a facility quickly on an individual order basis. The type of facility you need ultimately depends on the specific undertakings of your business.

Are you an e-commerce company looking for an all-in-one storage and shipping solution, or are you looking for long-term storage for your products? Understanding the differences between warehouses and distribution centers will help you decide which facility will serve your needs best.

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