Warehouse, distribution and fulfillment: no, they are not the same…
One thing about the supply chain is that it’s long and complex. And although from afar (when we’re a small e-commerce or end user) the links to this chain may seem the same they couldn’t be any more different. There is often confusion between the terms warehouse, distribution centre and fulfilment centre.
Do we know what happens in each of these spaces, their characteristics and functions? In this post, we are going to concentrate on the latter – fulfilment centres – given their importance in e-commerce and last mile logistics, (especially where our services come in with perishable goods delivery). But first, we need to know the difference between all three.
Warehouse vs. distribution vs. fulfilment
A warehouse is where goods are stored, i.e. a large number or volume of goods are kept for indefinite periods without them immediately needing to be processed. A distribution centre distributes goods, i.e. they receive goods (from warehouses) and dispatch them (to distributing companies or fulfilment centres). And in a fulfilment centre…
goods are received, orders prepared, packed, dispatched and stock checks carried out so that the product from the distribution centre reaches the small retailer or the end customer’s home via the carrier. In this sense, this is where all the logistics work takes place and where the customer’s expectations are satisfied.
To this end, fulfilment centres are often multi-client, located in urban areas, have several specialist human teams and state-of-the-art technological equipment and handle small volumes of constant traffic. Below is a small table with the main characteristics of each of these three logistics centre types:
|Warehouse||Distribution centre||Fulfilment centre|
|Main function||Stock warehouse||Product distribution||Preparing and sending orders|
|Storage time||Months||Days, weeks or months||Hours or days|
|Physical location||Non-urban area||Peri-urban area||Urban area|
|Size of packages||Very large and large||Large and medium||Small and very small|
|Equipment||Depot||Reception and dispatch||Packing|
Fulfilment centre and cold chain
Fulfilment centres play an essential role in maintaining the cold chain because of the product handling tasks involved. That’s why third-party logistics providers (also known as 3PL in the biz) which specialise in perishable goods ensure that staff have all necessary training.
They are also aware of the extreme importance of working with the right packaging. That is, isothermal packaging which maintains the cold chain and is usually designed specifically for this type of centre.
That’s the case of our IsoBox 2Door solution: versatile, sustainable and affordable packaging with the following characteristics:
- reusable, hugely reducing the cost per use;
- suitable for a wide range of temperatures (from frozen to room temperature);
- made of PVC and polyurethane, the perfect alternative to expanded polypropylene (EEP);
- light-weight, easy to assemble and store to reduce handling times;
- waterproof and washable; especially designed for food; and
- customisable (with a logo or document pockets, for example).
Fulfil your clients’ needs
Given the new trends in last-mile delivery and an increasingly competitive environment, chilled product transport must maintain the highest quality standards without having to increase costs. Can we help you?