Choosing a 3PL warehousing partner for your company is a little like choosing a high value employee. You want to be sure you make the right decision the first time, since replacing them can be a painful process. They’re also in a position to do serious harm to your brand’s reputation if they don’t end up delivering all they promised.
As you’re evaluating potential 3rd party logistics companies, keep an eye out for these things:
Scalability. Sure, you might be a small business with limited needs today, but you could become an industry leader down the road. Rather than wait and see what happens, it’s best to choose a 3PL that can expand with you. A scalable 3PL will work with you to find space for your inventory as you grow, even if you happen to grow a lot.
Flexibility. There are several different types of 3PLs, from basic freight forwarders to niche providers and full service logistics companies. You want to do business with a full-service company for one simple reason: flexibility. Today, your company only needs warehousing and fulfillment services, but in the future you might want to turn your order processing or mail-out campaigns over to someone who can keep everything together under the same roof.
Specialty. When your company sells items that require special handling or understanding, look for a 3PL that has been there before. Pharmaceuticals and beauty products, for example, have set expiration dates. That means that your 3PL has to store them in a specific way and handle returns promptly, or risk a whole lot of product becoming unsellable.
Capability. One of the areas where it becomes glaringly obvious that 3PLs are not all the same is in their available technology. Maybe state-of-the-art is a little too much to ask for if you’re looking to get a good deal on a 3PL partnership, but you should make sure that your 3PL can handle tasks like integrating your shopping cart with its software. They should also have the ability to provide you with up-to-the-minute accurate inventory and reporting, made possible by technologies like bar code scanning.
Stability. Second only to technological capabilities, any 3PL partner should have a long and positive track record. The last thing you want is to have to quickly relocate your inventory because your 3PL has gone out of business or has failed to pay their hauling bills. Long-term stability means a long and fruitful relationship — and plenty of businesses to ask about a potential 3PL’s track record.
As you’re researching and interviewing 3PLs for your business, keep in mind that there’s a lot more to a logistics partnership than price. Consider the value each company brings to the table, then compare the leaders head to head before making a final decision. You’ll be glad you took your time as your business expands and grows.