A fulfillment distribution center is a specific location, often a warehouse, which contains a stock of products for redistribution to consumers, retail establishments or wholesale operators. It is a demand-based operation and functions as the essential component of the customer order chain.
Distribution fulfillment centers, also known as DCs, package handling facilities or cross-dock centers, are most often defined according to the purpose they serve. A retail distribution operation usually ships exclusively to retailers, for instance, while an order fulfillment facility typically ships orders to individual customers. Cross-dock centers rarely house full-fledged on-site inventories; instead, they function as way stations and exist solely to move materials to other destination points.
Distribution centers enable one location to handle many goods. However, larger companies frequently combine warehouse space, inventory elements and members of the workforce to maintain dual retail-based and consumer-centric operations within one location.
As e-commerce becomes increasingly more prevalent in the business world, distribution fulfillment centers define themselves differently according to market demands. Consumers ordering online grow more accustomed to immediate gratification with every purchase, driving the need for shorter delivery timelines and, ultimately, requiring distribution fulfillment centers geared less toward restocking store shelves and more toward processing Internet-based purchases.