Contract Warehousing vs Traditional Warehousing

Ethan Townzen
May 31, 2024
Traditional Warehousing vs Contract Warehousing

A large-scale business typically requires a warehouse to store its products. The problem comes when you consider which type of solution you want.

There are two well-known solutions to this: contract warehousing and traditional warehousing. Now, if you are still not sure which one you should choose, read on, as we will discuss that and more in this article.

Contract Warehousing

This warehousing solution establishes a contract between a dedicated provider and a customer, who allocates the necessary space and services specifically suited to your needs. The arrangement lasts for an agreed-upon duration, ensuring optimal flexibility and support.

Key Features

  • Tailored services based on business requirements
  • Long-term agreements, typically ranging from one to several years
  • Integration with the provider's logistics warehousing and distribution networks
  • Custom solutions through value-added services such as packaging, labeling, and assembly

Advantages of Contract Warehousing

Despite being a long-term commitment, contract warehousing has many advantages that should be attractive for people looking for logistics warehousing solutions. They are as follows:

  1. Inventory management will be easier as you will be entrusting it to a third party; expect a full report of your inventory while it is stored in your chosen warehouse. Buske for instance uses Made4Net’s WarehouseExpert to improve productivity, service levels, and order fulfillment times to reduce operation costs. You can customize the specifics of your contract agreement according to your needs, making it well-suited for whatever need you have.
  1. In terms of cost-effectiveness, utilizing your provider’s equipment and infrastructure results in significant operational savings. The effectiveness of this approach is validated by Buske’s roster of Fortune 100 clients, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Ford.
  1. More often than not, your providers will also offer additional services like packaging, kitting, and labeling- these are known as Value Added Services. At Buske, we prioritize and meticulously handle these services to enhance your experience.

Disadvantages of Contract Warehousing

While contract warehousing offers several benefits, it also comes with a couple of notable disadvantages that businesses should consider: 

  1. The main disadvantage of contract warehousing is the potential over-reliance on third-party providers (3PLs), which can result in a significant loss of control over operations. Such over-reliance can expose the business to risks if the 3PL faces any organizational, leadership, or financial problems, impacting the operational capacity.
  2. The other disadvantage businesses encounter with contract warehousing is the likelihood of communication issues. Misunderstandings can arise when instructions are misinterpreted, leading to disruptions in logistics operations. Additionally, conflicts may occur when a company’s strategy doesn’t align with that of the 3PL provider, complicating the relationship.

While contract warehousing has its challenges, effective strategies can mitigate these risks. Maintaining involvement in operations prevents total reliance on third-party logistics providers. Establishing clear communication ensures all terms are understood and agreed upon, facilitating smoother operations.

Traditional Warehousing

As opposed to contract warehousing, traditional warehousing places all responsibilities directly on the business owner. In this model, the owner manages the entire operation, including acquiring the warehouse and overseeing all internal activities.

Key Features

  • Ownership or long-term lease of warehouse facilities
  • Full control over operations, including staff and processes
  • Scalability to increase or decrease space as needed

Advantages of Traditional Warehousing

Although traditional warehousing is an older model compared to contract warehousing, it still offers several advantages worth considering. Here are the key benefits:

  1. Owning the warehouse grants you complete oversight and control over all operations within it. For guidance on best practices to enhance your management approach, you may refer to this comprehensive guide for food and beverage warehousing.
  1. Opposite to contract warehousing, traditional warehousing has no long-term commitments so you can adjust accordingly should you want to scale. 

Harvard has compiled a comprehensive list of tips for scaling your business that you can check out if needed.

Disadvantages of Traditional Warehousing

On the other hand, the more traditional way of warehousing does require you to have a larger starting capital as it does not come cheap. 

According to Cushman & Wakefield, leasing warehouse space in Indianapolis costs between $4 to $10 per square foot on average. Indiana is also ranked among the top 10 most affordable states for industrial leasing. Despite this affordability, the expenses can still accumulate quickly.

Another thing to note is the responsibility it takes to manage all aspects of logistics warehousing. Particularly for an individual or small team, within a large company. However, with proper task delegation and effective monitoring, these challenges can be successfully mitigated.

Choosing the Right Solution For Your Needs

While we understand that it might be a little confusing to decide, here are some factors you can consider to make deciding easier:

  1. Business Size and Scale: Smaller businesses or those with changing demands may benefit more from contract warehousing, while larger businesses with stable demand may prefer traditional warehousing.
  1. Nature of Products and Inventory Needs: Products requiring specialized handling or storage conditions may be better suited to contract warehousing.
  1. Long-Term Business Goals: Consider whether your business goals align with the flexibility of contract warehousing or the control of traditional warehousing.
  1. Financial Capabilities and Constraints: Check if your financial situation can afford the upfront costs of traditional warehousing or prefer the cost structure of contract warehousing.


The choice ultimately rests with you, and we are committed to your success, regardless of the path you select. Should contract warehousing align with your needs, consider Buske as your trusted partner. We are dedicated to providing top-tier service. For more information on how we can assist, please contact us at