Fulfillment Center vs Distribution Center: What is the Difference?

Things are going well in your business, and you feel suffocated with all the demand. Yet, you still need to scale up your fulfillment and shipping process. You begin searching for a distribution and fulfillment center, but then find out they are not the same thing, but somewhat different kinds of facilities. Which begs the question, “what is the difference?”

This article will provide a better understanding of the difference between a fulfillment center and a distribution center, and explains the following:

What is Warehousing

Warehousing is where you store your goods from a manufacturer before moving to another warehouse for fulfillment. Warehouses secure products in organized ways that track a product’s location, arrival, how long it has been there, and its quality.

How Does Warehousing Work

A warehouse secures and safely stores products in organized ways that make tracking easy.

A warehouse organizes items based on arrival dates, how long the goods have stayed in the warehouse, and the nature of the product at hand. You may have been storing your items at home when you were starting your eCommerce business; but as your business grows, a warehouse is essential. You can outsource to a 3pl to sort out your fulfillment and store inventory in their buildings.

What Is A Fulfillment Center

A fulfillment center is essentially a warehouse where retailers keep their inventory until a customer places an order and it’s time to ship. Third-party logistic companies (3PLs) typically run warehousing; they even carry out fulfillment, which is the process of shipping orders to customers.

Fulfillment centers usually focus on delivering goods to customers. However, these centers also offer many services that businesses and brands can use to help them scale by shipping fast and more.

How Does A Fulfillment Center Work?

Many factors go into consideration in warehouse management. And because it’s a complex job, minor details can get overlooked and end up causing unforeseen problems and supply chain barriers.

As previously mentioned, a fulfillment center is a hub for all of the logistics processes involving delivering a retailer’s product to their customer. Many know this process as the order fulfillment process.

Fulfillment centers help carry out the fulfillment process by ensuring everything carries out smoothly. Additionally, customers’ orders are able to ship out fast, and the chances of on-time delivery increases. In order to ensure such things, retailers store their inventory in a 3PL’s fulfillment center prior to customer orders. Once a customer completes an order, 3PLs will pull inventory from the fulfillment center shelves, pack them, and then prepare them for shipping.

What is a Fulfillment Warehouse?

A fulfillment warehouse is sometimes alternated with the term “fulfillment center.”

A warehouse is very different from this. A warehouse is often a place where inventory is just stored, while a fulfillment warehouse has many other jobs besides storage.

What is a Distribution Center?

A distribution center combines some of the potentials of a regular logistic warehouse with newer fulfillment centers.

They offer storage options that are long-term and can be synchronized to a degree with your delivery needs. They are mainly located relatively close to major markets, which makes shipping to them fairly simple and less costly.

Distribution centers also ship inventory in large quantities to other locations, especially other retailers who may be selling the same products. Distribution centers are similar to warehouses but are technically faster and demand-driven.

The Differences Between Warehousing & Fulfillment Centers

The significant difference between warehousing and a fulfillment center is the manners of procedures they carry out; and their customers. The pros and cons of using either include the following topics.

Long-Term vs Short-Term Storage

A fulfillment center stores goods for only a month or so, while a warehouse can store goods for more extended periods. Goods stored in a fulfillment center are expected to be shipped sooner rather than later, while a warehouse is for storing goods. For the most part, retailers should endeavor to send larger shipments of stock to ensure there are always enough products on hand. However, if an inventory is stagnant in a warehouse, the warehouse owner will require the merchant to pay a fee.

Facility Operations

A warehouse is sometimes inactive while a fulfillment center is always active, conducting the more complex operations.

Services provided by a 3PL in a fulfillment center include:

As far as what happens operationally in a warehouse, the main action occurs when inventory is added or shifted out.

Frequency of Pickups by Carriers

A fulfillment company typically has relationships with different shipping carriers. This ensures order delivery to buyers will be done on time, as promised. In contrast, a warehouse usually needs to be scheduled, with fewer pickups, since it is cheaper to send out freight and have boxes wrapped together on a pallet than it is to generate single shipping labels.

Which Solution is Right for You

Fulfillment centers and distribution centers vary but have capabilities that complement each other, so you should consider carefully what each has to offer in light of your business needs before making your choice. A fulfillment center provides warehousing and shipping services to dozens of clients, which reduces your costs for using their services.

Benefits of Working With a Fulfillment Center

Working with a fulfillment center is beneficial for e-commerce businesses because they are a team of warehouse professionals and shipping experts. They know how to manage inventory and the re-ordering process. This gives you time to focus on what’s most important: your business!

  • Say goodbye to storing inventory and packing boxes: A fulfillment center manages all inventory and shipping.
  • Rely on trusted experts: Fulfillment teams are more than just warehouse managers; they are product marketing experts and collaborators.
  • Automate order management and fulfillment: Every fulfillment task is automatically documented, making it easier for e-commerce businesses to track their orders and know the status of their inventory without needing to step foot in a warehouse.

Choosing Print Bind Ship as Your Fulfillment Center

Choosing Print Bind Ship as your fulfillment partner can never go wrong.

As a 3PL, Print Bind Ship offers free consultations to small and growing e-commerce businesses. We manage inventory and provide affordable warehousing while intaking all orders and handling all returns. Get in touch with an expert today and find out how we can help here.