In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Definition of Physical Distribution 2. Objectives of Physical Distribution 3. Importance 4. Components.

Definition of Physical Distribution:

Physical distribution is concerned with the physical movement of the goods from the producer to the consumer. It is an important part of marketing activity and a major component of marketing mix. It includes all those activities which help in efficient movement of goods from producer to consumer, such as trans­portation, warehousing, material handling, inventory control, order processing, market forecasting, packaging, plant and warehouse location and customer ser­vice.

Philip Kotler has defined physical distribution as, “Physical distribution involves planning, implementing and controlling the physical flow of materials and final goods from the point of origin of use to meet consumer needs at a profit.”

According to William J. Stanton, “Physical distribution involves the man­agement of physical flow of products and establishment and operation of flow systems.”


Physical distribution is thus, management of the physical flow of products and management and operation of the flow system. It is a process of managing the movement of the goods.

Objectives of Physical Distribution:

Physical distribution has two broad objectives viz. consumer satisfaction and profit maximisation. Apart from these, there are other objectives too. A sat­isfied consumer is the biggest asset that a company has. A firm can provide sat­isfaction to consumers by making available right quantity of right goods at right place and time, at lowest costs. Prompt and dependable distribution enhances consumer satisfaction.

At the same time, by offering better service at lower price of the product, the firm can attract additional consumers and make more prof­its. This can be done by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of physical distribution activities, firm can bring in economy which will have an effect on profit margin i.e. by lowering the physical distribution costs, profit position can be improved.

Apart from these two broad objectives, physical distribution has other objectives as follows:


i. To make available the right goods in right quantity at right time and right place at least cost.

ii. To achieve minimum inventory level and speedier transportation.

iii. To establish price of products by effective management of physical distribution activities.

iv. To gain competitive advantage over rivals by performing customer service more effectively.

Importance of Physical Distribution System:


Physical distribution activities have an important role to play in success of business.

Its importance can be judged from following points:

1. Creating Time and Place Utility:

Physical distribution activities help in creating time and place utility. This is done through transportation and warehousing. Transportation system creates place utility as it makes available the goods at the right place where they are required. Warehousing creates time utility by storing the goods and releasing them when they are required.


2. Helps in Reducing Distribution Cost:

Physical distribution cost account for a major part of the price of the product. If these costs are handled systematically, decrease in costs of product can be there. Proper and systematic planning of transportation schedules and routes, warehousing location and operation, material handling, order processing, etc. can easily bring in cost economies.

3. Helps in Stabilisation of Price:

Physical distribution helps in maintaining stable prices. Even customers expect price stability over a period of time. Proper use of transportation and warehousing facilities can help in matching demand with supply and thus ensure stabilisation of price.


4. Improved Consumer Services:

Consumer service in physical distribution means making products in right quantity available at right time and right place i.e. place where customer needs.

Components of Physical Distribution:

(1) Order Processing:

Order processing is the starting point of any distribution activity. Order processing includes activities like receiving the order, handling the order, granting credit, invoicing, dispatching, collecting bills, etc. Each customer expects that the order placed by him is implemented without delay, and as per the specifications of the order.


Thus, order processing becomes very important. Marketer should make effort to maintain the order cycle time i.e. the time period between the time of placement of an order by the customer to the time of arrival of goods at his destination. Standard procedure should be laid down for processing of order.

(2) Storage and Warehousing:

Storage means making proper arrangements for retaining the goods in proper condition till they are demanded by customers. There are many products which are seasonally produced but are used throughout the year, they can be stored and later released.

Similarly, there are products which are produced throughout the year but are seasonally used like umbrella, fans, heaters, etc. Here also storing plays an important role. Storage reduces the need for instant transportation which is difficult and costly.


Warehousing provides the storage function. Places where the goods are stored are known as warehouse. Goods are stored in warehouses to be released in time of demand. Apart from storing function, warehouses also perform other functions like, marketing and assembling the goods.

Two types of warehouses are there- Storage Warehouses and Distribution Warehouses. Storage warehouse helps in storing the good for long and medium period of time to ensure matching of supply and demand. Distribution warehouses facilitate assembling the product and redistributing it within a short period of time. They can also be centralised (when located near factory) or decentralised (when located near market).

(3) Inventory Control:

Inventory control refers to efficient control of goods stored in warehouses. Maintaining adequate level of inventory is very essential for smooth flow of business. Inventory acts as a bridge between the orders of customers and production. They are the reservoir of the goods held in anticipation of sales. Therefore, it needs to be properly managed and controlled. Neither to small nor too large inventory should be maintained.

Former would result in stock out, resulting in lost sales and latter involves heavy investments. Thus, a balance has to be maintained. As Prof. W. J. Stanton states, “the goal of inventory control is to minimise both the investment and the fluctuation in inventories, while at the same time filling customer order properly and accurately.”

Correct anticipation of the product demand is necessary for maintaining the correct level of inventory. Properly estimated demand helps the business firms in terms of cost of inventory, supplying to customer in time and maintaining the production schedule.


(4) Material Handling:

Material handling includes all those activities which are associated in moving products when it leaves the manufacturing plant but before it is loaded on the transport. This activity has been in existence since very long period of time, and now it has developed as a system.

It involves moving the goods from plant to warehouses and from warehouses to place of loading in transport modes. Proper management of material handling helps in avoiding unnecessary movement of goods, avoiding damage to the goods, facilitate order processing and efficient movement of goods.

Material handling is the sub part of the total physical distribution system and helps in reduction in cost and better service to consumers. Effective management of material handling system leads to effectiveness of total physical distribution system and thereby makes it economical.

(5) Transportation:

Transportation as a component of physical distribution is concerned with the movement of goods from the warehouse to customer destination. It includes loading and unloading of goods and their movement from one place to another. In doing so it provides time and place utility. Transport accounts for a major portion of the distribution cost and of the total price of the product.


Being a major cost element, marketers must take keen interest in transportation decision as it will help in reducing cost and increasing customer satisfaction. Correct form of transportation mode is very essential as it directly affect the price of the product. Proper choice facilitates smooth movement of goods on time and in good condition. The transportation mode therefore needs to be adequate, regular and dependable.

Different modes of transportation are there like Road transport, railways, Airways, Water transport and pipeline from which a choice has to be made. Each has its own share of merits and demerits. Normally a combination of different mode is chosen and integrated in a sequential order to move the product economically and faster.

Choice of a particular mode of transportation depends upon various factors like cost of the transport, availability of the mode of transport, speed, reliability, frequency, safety and suitability of the mode to move the product.

i. Road Transport:

This is an ancient form of transport and plays an important role in marketing. Road transport may be through different means like transport by animals (like bullock, camel), transport by human beings (like coolies or porters), transport by automobiles (like scooters, auto rickshaws, cars, truck buses etc.). Road transport is flexible and economical. However, it is unsuitable for long distances.

ii. Railways:


It is suitable for transporting bulk goods over long distances. It is an economical mode because large volume of traffic is handled over large network of railways. However, it is inflexible as it is unfit to transport goods to rural areas. Further, it involves huge maintenance expenditure.

iii. Water Transport:

Water way is an important mode of transport for heavy and bulky goods in large quantities. It consists of inland water transport and ocean transport. Inland water transport is used for transporting goods within county and ocean transport is used to transport goods to other countries. Water transport is a cheapest form of transport, having great carrying capacity and is highly suitable for heavy and bulky goods, but it has low speed and higher degree of risk due to seasonal difficulties.

iv. Air Transport:

Of late air transport has assumed significant importance as a mode of transport. Although it accounts for a small percentage of transportation, it is useful for perishable items, overnight packages, emergency supplies etc. The main disadvantage of air transport is that it has high freight charges, low carrying capacity and too much dependence on climatic conditions.

v. Pipelines:


These are specialized carriers design to transport the crude and refined petroleum and natural gas from wells to refineries and further to distribution centre. It is an economical mode as it involves less handling and labour cost, but it is the slowest mode of transportation and very limited in number.