While the difference between a warehouse and distribution center may not be apparent to some; they have very different meanings and duties in the logistics industry. To be able to distinguish warehouses and distribution centers, you must first understand what a distribution center and a warehouse is. Once you know the specific roles each play in the supply chain, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which would be best suited for your business. So, what is a distribution center compared to a warehouse? Keep on reading to find out.
What Is a Warehouse?
A warehouse typically refers to a place where goods are stored for an extended period of time. Warehouses are a little less high-energy than distribution centers since there’s not as much activity going on. Sorting items, shipping them out, and replenishing stock are all a part of the daily functions. Distribution centers can act as warehouses too, but warehouses can’t double as a distribution center.
Large and globally-oriented supply chains often use warehouses to store the output of production units and send batches or container loads to distribution centers that may be far away using long-distance container shipping. As such, although there may not be as much activity going on in a warehouse on a daily basis, they are still very useful when it comes to needing large storage spaces for an extended amount of time, and shipping to distribution centers far away.
A distribution center is a little more complex than a warehouse in that it’s often described as a high-velocity operation as opposed to a static warehouse. This basically means that a distribution center offers more services to clients, whether they’re internal or external. Usually housing products for short periods of time before they’re shipped out, distribution centers can also offer services like transportation, cross-docking, order fulfillment, labeling and packaging, as well as any operations necessary to complete the order cycle—this includes order processing, order preparation, shipping, receiving, returned goods processing, and performance measurement.
Distribution centers are also more focused on serving customers and strive to serve each and every one of them as efficiently as possible. In addition, distribution centers often require more sophisticated technologies at the disposal of employees to keep track of all the different processes being conducted.
Warehouses vs. Distribution Centers
Warehouses are more suited for long-term storage and are typically used by companies that have distribution centers out of the way. Some companies who have their distributions centers in convenient locations will forego a warehouse altogether and only use a distribution center. Warehouses are seen as more static operations as they’re only used for storage while distribution centers are more complex and carry out a wide array of operations.
When it comes to pitting warehouses vs. distribution centers against each other and deciding which would be best suited for your company, there’s no universal answer. It depends on the specific needs of your company—thinking about whether you need long- or short-term storage is one of the key factors you’ll need to consider. You’ll only be able to decide which is right for you after weighing the pros and cons of each.
If you’re in need of a third-party logistics company to handle all of your warehousing and distribution needs, all you need to do is call APS Fulfillment, Inc. We thrive on helping small and medium-sized businesses reach their full potential, and help them do just that with our warehousing and fulfillment services. To take advantage of our exceptional services, contact us today.