When the average person envisions a warehouse, they probably think of a large, spread-out space with tall shelves filled with products. For a long time in the industry, that was exactly right.

In the last decade, the idea of micro-distribution and micro-fulfillment have grown increasingly prevalent. They are no longer the ideas of the future, or “new.” E-commerce and related changes to the logistic industry mean that using a micro-distribution is increasingly necessary.

What does it mean?

The terms micro-distribution and micro-fulfillment are often used interchangeably but they have slight differences and most supply chains, especially of any notable size, utilize both. A distribution center generally is a transit hub for goods as they change modes of transport or are taken on the next leg of the journey. A fulfillment center, however, holds goods before they are sent directly to customers.

Our final mile services are part of micro-fulfillment from our micro-distribution centers in both Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock. So, what makes the micro-distribution concept different from traditional warehousing? At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s mostly the micro part. Most micro-fulfillment centers are less than 10,000 square feet and are often in small distribution spaces such as a small warehouse or even abandoned retail space.

The “micro” options tend to utilize technology such as tracking software and even, in some cases, robots more compared to their larger counterparts.

Why the change?

The change towards a higher number of smaller distribution and fulfillment centers is almost entirely driven by e-commerce. It wasn’t that long ago that it was almost considered “magic” if an item purchased online or even over the phone could arrive in less than a week. Two days? What was Amazon thinking? But they made it work and now, the drive to get items to their location in less than two days when possible.

We believe that another factor is the so far unrelenting supply chain issues with getting products where they need to go. Initially made a problem with COVID-19, the manpower shortages from the manufacturing level to the transportation and warehousing industries continue to persist. Shortening the supply chain with smaller, more regional, and even local, partners helps fill in the gaps, so to speak.

So far research and anecdotal evidence prove that this approach increases agility, reduces costs, and improves expediency. We expect that this trend will not only continue but that the industry will need to find ways to have even smaller, more efficient distribution and fulfillment centers throughout the country. Our industry must find ways to best serve both the urban and deeply rural communities.

Our micro-distribution services are some of the best in both Northwest Arkansas and Central Arkansas. We can easily service the four-state area including Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. We would love to talk with you about how On Time Logistics can enhance your ability to serve your customers!