The Types of Physical Distributions

by Charles Pearson ; Updated September 26, 2017
Shipping yards are one of many locations that products pass through.

Businesses are worried about various aspects of the physical product distribution. This includes determining the most efficient way to supply products directly to consumers and ensuring that the products actually arrive at the destination. Given the broad range of choices that businesses have, consumers and the nature of the product will influence the method of physical distribution.

Supplying Distribution

Supplying distribution is when businesses transport materials from supply to stock. After creating the products, manufacturers must move these products from the manufacturing plant to the retail store where the manufactured products will be purchased. Along the way, manufactured products often move to a dealer and to a distribution center. Then, the products finally reach the retail store. Businesses experience unpredictable product demands, so effective supplying distribution ensures that businesses can restock products, avoiding shortages. Supplying logistics also ensures that no steps of the process end up with surpluses of products, since facilities often have limited space to store products. To keep track of where products go, businesses use coding systems including bar codes so that products can be scanned quickly, allowing for rapid identification.

Carriers

When shipping products, businesses can either hire a contract carrier to perform deliveries for a negotiated price or can hire common carriers, which are businesses that transport products in a given area for a set rate. The common carriers will provide transportation services to any business. Hired carriers will often not provide special handling, such as when the business needs a product transported with a special truck. Also, these businesses will not perform rush deliveries or direct shipments. There are some products that are exempt from regulations and operating procedures, such as trucks that transport agricultural products. Some businesses rent or own trucks and the hire drivers to distribute the products. While this costs more in the short run, businesses will have completely control of the shipping.

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Intermodal Transportation

Businesses often use more than one form of transportation to move products, known as intermodal transportation. For example, trains can move products over long distances very cheaply, but trains lack flexibility. Businesses often move products across long distances on a train and then move the products to specific locations via truck. If a product must move overseas, products are shipped on boats to get the products across the ocean. The faster the ship, the more expensive it usually is to operate.

Cargo Planes

In addition to consistent distribution channels, businesses also sometimes send products to consumers very quickly, such as when customers request that a product arrive by first class. Air cargo can bring products more quickly to customers. Sometimes, businesses need a temporary place to store the product before the product is distributed to the customer.

Sales and Distribution

Sales and distribution modules focus on the process of getting in contact with customers, determining a price through negotiation with the customer and determining how the products will arrive at the customer's doorstep. Customers must provide an address, choose between shipping options and confirm that a product has arrived.

About the Author

Charles Pearson has written as a freelancer since 2009. He has a B.S. in literature from Purdue University Calumet and is currently working on his M.A. He has written the ebooks "Karate You Can Teach Your Kids," "Macadamia Growing Handout" and "The Raw Food Diet."

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