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A Day in the Life at a Distribution Center


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Step into a pharmaceutical distribution center, and you will find a modern facility bustling with activity. In today’s state-of-the-art facilities, passionate employees, supported by sophisticated new technology, work around the clock to fulfill shipments to hundreds of thousands of pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the country.

Efficiency is the Name of the Game

This spirited activity is for a reason: on a typical business day, pharmaceutical distributors handle an average of 97,395 products and 5,024 total orders. To efficiently manage this massive volume of inventory, distributors rely on highly trained staff who work tirelessly to make sure filling and shipping processes are as efficient and effective as possible.

It takes more than just the tireless work and supply chain expertise of logistics professionals to serve this vital role, however. Watch a distribution center in action, and you will see some of the latest and most innovative technology that distributors use to move and secure the nation’s medicines.

A Typical Day

Providers place orders with their distribution partners.

In the morning, hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare providers conduct inventory checks and place orders with their distributor partners. The orders are routed to the relevant distribution center for processing, and distribution center employees spring into action.

Employees prepare and fulfill orders to reach customers.

Fulfilling thousands of orders per day requires fast-paced coordination between distribution center employees and innovative tracking and shipping systems. Staff “pick” products with the help of automated technologies, such as carousels, a-frames and advanced sorting systems. This technology enables associates to identify the most efficient product inventory levels, the specific location within the warehouse to store each product and ideal picking sequences to assemble an order.

Through the hard work and logistics expertise of distribution center staff, pharmaceutical distributors can deliver orders as early as the next business day.

Orders are shipped and tracked by distributors until they reach their destination.

Once orders have been assembled, it is time to get the prescription medicines and healthcare products to the patients who need them. Distributors use sophisticated technology to monitor shipments from the second they leave a distribution center until they have reached their destination at a licensed pharmacy, hospital or other healthcare provider.

Advanced shipment tracking technologies allow distributors to securely track every step of a medicine’s journey, and sophisticated monitoring systems are designed to alert distributors if there are any deviations during transportation.

Medicines and healthcare products from manufacturers arrive.

In the late afternoon and early evening, shipments of products arrive from manufacturers. Distribution center employees enter medicines and healthcare products into complex warehouse management systems that track inventory level and optimize workflow and storage. Staff work throughout the night to stock the distribution center shelves with the products.

Storing and securing controlled medications and specialty products require even more coordination and planning. Schedule 2 narcotics are locked, monitored and stored in separate spaces that are strictly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Additionally, specialty items, including cold chain products, are kept in refrigerated units on site and require insulated containers for transportation that may have temperature monitors and cold packs.

For more information about how today’s state-of-the-art distribution centers help distributors efficiently deliver medicines, visit:


The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) represents primary pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. Since 1876, HDA has helped members navigate regulations and innovations to get the right medicines to the right patients at the right time, safely and efficiently. The HDA Research Foundation, HDA’s nonprofit charitable foundation, serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.


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