Glossary: Omnichannel Logistics for the Modern Enterprise

Below is a list of common terminology used in the Supply Chain and Logistics industries. Learn more about omnichannel logistics, eCommerce fulfillment, last-mile logistics, and transportation.

General Supply Chain Terminology #

3PL #

A common abbreviation, stands for Third Party Logistics. See Third-Party Logistics

DC #

A commonplace abbreviation for a distribution center. A distribution center is athe warehouse where inventory is stored and sent to fulfillment centers or retail stores as orders are placed

Distributor #

Refers to clients who sell products through retail and wholesale partners

Inbound Shipment #

Inventory that comes into the warehouse

Outbound Shipment #

Inventory that is sent out of the warehouse

Order Fulfillment #

The process of receiving an order and sending items to a customer

Forecast #

Estimated volumes for inbound and outbound activity

Freight #

Inventory that is moved in large quantities by road, rail, ocean, or air

Freight Brokerage #

A company that arranges shipments of inventory, typically only within the U.S.

Freight Forwarder #

A company that organizes inventory shipments in large quantities, either by road, rail, ocean, or air, from the supplier location to where the goods will be assembled and/or distributed. Forwarders typically take possession of the inventory and handle all aspects of the movement including customs, storage, and paperwork

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) #

Commonly abbreviated to 3PL, this refers to companies that offer warehousing solutions and services for multiple customers. These services can include, but are not limited to: warehousing, trucking, VAS (value added services), labeling, cross-dock, transload, etc. These companies often require long-term contracts with customers to ensure security

Third-party warehouse #

Warehouse operated by a 3PL company that houses the products of their clients

Unit of measure #

Can be abbreviated to U/M. Refers to the measure of how an item will be shipped

  • Examples: Carton, case, unit, pallet, bag, sack

Logistics Technology Terminology #

Advanced Shipment Notification (ASN) #

Notifications that provide visibility on an order prior to arrival. Pertinent information for these include, but are not limited to: PO number, piece count, number of items, etc.


Abbreviation for Electronic Data Interchange. Refers to the interactions between multiple computer systems to expedite and streamline communication of logistics feeds. In logistics, examples of EDI feeds include shipment information, inventory documents, or to send invoices

Inventory Management System (IMS) #

Tracking of inventory from inbound receiving, storage, through outbound shipping to ensure correct amounts and minimize inventory shrinkage. Provides critical information to vendors for when restocking is needed

Order Management System (OMS) #

Technology that is used for order entry and processing

Platform #

A group of technologies that are used as the foundation for various service offerings (e.g. WMS, IMS, OMS, TMS)

Transportation Management System (TMS) #

Technology that is used for booking transportation, route planning, shipment visibility while in transit, and delivery metrics

Warehouse Management System (WMS) #

Software programs designed for the specific task of tracking inventory and movement of product while in the warehouse

eCommerce & Retail Terminology #

B2B #

A common abbreviation for Business-to-Business. Refers to businesses that sell products to other business entities for use in running their operations. Examples of products include computer equipment, industrial cleaners, or machinery

B2C #

A common abbreviation for Business-to-Consumer. This refers to any business that is selling to a consumer (a non-business entity) for final consumption of the product. Unlike D2C, B2C includes retailers and distributors

Brick and Mortar #

Refers to a physical storefront location where consumers can purchase products

D2C #

A common abbreviation for Direct-to-Consumer. This refers to clients who manufacture or assemble products then sell those products to the end user without the use of a distributor or retailer

Drop Ship #

The process for when a retailer sells an item then has the manufacturer ship the item directly to the end consumer without the retailer taking possession

Omnichannel #

Refers to clients who sell through both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar channels and want to provide a seamless customer experience between the two

Pure Play #

A company that only sells online via eCommerce channels and does not have brick-and-mortar locations or a physical sales force

Distribution & Fulfillment Terminology #

Allocations #

Product in the warehouse that has been assigned to an order in a WMS (warehouse management system)

Available #

All inventory that is eligible to be shipped and is not damaged, on hold, or allocated

Backorder #

A term used to describe an overallocation of an item.

  • Example: There are a total of 48 cases of item X in a warehouse, but an order calls for 57 cases of that item. 9 cases would be considered on backorder

Batch Picking #

A picking method whereby one SKU is picked one time for all applicable orders and then distributed across multiple orders in a staging or packing location

Case/Carton #

Units of goods are in corrugate packaging

Case Picking #

Method of picking inventory where individual cases are picked then either palletized or shipped as a unit via small parcel (FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.)

Cycle Time #

The amount of time it takes to get an order from order entry to the shipping dock


Abbreviation for “first in, first out” or, for perishable products, “first expired, first out”. Process in which the first unit of a given SKU received at the warehouse is the first to be sent out when an order is placed. If no other guidelines are given, the standard protocol is to ship the oldest unit of a given item first to ensure that product does not sit for too long


Abbreviation for “last in, first out” or, for perishable products, “last expired, first out”. The opposite of FIFO; refers to when the last unit of a given SKU received at a warehouse would be the first item to get sent out when an order is placed

Kitting #

When multiple SKUs are combined in one package to create a new SKU

Picking/Mis-Picking #

The process of selecting a SKU from its location in the warehouse in preparation of shipment. A mis-pick means the wrong SKU was selected

Pallet Picking #

A system or operation in which full pallet quantities are ordered and shipped. Full pallet picking is also known as unit-load picking

Pick-to-Carton #

Items in the warehouse are picked and placed directly into the shipping carton. This process eliminates the need to move the items to a dedicated packing station in the warehouse

Pick-to-Tote #

Items in the warehouse are picked into a container then moved to a dedicated packing station

Piece Picking #

A picking operation where individual pieces are picked and shipped, as opposed to case or full pallet. Mail order catalog companies and repair parts distributors are good examples of piece-pick operations

Vendor Compliance/Retail Compliance #

The rules put in place by the retailer for its vendors on how product will be delivered, such as how pallets are created, labels, EDI transmissions, and delivery times

Wave Picking #

A feature of the Warehouse Management System (WMS) that assigns orders with similar characteristics into short intervals throughout the day in order to support labor planning and efficient warehouse operations

Warehousing & Inventory Storage Terminology #

Bonded Warehouse #

A warehouse utilized for the storage of imported merchandise where the duty does not have to be paid until the item is fulfilled domestically. Items can be re-packaged and exported without being subject to duties

Cube #

Refers to shipment volume (Length X Width X Height), and most commonly means cubic foot or cubic meter

Cold Storage #

Temperature-controlled storage designed for perishable items that need to be refrigerated while in the warehouse. It is also referred to as Refrigerated Storage. Temperatures in cold storage typically range from 23-54 degrees

Cross-Dock #

Product or orders that are brought into the warehouse but not put-away, rather held at the dock for a short period of time before being loaded out of the warehouse onto another truck

Cycle Count #

The act of physically auditing the inventory in a warehouse to maintain accurate counts against what the technology systems show

Dead Stock #

Product that has been in inventory for an extended period of time without being moved or ordered

Floor Storage #

Inventory is stored on the floor of the warehouse. Typically reserved for pallets or bulky items

Rack Storage #

Inventory is stored on racks, similar to shelves, in the warehouse. Racks allow for inventory to be stacked vertically and still maintain easy access

Bin Storage #

Inventory is stored in small bins. This is useful for small items with multiple SKUs that are being fulfilled as one-off picks, such as clothing

Pack Station #

The area of a warehouse where inventory is brought to be packaged and shipped out

Food-Grade Warehouse #

A warehouse that is certified to store food or other products that are consumed orally (e.g. vitamins). Warehouses must maintain strict sanitation requirements to receive certification as food-grade. These certifications can come from a variety of sources and are subject to frequent auditing

Free Trade Zone (FTZ) #

A special zoning designation wherein goods can be brought in, stored, reworked, and shipped out again without being subject to customs regulations. This can be an entire warehouse or a portion of one

HazMat #

Short for “hazardous material”. Examples of HazMat products include household cleaners, batteries, and even hand sanitizer. A warehouse must be certified to store hazmat products and special labels must be applied to shipments containing HazMat

Honeycombing #

The situation that occurs when a lot (see "Lot") is partially depleted and the remaining space is wasted because it cannot be utilized

Inventory #

All of the items in stock for a given customer. Can be classified as available, allocated, on-hold, or damaged

Inventory Shrinkage #

Refers to inventory that has been “lost” in the warehouse so there are fewer items in-stock than the inventory management report shows. Shrinkage can result from a multitude of reasons such as an item being placed in the wrong area of a warehouse, receiving mis-counts, or theft

Just-in-Time (JIT) #

An inventory system that aims to coordinate the arrival of materials or supplies at a facility at the moment that they are needed in an effort to reduce storage and holding costs


LPN is an abbreviation for “license plate number” in the warehouse management system. An LPN is any group of items that are packed together in the warehouse (i.e. by lot, serial numbers, location, etc.). They are typically grouped by the container, such as by pallet or bin

Lot #

A group or product with the same run or manufacturing date. Often used for consumables which have expiration dates or potential product recalls that the warehouse needs to manage

Master Carton #

The outer carton used to contain multiple smaller cartons. Generally used for wholesale distribution purposes (e.g. shipping multiple items to a retail location)

Mixing Center #

A process in which the warehouse will mix products from multiple vendors into one shipment to an end customer in order to reduce shipping costs

Mixed Pallet #

A pallet that contains more than one product type or SKU

Pallet (Skid, Board) #

Equipment on which goods are stacked in order to be easily transported, having easy access slots for forklifts. Can be made from wood, plastic, metal, or composite materials

Pallet ID #

The bar code tag that is placed on a pallet for tracking purposes

Pinwheeling #

Pinwheeling is a process of arranging the direction of pallets, or product on a pallet, to maximize the amount of pallets or product that will fit in the space

Radio frequency identification (RFID) #

Refers to a method of paperless scanning of inventory. RFID tags are scanned to show when items enter or leave the warehouse and allow better tracking of inventory


Abbreviation for Stock Keeping Unit. This is a unique identifier for an item down to size, color, and style (if applicable)


Abbreviation for Service Level Agreement. An SLA is made between a service provider and a client. In logistics, examples of SLAs are time to put away items, time to fulfill orders, percentage of inventory shrinkage, amount of mis-picks, etc.


Abbreviation for Standard Operating Procedure. SOPs are step-by-step instructions for how tasks should be managed in the warehouse. They can be unique for each client if needed

Stockout #

A situation where there is no inventory available to sell to customers at a particular location

Temperature-Controlled Storage #

Storage that is designed for products that will spoil if they become too hot or too cold. Facility temperatures typically range from 55-80 degrees

Transportation Terminology #

Backhaul #

Describes a truck picking up freight prior to returning to its hub.

  • Example: A truck delivers a load from New York to Atlanta. Prior to returning to New York, it picks up a load going to New Jersey to deliver on the way back

Bill of Lading (BOL) #

Legal documentation for any load of product traveling in a truck, whether it be LTL (less than truckload) or TL (truckload). This document includes pertinent data such as PO number, unit of measure and quantity, and weight

Container #

Typically used to refer to ocean shipping containers. These come in two common sizes: 40-foot and 20-foot. Intermodal containers can also be 45-foot

Cubed out #

Refers to a container of trailer being at maximum capacity (or very close to it)

Dunnage #

Packaging supplies used to ensure safety of cargo in transit. Can include paper, bubble wrap, air bags, etc.

Floor-Load #

Refers to product stacked directly onto the floor of a trailer or container without pallets or slip sheets; product must be unloaded manually without the use of a forklift

Full Truck Load (FTL) #

A container or trailer that is deemed as filled, or cubed out

Intermodal #

Refers to using two or more forms of transportation to move products.

  • Example: If a container is put on a train then picked up by a long haul truck to complete transit, it has used two modes of transport

Less-than-truckload (LTL) #

A shipment of pallets that does not fill a trailer. Typically this refers to 10 pallets or less, though it is not a defined cut off

Load locks #

Adjustable bars used to secure a load for transit

Small Package/Small Parcel #

A shipment that is in the form of a package, or multiple packages, rather than a pallet. This can be shipped via a parcel service such as FedEx or UPS. A single package must be under 150lbs and no more than 165” in length and girth combined

Tare Weight #

The weight of an empty shipping vessel (container, trailer, or packaging). Used to determine the actual weight of product only.

  • Example: The gross weight of a container is 54,000 pounds, and the tare weight on the empty container is 8500 pounds. The weight of product only is 45,500 pounds

Pricing Terminology #

Chargeback #

Monetary term used predominantly in cases of vendor compliance issues, where product was not shipped correctly via the given guidelines for a consignee

Handling charge or In/Out Fee #

A pricing line item that is charged to the customer for the labor and time needed to handle items in the warehouse. This could refer to the inbound receiving process or the outbound picking and packing process

Storage Rate

The price charged to the customer for storing an item on a month-to-month basis