This is part one in a two-part series. You can read part two here.
The decision to outsource your 3rd party logistics (3PL) is an important one, and one that has to be made carefully.
After all, you want to work with 3rd party logistics companies that will do business the way you need it done, no matter what that means. Logistics companies run the gamut with their offerings, so it’s important that you find the right company before you commit for the long-term.
Here are some tips for taking the plunge into outsourcing:
Assess Your Expectations for 3PL. Before you can hire a 3PL company, you need to form a good picture of what you need them to do. Do you struggle to get your packages out on time, or is your biggest sticking point having plenty of warehouse space for your materials? Figure out what it is you need first, that way you’ll be ready when it comes time to hire an outside company.
Choose Custom Logistics for a Global World. One of the best parts about hiring a logistics company is realizing how many service options you’ve got available. If you meet a 3PL that tries to sell you a one-size-fits-all package, keep walking — the next guy will be happy to step through your process and create a streamlined plan for your logistics, from the order-taking through the warehousing and distribution.
Software Integration is Vital. No matter how great your logistics company is, these services are going to cost you a lot of extra money if they can’t integrate their software with yours. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that your internal software, shopping cart and other packages will integrate completely with that of the logistics company you’re hiring. It’ll save you time, money and a lot of inventory hassles if everybody’s on the same page.
Outsourcing Returns Management. Not every 3PL will handle your merchandise returns, but if you need them to do your warehousing and accept your deliveries, it’s vital that you choose one who will. After all, keeping all the inventory in the same place simplifies the process considerably. A 3PL that will manage your returns can answer customer complaints, assess damaged inventory and quickly replace merchandise according to your instructions.
When outsourcing your 3PL, it’s important to find a company that works the way you do. Whether that means choosing a company with a big warehouse or one that will take returns on your behalf, finding the right 3PL can simplify and improve many aspects of your business.
Because a 3PL can do so many different things, we’ve got even more tips for you on outsourcing in part two of this two part article. Read part two here.