The Role of Distribution Centers in Importing and Exporting


Share This Post

Understanding the intricate workings of distribution centers is pivotal for businesses engaged in importing and exporting, especially when dealing with the vast Chinese market. These facilities, often perceived as the backbone of smooth ecommerce operations, are crucial in ensuring swift and efficient delivery of goods across borders.

What is Distribution Centers


Distribution centers are logistical powerhouses that store finished goods before they’re dispatched to fulfill customer orders. These strategically located facilities can be seen as specialized warehouses and play a crucial role in the supply chain, particularly when ensuring speedy and precise fulfillment of customer orders. The role of distribution centers becomes even more important when you’re exporting to or importing from a foreign market, such as China.

Many businesses opt to run their own distribution centers, while others choose to partner with third-party logistics (3PL) providers. Some companies are even built around being specialized distribution centers themselves, selling to other companies.

Understanding the Difference Between a Distribution Center and a Warehouse

Warehouse Distribution Center
Primary Role Stores large quantities of goods, often for a long term. Stores, picks, packs, and ships products to fulfill customer orders.
Main Clientele Usually supplies goods to manufacturers or wholesalers. Commonly used by online retailers and ecommerce companies.
Focus Primarily focuses on the long-term storage of goods. Focuses less on long-term storage and more on the flow of goods.
Operations Minimal. Warehouses are typically used for storage only. All-in-one logistics operations, including storage, picking, packing, and shipping.
Direct to Consumer Rarely, as products usually go to manufacturers or wholesalers first. Frequently, as distribution centers are designed to quickly process and ship orders.


Warehouses and distribution centers may seem similar, but they handle different operations. Warehouses are expansive buildings storing large quantities of goods, often for a long term. The goods stored in warehouses are usually supplied to manufacturers or wholesalers rather than directly to consumers.

On the other hand, distribution centers are all-in-one logistics operations that store, pick, pack, and ship products to fulfill customer orders. They are commonly used by online retailers and ecommerce companies and focus less on long-term storage and more on the flow of goods.

Leveraging Distribution Centers for Efficient Chinese Trade: A Game-Changer

At their core, distribution centers are all about strategic location and large-scale storage. These facilities house a massive amount of inventory and are strategically situated near key delivery locations. This setup, coupled with Qianhai direct consolidation shipping services to China, makes shipping quicker, simpler, and more cost-effective.

Now, let’s take the example of an overseas seller who caters to customers in China, or perhaps a business that imports a wide range of goods from Chinese suppliers. In such scenarios, a distribution center, or even a freight forwarder with distribution facilities in China, becomes a game-changer. These centers store all products from various suppliers in a central location. So, rather than each retail store having to deal with numerous shipments from multiple locations, they can receive one consolidated shipment from the nearest distribution center. It’s a streamlined process that benefits all parties involved.

Managing a distribution center is quite a task, requiring a harmonious blend of traditional warehouse practices and fulfillment strategies. This includes everything from inventory management, space optimization, and quality control, to order processing and handling product returns and exchanges. The result is a highly efficient system that ensures your goods are delivered to you in the quickest possible time.

In short, distribution centers are the unsung heroes of the retail world, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure your shopping experience is as smooth as possible.

The Inside Scoop on Distribution Center Processes

Ever wondered how shipment shipping from worldwide to your clients doorstep in China ?  Well, it’s all thanks to distribution centers. They’re like the backstage crew of your favorite theater show – working tirelessly to make sure everything runs smoothly. Here’s a sneak peek into how they do it:


1. Welcoming the Goods

The first step is all about the goods – receiving them, loading them, and unloading them. Picture it as a grand exchange of products. Trucks roll in, either loaded with goods from manufacturers, suppliers, or other company warehouses ready for export, or they come in, heavy with containers for import. The process of loading and unloading is made smoother with equipment like pallet jacks and forklifts, and mobile scanners come in handy to keep track of everything. The Qianhai ground team ensures that all items align with the order and pass the quality check, whether they’re set for export or just arrived for import. .

2. Storage Time

Once the goods have been unloaded, checked, or prepared for dispatch, they’re either stored safely or readied for shipping. The strategy used for storing or moving items depends on the center’s rules – it might be a ‘first in, first out’ (FIFO) or ‘last in, first out’ (LIFO) system. Conveyors are the unsung heroes here, moving items from the receiving area to storage or dispatch area. Some centers even use a method called cross-docking, which speeds up inventory turnover by bypassing the storage phase, whether the goods are coming in (import) or going out (export).

3. Order Fulfillment: The Final Act

Once an order is placed, whether it’s an import or export, the real action begins. The items need to be picked, packed, and prepared for shipment. Depending on the scale of the operation, there might be specific teams handling each step, or there could be a group of multitasking champs managing everything. Warehouse management systems (WMS) step in to assign efficient picking and packing strategies, ensuring accuracy and a streamlined workflow. Once the items are ready, they’re sent on their journey – be it to their new homes in a foreign land or to a local destination in China

And there you have it – a day in the life of a distribution center. Some also handle returns, communicating with customers and figuring out whether to restock or refurbish returned items. It’s all about making sure you get what you want, when you want it.

Why Do Exporters and Importers use Distribution Centers for China Trade?


Imagine your business is growing rapidly, and suddenly, your storage space seems too small. Your products are flying off the shelves faster than you can restock them. Sounds like a good problem to have, right? But, managing this growth effectively can be a challenge. That’s where distribution centers come into play, especially when you’re dealing with exports and imports to and from China.

Unleashing the Power of Distribution Centers

Think of distribution centers as your business’s superheroes. They are strategic, logistical hubs designed to consolidate orders, streamline operations, and enhance the customer experience. It’s like having your own command center, ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Strategic Location: The Game-Changer

One major advantage of distribution centers is their strategic location. Ideally placed to reduce both cost and delivery time, they are a secret weapon when it comes to getting your product to its final destination in China, or receiving goods from Chinese suppliers.

Big on Storage, Big on Benefits

Distribution centers aren’t just about moving goods; they’re also about storing them. They can house large quantities of goods for longer periods, meaning you can benefit from bulk rates when you buy extra goods in advance. It’s like having a giant pantry that always has what you need when it’s time to pick orders. Whether you’re shipping out or receiving goods, distribution centers ensure you have the right products on hand, right when you need them.

So, as your business grows and enters the exciting world of Chinese trade, consider harnessing the power of distribution centers. They might just be the secret ingredient to managing your growth effectively and keeping your customers happy..

How Distribution Centers Work

Just like us humans, distribution centers aren’t all the same – they operate differently based on what industry they’re in. For example, while some centers only ship goods to stores, others are all about delivering straight to your doorstep, and some do both. Take a look at China’s Qianhai distribution center – it’s smack dab in the middle of the Great Bay Area, backed by direct consolidation shipping from all around the globe to China. Thanks to China’s customs policy, Qianhai is no ordinary distribution center.

Running on Demand

Unlike your typical warehouse that’s stuffed to the brim with products, distribution centers operate on what you need and when you need it. Here’s how it works: suppliers or manufacturers ship their products straight to the center. Once there, the products get tucked away in their storage spots. When it’s delivery time, the crew picks out the right items from stock, wraps them up, and sends them out with your name on it.

Quick and Fast with Cross-Docking

Some distribution centers are even faster with something called cross-docking. Think of it like a relay race – incoming goods are quickly passed on to an outbound dock. This means they skip the storage part and get to you even faster.

To Outsource or Not to Outsource

Smaller companies usually hand over their distribution duties to logistics experts, while the big boys prefer to run their own show. They set up their own distribution networks to move goods from manufacturers or wholesalers to retailers or consumers. You’ll often find that big companies have several distribution centers in different areas, each serving a number of stores or a specific region if they’re delivering straight to consumers.

The Puppet Masters of Distribution

Behind the scenes, there’s a team managing the whole distribution process. They handle everything from supplier management, warehousing, inventory management, to supply chain management. They’re the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly from the moment a product leaves the manufacturer to when it reaches your hands..

What are the Key Benefits of Distribution Centers In China 

Distribution centers offer several key benefits for various companies:

  • Cost Savings: distribution centers enable companies to achieve cost savings through economies of scale, centralized inventory management, and optimized transportation networks. By consolidating inventory in distribution centers, companies can benefit from bulk transportation, reduced warehousing costs, and lower inventory holding expenses.
  • Operational Efficiency: distribution centers enhance operational efficiency by serving as strategic hubs for inventory management, order fulfillment, and distribution. They enable companies to streamline their supply chain operations, reduce lead times, and improve overall logistics performance. The center also offers value-added services such as labeling, pick-pack, and kitting, which can further enhance operational efficiency and reduce labor costs in destination countries.
  • Global Reach and Market Expansion: For manufacturing companies with overseas operations, MNCs, and import-export trading companies, distribution centers provide a platform for global market expansion. These centers facilitate efficient reach to international markets, supporting companies in expanding their customer base and market presence.


The Financial Upside of using Distribution Centers in China

Sure, getting started with a distribution center might seem a bit pricey, but here’s the catch – the long-term perks usually make up for the initial costs. How? Distribution centers are efficiency champions. They streamline the receiving, storing, packing, and distributing of goods. This means fewer inventory costs, less chance of running out of stock, and minimal risk of losing customers due to long delivery times.

Operational Costs: Understanding the Expenses

Operating a distribution center, like Qianhai MCC, comes with its own set of costs. These expenses primarily cover the handling of products. It’s all about the labor and equipment used for receiving, storing, picking, and shipping goods. Plus, you can’t forget about the fuel and electricity needed to run such equipment and the costs to keep everything in tip-top shape.

Storage Costs: The Price of Space

On top of operational costs, you also need to consider storage costs. This includes what’s often referred to as inventory carrying costs. These are the costs associated with holding your goods in the distribution center. But remember, with efficient management, these costs can be significantly reduced, making distribution centers a savvy long-term investment for your business.

Mastering the Core Areas of Our Qianhai Distribution Center

Our Qianhai distribution center, like any other, is built around three essential areas: the receiving dock, storage, and shipping. These are the most bustling spots in our center and are prone to congestion, which can impact productivity. However, we’ve optimized our layout to ensure a seamless flow of goods and personnel from receiving to shipping, enhancing productivity, accuracy, and safety.

  1. Strategic Layout: The Heart of Our Qianhai Center

We’ve divided our Qianhai distribution center into functional zones: receiving, shipping, packing, and storage. To boost efficiency, we’ve positioned our packing area as close to the shipping docks as possible. Furthermore, we’ve established a staging area in the receiving zone, significantly streamlining the unloading and checking in of orders.

  1. Prioritizing Safety and Security

For us, safety and security are paramount when storing inventory. We’ve designed our aisles to be wide enough for safe foot traffic and the movement of equipment like pallet jacks and forklifts. This approach upholds safety standards while preventing traffic jams.

  1. Leveraging Vertical Space

Our racking systems in the Qianhai distribution center are a testament to effective utilization of vertical space. We strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications and weight limits to ensure safety and efficiency.

  1. Adaptive Inventory Management

We ensure our high-demand products are always within easy reach. This often requires regular inventory reorganization, but it’s a small price to pay for improved efficiency. For instance, we move seasonal items closer to the picking locations as their season approaches.

  1. Maintaining a Clean and Organized Environment

Cleanliness and orderliness are key to a productive distribution center. We follow a regular cleaning schedule with daily, monthly, and semimonthly tasks, promoting efficiency and boosting employee morale.

  1. Embracing Automation

As we incorporate automation into our operations, we’re aware that our layout may need to adapt. We actively collaborate with automation solution vendors and professionals like architects or contractors to understand and implement any unique requirements.

Running a distribution center can be a complex task, but with our strategic approach, we’re operating smoothly and efficiently at our Qianhai location.

Remember, our team is always ready to assist with your distribution center needs in China. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for expert advice and solutions tailored to your specific needs. Let’s work together to optimize your distribution center operations..


Inside Our Distribution Center: Our Approach to Planning

Choosing the Right Location for a Distribution Center

Our Qianhai Distribution Center, located in the economic hub of the Greater Bay Area in China, is strategically placed for efficient and rapid distribution of goods both domestically and internationally. What truly sets our center apart is its unparalleled flexibility. Unlike traditional setups, our operations are centralized under one roof, facilitating everything from International Consolidation to Global Distribution. This strategic planning allows us to distribute goods faster, cheaper, and mitigates risk, making us a reliable partner for your distribution needs..

Getting to Know Our Distribution Center: A Walkthrough for Importers and Exporters

  1. Receiving Goods : At Qianhai distribution center, the journey starts with the ‘Goods In’ process. Here, our team swings into action, unloading containers and bringing in materials to your clients in China or bringing them from external suppliers. Our team use specialized equipment like forklifts, pallet jacks, and conveyors to make this process smooth. Plus, we make sure to check the quality and quantities of goods at this stage.
  1. Bulk Storage : Next up is our bulk storage area, which caters to larger orders with full cartons or boxes. We store these bulk quantities in warehouse racking systems and use equipment like forklifts to move, store, and pick full pallets of goods.
  1. Shipping : One of the great benefits of working with us at Qianhai MCC is that we simplify the process for you. Instead of juggling multiple parties, you can let our dedicated team handle everything. We manage shipments from Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, the US, and other global locations, all coming into China. But our service goes beyond just managing the flow of orders. Our team will pack your orders, prepare them for shipping, and build pallets. And for those shipping internationally, we’ve got you covered. Our expert export teams are ready to prepare your goods for their journey abroad, handling all the necessary documentation and appropriate shipping containers. So, sit back and let us make your shipping experience seamless and worry-free..
  1. Production : Some of our centers also feature a production team for repacking bulk shipments. This could involve supermarkets packing raw items with their own packaging. We can also manage such production with third parties or at production facilities, instead of at the distribution center.
  1. Quality Assurance (QA) : Quality is key, and our QA team ensures that all goods meet the necessary standards. They conduct regular spot checks of incoming goods, goods in storage, and outgoing products.
  1. Transportation : Our expert transportation team is at the heart of coordinating shipments to and from the distribution center. Our broad distribution network includes four CFS Stations across China, specifically designed for Import Cargo delivery. You can conveniently carry out customs clearance at these four CFS. In addition, we offer cargo clearance at Shekou and Human Dongguan, Qingxi Dongguan, Shekou Shenzhen, and Suzhou Jiangsu. While some businesses might partner with third-party transportation companies, we provide our own comprehensive transportation network right here in China, giving you complete control over your shipments.
  2. Specialized Departments : We understand that different items require different handling. Depending on what’s being stored and distributed, we have dedicated departments. For example, a food distributor might have separate refrigerated and non-refrigerated sections, each with its own shipping and receiving bays.

At our distribution center, a lot of thought goes into our planning. From the perfect location to key operational functions, we’ve built a center that’s ready to meet your import and export needs.

Exemplary Distribution Centers: The Case of Qianhai GDC

One standout example of a distribution center is Qianhai GDC. This facility is more than just a storage warehouse—it offers comprehensive solutions like International Consolidation, International Transshipment (Transfer), and serves as a Global Distribution Center.

Qianhai GDC is a distinctive hub providing a comprehensive range of solutions including facilities and Less than Container Load (LCL) services directly into China, eliminating the need to transit through other locations. Its strategic location within mainland China allows goods transshipped through Qianhai MCC to have direct access to the vast Chinese market as soon as they exit the bonded area. This is a significant advantage over traditional hubs like Hong Kong, where goods would still need to undergo customs procedures to enter mainland China.


Distribution Center FAQs: Unveiling the Qianhai Distribution Center


How do distribution centers maintain cleanliness and an organized environment?

Cleanliness and organization are key to a productive distribution center. At our Qianhai Distribution Center, we follow a regular cleaning schedule and maintain an orderly environment to boost efficiency and employee morale.

How does a distribution center handle inventory management?

At our Qianhai Distribution Center, we ensure that high-demand products are always easily accessible. This often requires regular inventory reorganization to improve efficiency and meet changing demands.

How do distribution centers ensure safety and security in storing inventory?

At our Qianhai Distribution Center, safety and security are paramount. We've designed our aisles to be wide enough for safe foot traffic and the movement of equipment like pallet jacks and forklifts, maintaining safety standards while preventing traffic jams.

What are some key functions in a distribution center?

Distribution centers incorporate several key functions such as receiving goods, bulk storage, shipping, production, quality assurance (QA), transportation, and specialized departments based on the nature of the goods being stored and distributed. At our Qianhai Distribution Center, these functions are meticulously carried out to ensure smooth operations.

How does the strategic location of a distribution center benefit businesses engaged in importing and exporting?

The location of a distribution center is pivotal for efficient trade. Our Qianhai Distribution Center, strategically located in the economic hub of the Greater Bay Area in China, enables rapid and efficient distribution of goods both domestically and internationally.

Can you give examples of different types of distribution centers?

Distribution centers can take various forms, reflecting the business model they serve. The Qianhai Distribution Center, for instance, serves businesses with physical locations, ecommerce companies, as well as companies that function as distribution centers themselves, facilitating efficient delivery of products to stores and customers.

What is the difference between a distribution center and a warehouse?

Although they may seem similar, distribution centers and warehouses differ in their core operations. While warehouses primarily focus on long-term storage of goods, distribution centers like our Qianhai center focus on the efficient flow of goods, incorporating processes like picking, packing, and shipping products to fulfill customer orders.

How do distribution centers differ in size?

The size of distribution centers can greatly vary based on a business's specific needs and nature. In the case of our Qianhai Distribution Center, its size is strategically chosen to accommodate a wide range of goods while ensuring efficient operations.

What are distribution centers and what role do they play in importing and exporting goods?

Distribution centers are logistical hubs that store finished goods before they're dispatched to fulfill customer orders. These facilities are especially crucial for businesses engaged in importing and exporting, as they ensure swift and efficient delivery of goods across borders. The Qianhai Distribution Center, for instance, aids businesses in navigating the vast Chinese market by streamlining the flow of goods to and from the center.