The difference between a warehouse and a distribution center isn’t always apparent to people working outside of the logistics industry. But the fact is, the two couldn’t be more different. The internal operations and responsibilities of each entity vary greatly. If you’re confused about whether your business needs support from a warehouse vs. distribution center, keep reading to learn which is most appropriate for your needs.
What is a Warehouse?
A warehouse is typically used by manufacturers, importers, exporters, and transport businesses to store goods inside of a commercial building. These buildings are large structures located in industrial areas for the sole purpose of providing storage. They feature loading docks, so companies can easily load and unload goods directly from railways, airports, or seaports. Large cranes and forklifts are used to help move and organize goods throughout the facility. Some warehouses are also temperature controlled for proper storage of perishable items like groceries and packing foods. They can also support raw materials, spare parts, and other items that have specific environmental needs to remain in good condition. Warehouses are most ideal for retailers looking for a long-term storage option.
What is a Distribution Center?
Distribution centers are an integral part of the fulfillment process for both e-commerce businesses and online retailers. This specialized building is designed to store products for retailers and wholesalers who will eventually need these goods transported to another location or directly to customers. Most people think of these facilities as demand-driven, since products are quickly and frequently moved in and out of the distribution center. You can usually find these buildings located near highways and roadways where they can be easily accessed. This allows transport trucks to pick up and drop off items more efficiently. Most distribution centers serve a large area since they are a part of a larger network of distributors.
Other Ways that Warehouses vs. Distribution Centers Differ
Whether you choose a warehouse vs. distribution center will depend on the specific needs of your business. While they appear to be quite similar on the outside, the inner workings of the facilities differ quite a lot. As we mentioned previously, warehouses are best for those needing long-term storage solutions. If you are not concerned about shipping items out quickly, then this is likely the best option for you.
On the other hand, distribution centers are designed to manage the quick intake and fast shipment of various goods. Both types of facilities can offer temperature control solutions. You will usually find that perishable items like groceries are managed through distribution centers since perishable items cannot be stored for an extended period.
Distribution centers are also customer-centric. These facilities help to bridge the gap between suppliers and customers and ensure the requirements of both groups are satisfied. Their operations are much more complex, so distribution centers have the latest technology for order processing, warehouse management, transportation management, and more.
When you’re deciding between a warehouse versus a distribution center, be clear about what the needs of your business are since these facilities offer very different services.