At some point, just about every supplier will need to consider adding the services of a Third-Party Logistics Provider (3PL) to improve distribution and fulfillment while enhancing EDI. It’s part of the natural evolution from startup to fully-fledged company — eventually your guest room can no longer serve as your warehouse. And you can no longer act as Chief Executive Officer, Lead Merchandiser, Design Director, Chief Marketing Officer — and Head of Shipping. Even the most independent thinkers will eventually realize they can’t do it all. They also understand that moving to their own full-scale distribution center isn’t an investment that makes sense either.
Enter a 3PL. They can be your warehousing, kitting, distribution, and fulfillment arm. When it works seamlessly, your products go directly to your 3PL, you supply the 3PL with order information — you’ll want that to be automated — and the 3PL gets your products out to buyers without a hitch. Returns run through them as well.
There is no shortage of 3PL providers, ranging from massive global conglomerates to smaller, independent firms. At first, it can seem like one is pretty much like the other. But as with most things in business, when you dig deeper you’ll realize there is more to consider. Much like when you choose an EDI and order processing provider, selecting the 3PL that is right for you and your company can be the difference between seamless, error-free exchanges and difficult, mistake-ridden ones.
Here are six questions to ask when you’re considering using a 3PL.