After you pick and pack your orders to perfection (or a 3PL does for you), the courier of your choice picks them up and delivers them straight to your customer’s front door. Simple, right?
Well, not quite. Once it’s handed off to a courier, an order’s last-mile journey is just beginning — and your responsibility isn’t finished yet.
While each package’s journey can vary, almost every ecommerce order will spend time in a courier facility before arriving at its final destination. It is crucial that ecommerce businesses understand what goes on at a courier facility, as these facilities and their operations directly impact the delivery and customer experience — and, by extension, your bottom line.
In this article, we’ll break down what a courier facility is, answer common questions about popular couriers, and discuss the benefits of tracking your packages in real-time.
What is a courier facility?
A courier facility is a large warehouse or distribution centre owned and operated by a courier company, and that holds packages that are meant to be delivered within a specific geographic region.
Packages that arrive at a courier facility are processed, scanned, and sorted before they are either sent to a different courier facility or delivered to the end customers. Courier facilities can be large or small, depending on the size of the area they cover.
What you need to know about courier facilities as a business
When your business works closely with couriers to complete their order fulfilment, it’s important to understand how a courier facility works. There are plenty of activities that take place within these facilities, and in order for orders to reach the right customers within the right time frame, these activities must be impeccably coordinated.
The chain of activity begins when trucks bring in packages addressed to the cities and localities that the facility serves. The trucks drop off the packages at designated locations within the facility, and the facility logs each package based on criteria like its shipping journey, destination region, or mode of travel.
Once logged, packages are next sorted based on the criteria listed above, and assigned to specific storage locations based on the type of product.
For example, some parcels may require special storage spaces (such as freezers, refrigerated rooms, or darkrooms), some may be set aside for forwarding to a different facility even closer to the final destination, and some may be transported from truck to truck without being stored at all.
From there, packages are loaded onto other trucks or delivery vans, which will either take them closer to the final delivery destination or complete the delivery.
Through this organised process, courier facilities ensure that the right products are routed to the right destinations, and undergo proper storage in transit to prevent spoilage or damage.
4 biggest courier facilities (+ most common Q&A)
The biggest players in the domestic shipping and delivery industry have their own courier facilities. Here are answers to common questions about four of the most popular couriers and their courier facilities.
|Courier Facility||Pickup Option||Processing Timeframe|
(United States Postal Service)
|Amazon||Yes||A few hours to 2 days|
1. Amazon courier facility
Can I pick up an Amazon package from a courier facility?
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to pick up your Amazon package from the courier facility, as it’s not open to the public. However, those customers who specified that their order should be delivered to an Amazon Hub can pick up their package after receiving the delivery notice.
How long does a package stay at an Amazon facility?
Amazon courier facilities don’t hold packages for any specific time frame. Factors such as the type of shipping service used, the product itself, and seasonal pressure affecting a courier’s service bandwidth will impact the hold time.
What does it mean when Amazon says a package has “left the courier facility”?
This means that the package is in transit from the courier facility to a different location. This new location could be either the customer’s doorstep, or a different courier facility closer to the final destination.
“ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Program has been phenomenal for us. Because of Amazon, our customers expect 2-day shipping and we couldn’t find other 3PLs that can provide that. If they do, you are going to pay a lot for it. Without ShipBob, it would cost more than $100 per order to ship that fast.”
Founder of My Calm Blanket
2. UPS courier facility
Can customers pick up packages from a UPS courier facility?
While it isn’t possible to pick up a package at any courier facility (as it isn’t safe for laypersons to be near industrial equipment and operations), UPS does give customers other ways to pick up orders.
Customers can leverage services such as UPS Delivery Intercept to eschew delivery, or redirect the package to their preferred UPS Access Point or retail location from which they can pick up the package.
How long do packages stay at UPS facilities?
As with most couriers, there is no set time frame a package must stay at a UPS facility. However, on average, packages spend 1-2 days at UPS facilities before they’re transported to the next destination.
What does it mean when a package is “processing” at a UPS facility?
This means that a UPS facility has received the package and is currently preparing it for the next destination.
3. USPS courier facility
Can customers pick up packages from a USPS facility?
Similarly to UPS, USPS provides customers with ways to pick up packages that do not involve pedestrians visiting actual courier facilities. For a fee, customers can use the USPS Package Intercept service to stop delivery, and have the package sent to their local Post Office for pickup.
How long do packages stay at a regional USPS facility?
As with most couriers, there is no set time frame a package must stay at a USPS facility. In most cases, though, packages spend 1-2 days at a regional USPS facility before they’re transported to the next destination.
What does USPS’ “Delivery status not updated” mean?
This means that the package has arrived at the facility, but has not yet been processed for delivery.
4. FedEx courier facility
Can customers pick up packages from a FedEx facility?
FedEx also provides customers with ways to pick up packages that avoid courier facilities. Through the Hold at FedEx Location option, eligible packages can be rerouted to and picked up from a nearby FedEx retail location.
How long do packages stay at a FedEx facility?
Depending on the type of shipping service, some packages spend only a few hours at a FedEx facility, while others may have to be held for 1-2 days before being processed.
How can customers find out which FedEx facility is holding their package?
Customers can use the FedEx Tracking tool to track the movement of your package and find out which FedEx facility has it ready for pickup.
“ShipBob has been a great partner as Ample has grown. ShipBob helps us offer new products to our customers with hardly any extra effort on our part.
Our focus is to grow our business, and that will not be achieved by packing up orders, sending out boxes, and dealing with enormous couriers like FedEx and UPS ourselves. That’s what ShipBob has mastered.
We want to focus on engaging with our customers, building our community, and continually developing new products that keep pace with science and customer needs. ShipBob lets us do just that.”
Pablo Gabatto, Business Operations Manager at Ample Foods
Why businesses should keep track of packages in real-time
With so much else to juggle in an ecommerce business, it’s tempting to think your job is done once an order is in the courier’s hands. However, it is crucial to stay invested even after the package leaves your fulfilment centre.
Here are just a few of the reasons why ecommerce businesses should keep track of packages in real time.
Optimise logistics process
Tracking and reporting on individual shipments allows you to estimate how long it will take for a package to reach its destination.
Using these reports, you can work backwards to plan your shipping schedules and your production and procurement timelines accordingly to ensure that the supply chain functions more seamlessly, and increase efficiency through optimised logistics processes.
Avoid package losses and delays
By knowing exactly where packages are and how they’re moving at all times, you’ll be able to detect any issues early on and address them in a timely manner. For example, if a package seems to be lost in transit, you can proactively send a replacement without waiting for the customer to reach out.
This type of responsiveness is crucial to ensure that a package arrives on time and to the right destination, and to keep customers informed and happy.
Account for damages
Real-time tracking is essential to maintaining quality all the way from your ecommerce fulfilment centre to the customer’s doorstep. By following the package at every turn, you’ll be able to determine where damage occurs during transit and hold the correct party responsible.
This also makes it easier to detect signs of unreliability, malpractice, and bad service. As such, you can make informed decisions about existing partners and whether to switch to a different business partner.
Maximise customer satisfaction
When real-time tracking helps you improve logistical efficiency, stay on schedule, and avoid damage in transit, your customers have a better experience with your brand.
Customers love (and expect) a seamless delivery experience with tracking and order status updates — so when your brand can provide it all, shoppers are more likely to purchase again and recommend your brand to others.
ShipBob maximises your shipping performance
The right logistics partner will go the extra mile beyond fulfiling orders for you to facilitate the easy, cost-effective last-mile experience customers expect.
When you outsource your fulfilment to ShipBob, you can achieve two-day shipping by distributing inventory across our network of 30+ fulfilment centres, or through our 2-Day Express solution. Either way, your customers will get the speedy and affordable delivery they want, helping your business to increase loyalty, sales, conversions, and revenue.
ShipBob also updates shipping courier data weekly to help you make more informed comparisons between couriers, and find the right delivery partner for your business. When coupled with bulk discount shipping rates negotiated with major couriers, ShipBob’s shipping solutions let you save money on shipping without sacrificing quality.
““In my eyes, ShipBob is competing against the Amazons of the world. Not only are they very cost-competitive and quick, they actually care.”
Carl Protsch, Co-Founder of FLEO
Bonus tip: Key terminology regarding your package status
While tracking statuses and their meanings often vary from courier to courier, there is some common verbiage. Here are a few key terms to help you understand how your packages are moving through a courier facility.
“Package arrived at courier facility”
This means that the package has reached a courier facility. It could mean that the package is now at a facility close to the final destination — but if the package must make multiple stops, this status could just mean that the package has completed just one leg of a longer journey.
“Package has left the courier facility”
This means that the package has just been shipped out from the courier facility. Depending on which stage of the shipment journey the package is in, it could either be headed for the customer’s doorstep or for another courier facility.
“Package being processed at courier facility”
This means that the package has been received at the courier facility and is currently being scanned and sorted to get it ready to travel to its next destination.
“Package delayed at a courier facility”
This means that there has been some delay in moving the package to the next destination. Often, this happens because the courier facility is experiencing some bottlenecks due to a backlog of packages or a shortage of delivery trucks and drivers (usually resulting from seasonal pressures).
Courier facility FAQs
Here are answers to the most common questions about courier facilities.
Can I pick up a package at a courier facility?
No. Courier facilities are not safe for the general public, and so couriers do not allow you to pick up packages at a courier facility, even if it is very close to you. However, some couriers enable you to “intercept the package” by rerouting it to a retail location or post office for pickup.
How long does a package stay at a courier facility?
Packages typically spend around 1-2 days at a courier facility. However, the specific timeline may also vary depending on the type of product and delivery service. Additionally, unexpected delays (often pertaining to peak season) may also occur, resulting in packages spending longer than usual at the courier facility.
What is a local courier facility?
A local courier facility refers to a small facility (possibly even a truck or car) that handles packages from local couriers or businesses. Local courier facilities are rarely used, and are often only relied upon for time-sensitive deliveries.