Shopping for a 3PL can be a huge challenge.
Even after you’ve narrowed your list by capabilities, value adds and technology, you’re left with an even bigger issue to sort: figuring out if their physical facilities are up to the same level as their etherrial ones.
Before you jump at the first exciting 3PL that comes your way, take a long hard look at their buildings. These can influence the quality of your order fulfillment as much as the tech needed to track it does.
When It Comes Down to Brick and Mortar
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your 3PL needs to have a solid facility that’s clean and has nice high ceilings and wide aisles. Of course there should be lots of space, especially in the warehouse and pick floors. But that’s not all there is to choosing a building that will be able to take care of you for years to come.
Keep an eye out for these important characteristics, too:
- Strategic spaces. The warehouse of your future should be able to expand as far as your company can grow. If things are already tight, the chances are really good that when you start needing more room for additional SKUs, it won’t be available.
Ask the 3PL how they handle these situations with such little apparent room. It may be that they have a much more strategic outlook than it appears, but if the explanation doesn’t add up, watch for additional red flags.
- Facility footprint. Like having adequate space for warehousing, a 3PL’s warehouse and pick and pack floors should be designed for efficiency.
Oddly-shaped warehouses that appear to have bottlenecks, mezzanines that can make product transportation difficult or a workflow that simply doesn’t work when it comes to bringing new items in from the loading dock are all red flags because they will slow down order fulfillment, costing you more money.
- Plenty of docks. Docks are the heart and soul of a warehouse and fulfillment center. After all, without them nothing could come in or out.
Take a good look at those docks. Are there enough of them to support the facility’s size? Can trucks easily back in to them for loading and unloading? Trucks lingering, waiting for their turn to dock is not a good sign that your future 3PL is an efficient one.
Your 3PL partner will be a company you’ll work with over the long-term. That’s why it’s so important to check the facility up and down, you’re going to depend on it and its configuration to support you while you work to increase sales of your products. If the building can’t pass muster, move along.