Fulfillment Center vs Distribution Center: What’s the Difference?

Order fulfillment is the core part of e-commerce. Before choosing a fulfillment center and a distribution center as part of your e-commerce supply chain, you should be aware of the difference between the two.

As e-commerce becomes more prosperous, more and more consumers choose to purchase large items online, resulting in an increasing demand for warehouse space. According to data from the CBRE Group, the availability of industrial real estate in the United States is only 7%. Warehouse space in high-demand areas close to the city center is particularly narrow.

At the same time, CBRE data also shows that 1.25 million square feet of warehouse space are required for every $1 billion in e-commerce sales.

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Explanation of the fulfillment center

The fulfillment center is a warehouse for e-commerce fulfillment services. Your company’s products are shipped to the distribution center in the form of containers or pallets. The warehouse will store your products until they are sold. The fulfillment center is the final destination of your products before they shipped to consumers or wholesale customers.

When your sales platform receives an order, the product is directly transmitted from your sales channel to your fulfillment center. Most order fulfillment service providers will have an online dashboard, which can track the progress of the product in the entire warehouse.

The fulfillment center will remove the order items from the shelves and package them for delivery and transmission. The shipping station will label it and notify the carrier to prepare to pick up the package. Carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS will regularly pick up the goods at the distribution center every day.

Many fulfillment centers also provide other services, including inventory management, multi-channel, and matching and customization.

There are other names for fulfillment centers, such as:

  • Fulfillment warehouse
  • Order fulfillment center
  • 3rd-party logistics warehouse(3PL)

Third-party logistics can refer to fulfillment centers or more complex logistics operations. In addition to 3PL, there are other levels of logistics services, such as 4PL, 5PL, and so on.

Explanation of distribution center

The distribution center is also a kind of warehouse, but its position in the supply chain is different. The distribution center redistributes the products in the warehouse, but the distribution center can also store products.

The direct docking object of the distribution center is not the consumer, but the transfer point that converts the product from one mode of transportation to another. Product advantages will be transmitted from the distribution center to the fulfillment center for order fulfillment. Besides, distribution centers can also serve as commodity centers for large retailers.

Fulfillment Center vs Distribution Center: What Kind of Business Do You Need?

If the center of your business is e-commerce fulfillment, your choice may be a fulfillment center rather than a distribution center. The next step in your decision is to find the most appropriate provider of fulfillment services for your business, which also involves the level of service your business needs, the size of your business, and the type of products you sell. Make sure that the service provided by the fulfillment company is what your company needs.

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