This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.
Partnering with a 3rd party logistics company can make a huge difference to how your business runs.
The right 3PL will move your packages faster, help you keep better inventories and provide a level of customer service you simply lack the manpower to do yourself. For a small- to medium-sized eCommerce business, a 3PL partner can be an amazing boon, provided that the right partner is chosen.
It can take many months to choose an appropriate 3PL for a long-term relationship, but you’ll be thankful you took your time and did your homework up front. When you’re making your first cuts, look at what potential 3PLs offer partner-businesses. Some 3PLs don’t provide the same complete solutions that their competition does.
An eCommerce business should require a 3PL offer the following services, at very least:
Up-to-the-minute inventory control. A good 3PL invests in technology that keeps you better informed about your product stock so you can reorder as necessary. Bar code scanning is a vital tool for this process. By requiring workers to scan and rescan products as they move around the warehousing and distribution center, you will know exactly how many pieces remain in inventory at a glance.
Product cartonization. The ability to put a product into a box doesn’t sound like it should be rocket science, but it is actually a fairly involved process. Today’s shippers charge not only by the pound, but by the square inch, so a good 3PL will be working hard to find ways to get the most out of your shipping dollars. Custom box sizes and software that helps determine the ideal configuration of products in those boxes will save you a bundle on shipping.
Complete warehousing and distribution services. Most 3PLs are built on warehousing and distribution, but a few may outsource these tasks elsewhere. You need to have control over where your products are housed and how they’re handled, so always use a 3PL that manages their own warehouses. Part and parcel distribution can mean subpar service and slow delivery, but merchandise that starts in the same warehouse from where it’s shipped moves without delay.
Detailed reporting. Your 3PL should be a great source of data, this shows that they’re not only working hard to be as transparent as possible, but that they’re constantly trying to improve their own speed and efficiency. Highly detailed reporting can help you plan for seasonal peaks and lows, as well as keeping you informed of improvements to your 3PL’s fulfillment process.
The perfect 3PL can be tricky to find, especially when so many seem to offer similar services. Once you start to look into what each 3rd party logistics company can do for your business, however, the picture starts to get more clear. Find out more about evaluating the next 3PL for your eCommerce business in part two of this two-part blog series.