Jumping into a relationship with a great 3rd party logistics company can be a rollercoaster ride, even with the best matches.
You both are working hard to try to understand how the other operates on a fundamental level, while still maintaining business as usual for your clients and prospects. It can be a challenging path, to be sure.
If you choose a 3PL that’s totally incompatible, though, it can mean real damage to your goods, your brand and your bottom line.
How to Find Your Best 3PL
There’s no one best 3PL that’s the best for every company.
For example, some 3PLs specialize in a few competencies, others have a more general approach to order fulfillment. No matter what kind of company you’re running, these questions should help you find a company you can trust to build a long-term partnership with:
How scalable are your facilities? Can you keep up with my growth?
After all, you’re looking for a 3PL to help you grow further, not to restrict the momentum you’ve been gaining. If a 3PL can’t support your growth, or even your seasonal fluctuations, you should keep looking. There will be a reputable fulfillment service that can accommodate you.
Is your 3PL going to be here over the long run? What’s your history in fulfillment?
Just like in any industry, there are pop-up 3PLs that spring up and die out rapidly. These aren’t the kind you want. Not only is it a huge pain to transfer your inventory to a different 3PL after the implosion, it costs you real money. A 3PL that’s been in business for decades is probably going to stay around for quite some time.
What happens if there’s a natural disaster?
Disaster plans are best made when there’s no disaster to get in the way of proper planning. You want to know that your inventory will be protected, that your orders will find a way to get to your customers and that any losses you experience during this period will be covered somehow. Don’t be afraid to ask about disaster planning, it’s important information to have before choosing your 3rd party fulfillment company.
How are you using technology to improve supply chain processes?
Any 3PL worth its salt should be plugged in and ready to perform amazing feats with its tech:
- Are they using their tech to shave seconds off of each package that’s picked, packed and shipped?
- Do they keep an open line with their major shippers so you know as soon as anyone does that there’s an issue in transit?
- Can your potential 3PL predict the optimal amount of merchandise to keep in your warehouse at all times?
They should be using that tech in every way they can.
Your ideal 3PL is one that meets your needs, exceeds your expectations and can add value that your customers really appreciate. Always interview three or four from your shortlist before choosing a finalist, this way you’ll have a chance to really consider your options.