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Fulfillment Terminology: Know the Lingo

Have you ever heard the term “DC” used and known that the author wasn’t referring to the nation’s capital, the popular comic books company, or a brand of skateboarding shoes, yet felt uncertain of what it meant? When you hear someone say “SKU” do you feel the need to say, “bless you?” Today we are diving into terminology used in e-commerce fulfillment.


The term automation is often used vaguely when speaking about fulfillment. In a general sense, automation refers to workflows becoming increasingly mechanized, possibly eliminating the need for human labor and the potential for human error. Robotics are often a part of automation, as well as technological tools that still rely on human operation (like a handless scanner for warehouse workers).  


“Carrier” refers to the company that delivers an order to the end consumer. The most well-known examples of carriers are UPS and FedEx, but there are countless others, some operating globally and others operating in a specific region.  


DC stands for distribution center. Distribution centers are where goods are stored to be picked, packed, and shipped to the customer. Warehouse is another term that is sometimes used interchangeably with DC. Companies can utilize different numbers of distribution centers based on their needs. This can be referred to as a single-DC model or a multi-DC model.  


Kitting refers to the assembly of separate parts into an order and individual SKU, as well as the packaging of the finished product. This is sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘pick and pack’.  

Pick and Pack:

The process of pick and pack is when a warehouse worker pulls a specific item out of storage at the DC and packs it with any custom packaging (stickers, invoice, etc.). After it is picked and packed, it is handed off to the carrier to deliver to the customer. Not all warehouses offer pick and pack, so be sure to know what you’re looking for when establishing your criteria for a fulfillment partner.


SKU stands for “stock keeping unit” and is generally associated with a specific product, allowing tracking the number of that product in inventory possible. The SKU is also usually readable through a scanner (think of scanning a box of cereal at the grocery store), allowing workers at a distribution center (or at a retail or grocery store) to track how much inventory of a given product is left at that location and worldwide as orders containing it are shipped out.

There are many more terms in the world of e-commerce fulfillment and shipping, but the above terms make up some of the most used jargon in the industry. Comment with a term we missed and the definition!  

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