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Flow Through Distribution: Boost Efficiency and Speed

A warehouse worker moving products on a pallet jack.
Last Modified: April 4, 2024
What is flow through in a warehouse? By taking advantage of this process, your business can bypass traditional warehousing and speed up deliveries.
Joe Weaver
June 26, 2023
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Flow through distribution is a game-changer when it comes to warehouse operations. Imagine a seamless flow of goods, swiftly moving through a warehouse without any unnecessary stops or delays. This innovative approach optimizes the way orders are fulfilled, offering a host of advantages along the way. 

According to mba SKOOL, flow through distribution in warehouses is a highly efficient process. It optimizes order fulfillment and reduces storage time. Goods are received, sorted, and immediately directed to outbound shipping, removing the need for long-term storage. Handling is kept to a minimum, reducing opportunities for damage or errors.

See how you may be able to benefit from flow through distribution to keep your customers happy.

What is Flow Through Distribution?

Multiple pallets containing warehouse goods.

As mentioned above, flow through distribution moves goods directly from inbound trailers to outbound shipping, without storing them in a warehouse. This saves time and money, and it can also improve customer satisfaction.

Before we go further in-depth about this process, let’s take a look at the differences between a warehouse and a distribution center (DC).

What is the Difference Between a Warehouse and DC?

These two words may seem like they mean the same thing, but that’s not exactly true. Warehouses may store goods for weeks or months at a time. When orders are placed, items are picked from their storage areas and then packed to await distribution.

Meanwhile, distribution centers (DCs) move products quickly from inbound shipping to outbound distribution. Items might be staged in an outbound shipping area for a day or two, but they are not stored long-term.

The flow through process is best applied via a DC, which is sometimes referred to as a flow through warehouse. This allows cargo to be received, broken down, repackaged, and moved to the next step in distribution with little to no need for storage. 

Understanding Flow Through Warehouse

A flow through warehouse enables the seamless movement of goods. Once items are received, they’re sorted, kitted (if necessary), and sent to outbound shipping areas without long-term storage. The goal is to reduce the time products spend in the warehouse while and maximize the speed of order fulfillment.

Flow through warehouses are organized with speed in mind and designed with some of the following traits:

The combination of efficient design and modern technologies allows a flow through warehouse to save time and money when compared to long-term storage. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the advantages offered by a flow through distribution model.

Looking for a solution to store and ship your products seamlessly? Let R+L Global Logistics be your fulfillment and distribution partner.

What are the Advantages of Flow Through Distribution?

A warehouse worker with a tablet inspecting packed merchandise.

Flow through distribution offers several advantages that can benefit businesses and increase fulfillment optimization in the warehousing and logistics industry. 

Some advantages include:

  • Reduced Inventory Holding: Flow through logistics focus on efficient movement rather than long-term storage. This approach helps businesses reduce inventory levels, costs, and the risk of waste.
  • Faster Order Processing: With goods flowing directly from receiving to outbound shipping, there is minimal handling and processing time. Orders can be fulfilled quickly, ensuring prompt delivery to customers.
  • Enhanced Order Accuracy: Flow through distribution reduces errors and improves accuracy by streamlining the flow of goods. Fewer handling steps mean fewer chances for mistakes, which leads to happier customers.
  • Improved Inventory Turnover: Minimizing storage time and keeping products moving reduces stockouts and frees up working capital by improving turnover.
  • Flexibility and Scaling: Flow through is highly adaptable to changing business needs. It allows for easy scaling up, adapting to fluctuations in demand and order volumes. Faster order processing  then  leads to faster order fulfillment and happier customers.

With the advantages of flow through distribution laid out, let’s take a look at how some real-world applications of the process could play out.

  1. An e-commerce retailer, known for its fast delivery times, adopts flow through distribution in its warehouses. This method reduces order processing time, leading to happier customers.
  2. A perishable food supplier uses flow-through distribution to keep food fresh and reduce waste. By quickly moving goods through the warehouse, the supplier can maintain product quality and extend shelf life.
  3. A high-volume electronics manufacturer uses flow-through distribution to meet demand during product launches. By quickly scaling operations, the manufacturer can process orders quickly and ensure products reach customers on time.

These examples show how flow-through distribution can help businesses provide great customer experiences, manage inventory better, and respond to changing market conditions.

Enhance Efficiency with Flow Through Fulfillment

Flow through distribution is more efficient than traditional warehousing because it eliminates unnecessary handling steps, which speeds up order processing and reduces errors.

With the rising cost of warehouse operations, minimizing storage time is a vital cost-saving measure. To illustrate, consider the increase in operating costs of warehouses  over a five-year period starting in 2017.

Average Operating Costs Per Square Foot

Year RangeCost in Dollars per Square Foot
2017$6.53
2018-2019$7.79
2020$7.81
2021$7.91

Source: Statista.com

Multiply these numbers across warehouses that take up thousands of square feet. You’ll see that it amounts to hundreds of thousands in spending. 

Warehouse owners have to pass these rising costs off to their customers to make up the difference. Therefore, it makes sense to cut down on warehouse storage whenever possible. Flow through distribution is a great way to accomplish that goal.

Looking for a solution to store and ship your products seamlessly? Let R+L Global Logistics be your fulfillment and distribution partner.

Flow Through Distribution vs Cross Docking: Which is Right for You?

Six warehouse workers in an aisle at a warehouse.

You’ve probably run across the term “cross docking” while learning about the flow through process. So, just what is the difference between cross dock and flow through? When considering warehouse solutions, it’s essential to understand the differences between these two methods. 

While both aim to enhance efficiency and reduce handling, they have distinct characteristics. Understanding the subtle differences between the two methods will help you choose the best distribution model for your needs. 

Flow through distribution is ideal for businesses with high-volume, fast-moving goods, and a need for some storage capabilities. 

This includes goods that need to be received, broken down, and repackaged as kits, such as:

On the other hand, cross docking is more suitable for immediate transfer of goods from inbound shipments to outbound vehicles without any storage. Pallets may be broken down and reorganized, but not at the SKU level, as found with a flow through distribution model. Cross docking is a great choice for distributing large shipments such as LTL freight orders.

Assessing your specific requirements, product characteristics, and order patterns will help determine which approach aligns best with your business needs. Whichever method you choose, our experienced team of logistics experts can help you take the next step in meeting your distribution goals.

Fulfillment and Distribution: Your Flow Through Distribution Partner

When it comes to optimizing your warehousing and fulfillment operations with flow through distribution, partnering with a reliable logistics provider is essential. Fulfillment and Distribution understands the intricacies of flow through distribution, and offers comprehensive services tailored to meet your needs. These include:

With our expertise in efficient warehouse management and order fulfillment, we can help you streamline operations, boost efficiency, and deliver orders with speed and accuracy. Contact us at 8669893082 or complete a risk-free quote request and experience the benefits of optimized logistics that drive your business forward.

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