At Waller Transport, our experience of delivering loads in and out of regional distribution centres has seen us support major retailers including Morrisons, Asda, Wilko, John Lewis, B&Q and M&S, as well as companies selling products through Amazon.

Here, we take a closer look at the role of distribution centres and how we help customers move their goods through them in a timely fashion.

What are regional distribution centres?

Regional distribution centres (RDCs) are a key part of retailers’ supply chains, providing a dedicated space for goods to be stored and packaged in preparation for onward delivery, either to a supermarket or the end customer. While many large retailers have their own RDCs in key geographic locations across the UK, others tend to use third-party RDCs to help reduce their operating costs.

The sheer scale of some distribution centres allows them to operate as both storage facilities and order fulfilment centres. Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Dunfermline measures out at 1 million square feet, likewise the Shaw National Distribution Centre in Lancashire, which is used by delivery company Yodel.

Larger distribution centres can comfortably process tens of thousands of truckloads every year, and will generally serve a number of stores across a wide geographic region.

How do RDCs work?

A typical distribution centre consists of three main areas: a storage zone, a receiving area and a shipping dock.

Each of these areas may be broken down into specialized sections, depending on the nature of the products being received, the type of vehicle delivering the product, and whether the product is being placed into storage or transported straight to a store or customer.

As an example, retailers that stock perishable and non-perishable goods will require a refrigerated or air-conditioned area that keeps products fresh ahead of their onward transportation in a temperature-controlled trailer or shipping container.

A distribution centre serving multiple customers in a specific sector, or those that sell similar products, will usually have departments dedicated to the following functions:

Goods in – Containers are unloaded using specialist equipment such as forklifts and conveyor belt unloaders. Additional activities may include pallet wrapping and administration.

Bulk – This department is typically involved in controlling and shipping larger orders, or those that contain only full cartons or boxes.

Break bulk – Involved in lower-capacity orders that only contain part-filled boxes, or goods that don’t require pallets.

Export – Serves a similar function to the bulk and break bulk departments, but deals specifically with orders that are leaving the country in which the distribution centre is based.

Quality assurance – Carries out periodic checks of random stock samples to ensure they meet the required standards, as well as cycle counts to locate any missing stock.

Packing & production – Products are packed and labelled according to the customer’s specifications, and at the specific quantity required.

Transportation – Manage the transport of goods into and out of the distribution centre, working closely with dedicated haulage and logistics firms (such as Waller).

Many distribution centres have additional departments including maintenance, accounting and human resources.

How Waller Transport works with RDCs

Over the past 40 years, we have built strong relationships with RDCs in all parts of the UK, allowing us to satisfy the haulage needs of major retailers and smaller customers alike. Businesses that rely on RDCs present a unique challenge, but our service is well suited to the needs of companies with their own RDCs, as well as those that work with third parties.

Understanding timings

Any company that sells or supplies fast-moving consumer goods needs a logistics partner that can fulfil time-critical deliveries. And with most distribution centres operating through the night to ensure retail stores are fully stocked, a 24/7 service is nothing short of essential. At Waller Transport, we understand the need for prompt turnarounds at RDCs, with retailers often working to tight collection and delivery timescales.

Catering for all loads 

Our network of over 5,000 vehicles means we can accommodate all types of load passing through RDCs, from fully palletised cargo all the way through to part loads. As pioneers of the return loads model, we endeavour to deliver cost benefits for customers by taking full advantage of trucks that would otherwise be returning empty after delivering into an RDC.

Flexible delivery options 

When it comes to moving palletised cargo, we are not restricted by our own time pressures. Our hauliers will stick around as long is required to collect your goods from an RDC, so if your load isn’t ready when we arrive, there’s no need to worry. We can also support timed collections and deliveries; sourcing vehicles at the last minute to transport a load of any size.

Contact Waller Transport today

If you require a company you can trust to manage your inbound and outbound loads through RDCs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today. Our network of vehicles gives us the flexibility to manage any load at any time, and this is supported by over 50 years’ experience, so you can rest assured you’ll be in the hands of professionals.