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Fulfillment Center vs Warehouse: Key Differences

What's in this article?
  1. What Is A Fulfillment Center?
  2. What Is A Warehouse?
  3. General Purpose
  4. Specialized
  5. Cold Storage
  6. Liquid Storage
  7. Distribution Center
  8. How Does A Fulfillment Center Operate?
  9. How Does A Warehouse Operate?
  10. Fulfillment Center Vs Warehouse Similarities And Differences
  11. Operation Speed
  12. Amount Of Space
  13. Number Of Employees
  14. Quantities Of Inventory
  15. The Increase In Popularity Of Fulfillment Centers
  16. Conclusion
Fulfillment Center vs Warehouse: Key Differences

Traditional warehouse operations are expensive and not always efficient for your company's needs. But with the rise of e-commerce, fulfillment centers are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, Amazon has become the largest retailer in the world because of its efficient fulfillment centers.

The key is understanding what your business needs, but the first step is understanding the difference between fulfillment centers and warehouses.

What Is a Fulfillment Center?

A fulfillment center is a warehouse that stores large amounts of inventory. It is a location where products are picked, packaged, and shipped.

Most retail businesses today depend heavily on fulfillment centers to ship items to customers. In fact, many retailers use fulfillment centers because it helps reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Fulfillment centers are operated by third-party logistics providers (3PLs). 3PLs are companies that specialize in providing transportation and distribution services to shippers.

They operate the centers and perform functions such as receiving shipments, storing product, preparing packages, and delivering them to customers.

Companies often contract with other organizations that provide services related to storage, delivery, and customer care. These companies work together to make sure that orders arrive safely and quickly.

What Is a Warehouse?

A warehouse is a facility used for storing items such as raw materials, finished products, and supplies. They are usually used for storing items like food, furniture, clothing, electronics, and cars.

Warehouses are usually located near cities or towns because it makes sense to store inventories closer to where people live. It is common for warehouses to contain multiple floors, each one dedicated to a specific type of product.

There are many types of warehouses, including:


General purpose

This is the most common type of warehouse. These warehouses are often large enough to hold several million dollars' worth of goods. They are also big enough to allow trucks to enter and exit easily.


These warehouses are designed specifically for one item. For example, a specialized warehouse might be built to store wine or cheese.

Cold storage

This type of warehouse keeps perishable foods cold. Food is kept in refrigerators located inside the warehouse.

Liquid storage

This type of warehousing stores liquid chemicals.

Distribution center

This type of warehouse helps companies distribute their products to customers.

How Does a Fulfillment Center Operate?

Order fulfillment services take care of shipping products once they've been picked up from manufacturers and delivered to warehouses. They can range in size from small self-contained buildings to sprawling complexes with thousands of square feet of space.

As mentioned above, companies like Amazon use networks of fulfillment centers to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently.

An inventory management system keeps track of what products are being produced, how many units are left to sell, and whether those units are selling well enough to justify keeping up production. This information is used to determine when to stop producing certain items and start making others.

How Does a Warehouse Operate?

Warehouses are generally divided into three sections: storage areas, loading docks, and receiving docks.

Storage areas are where most of the actual work happens. Items are moved around via forklifts, pallet jacks, and hand trucks.

Loading docks are where customers pick up shipments. Receiving docks are used to unload incoming deliveries.

The different parts of a warehouse are connected by conveyor belts, which move items between them. The movement of these items is controlled by computers.


Fulfillment Center vs. Warehouse: Similarities and Differences

A fulfillment center is similar to a warehouse in many ways. Both are large buildings where products are stored and shipped out to customers. However, there are some key differences between the two types of facilities.

Operation speed

The primary difference between a warehouse and a fulfillment center is how often items move through each facility.

While a warehouse is primarily used for storing goods, a fulfillment center is designed to process shipments quickly. This allows it to handle high volumes of incoming inventory without having to store everything for too long.

Amount of space

Another major distinction between a warehouse and a fulfillment center is the amount of space that each type of facility occupies. For example, a warehouse might occupy 10,000 square feet of floor space, while a fulfillment center could take up 20,000 square feet.

This extra space is necessary because a fulfillment center needs room for receiving, sorting, packing, shipping, and storing inventory.

Number of employees

A third important difference between a warehouse and fulfillment center is the number of employees needed to operate each one.

In general, a warehouse requires fewer workers than a fulfillment center. This is due to the fact that most warehouses do not require extensive cleaning and maintenance.

Quantities of inventory

Finally, a warehouse typically handles smaller quantities of inventory than a fulfillment center. Because a warehouse stores items in bulk, it is easier to keep track of what is being sold and how much inventory is left over.

On the other hand, a fulfillment center must manage a greater volume of inventory. As such, it uses a barcoding system to ensure that every item is accounted for.

The Increase in Popularity of Fulfillment Centers

The fulfillment center model is becoming increasingly popular among e-commerce businesses. These warehouses store inventory and fulfill orders. They typically use automation technology to streamline operations. This allows them to focus on what matters most – growing sales.

Here are some of the pros and cons that help companies determine whether to use fulfillment centers:


  • Inventory is stored close to where it is used.
  • Product availability is high because there is no distance between product and consumer.
  • Shipping costs are lower since there is less distance between the warehouse and the consumer.


  • Fulfillment centers require large capital investment.
  • There is a lack of skilled labor available.


As you can see, fulfillment centers have some major advantages, especially for large companies with a lot of resources. Both fulfillment centers and warehouses, though, remain an essential part of the supply chain and the shipping industry.

Check out our blog for more content about how developments in the shipping industry affect your business.

If you're looking for a reliable shipping partner, consider A-1 Auto Transport. We offer comprehensive shipping services to meet the needs of your business. Contact us today to talk more about how we can help your business.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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