What’s the Difference Between Warehouses and Distribution Centers?

What’s the Difference Between Warehouses and Distribution Centers?

Read Time: 4 min. 

You might occasionally hear the terms ‘warehouse’ and ‘distribution center’ used interchangeably. While the two have some overlap, there are distinct differences between them in terms of what they do and what they mean to logistics providers.

Today we’ll look at what warehouses are, what distribution centers are, what kind of businesses they serve, and the differences between them.

What is a Warehouse?

A warehouse is a large (often humungous) building used to store goods. Their customers are manufacturers, shippers, exporters, importers, and trucking companies—essentially, all commercial businesses that need to store quantities of goods.

Warehouses are designed to store goods until they need to be moved to another location. They often include loading docks for trucks, but they also receive goods from trains, air cargo, or seaports. Most use cranes, forklifts, and other machinery to load, unload, move, stack, and organize goods.

Depending on what types of goods are stored in the warehouse, it might be climate-controlled to house perishable or temperature-sensitive goods, like food and beverage products.

Companies that use warehouses may need a long-term storage solution, extra space for last-mile delivery, or to accommodate seasonal surge.

What is a Distribution Center?

Retailers and wholesalers ship their goods to distribution centers (DCs), which then send them out to the customer or individual stores. DCs are especially critical for ecommerce businesses as they help them service specific areas reliably and efficiently. For example, a DC near a large city center facilitates same-day or next-day delivery of high-volume products. They’re designed for fast in-and-out.

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A DC also provides a range of essential services, such as cross-docking, product mixing, packaging services, and order fulfillment. Many also handle returns for the retailer, helping them streamline their inventory and maintain a high level of customer service.

Warehouses vs. Distribution Centers

If you’re wondering whether you need a warehouse or a distribution center, hopefully, we’ve explained the differences well enough for you to make an informed choice.

To summarize, a warehouse would be more appropriate for long-term storage, whereas a DC would be better for short-term or interim storage of goods on their way to the consumer.

For example, if you require services like product packaging—where products are uncrated and individually re-packed, a DC would be more appropriate. Other services a DC offers may include order processing, fulfillment, and returns.

A warehouse ensures efficient and safe storage of goods, while the role of a DC is to satisfy customer needs. A DC serves external customers, while this is not often the case with a warehouse.

In the end, choosing a DC or a warehouse will depend on your specific needs, including the type of goods you need to store, how long you need to keep them, and any other services you might require on the journey to their final destination.

How DTS Helps

DTS World Cargo maintains affiliated agents throughout North, Central and South America, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. These agents are always at your disposal and ready to provide all necessary warehousing services, ensuring your cargo is adequately protected on its way to the final destination.

Reach out today to request a quote. We’d love to show you how we can help.