Many factors can influence your decision to move to a new 3PL (third-party logistics/fulfillment) provider. You may just be starting out, or you’ve run into problems with your current fulfillment services. Whatever your motivation, there are some key questions you need to keep in mind when deciding which 3PL company to work with in order to ensure quality service and lasting satisfaction.
What kind of services do you need?
Probably one of the most important questions requires you to look within your company. What exactly do you need from your 3PL provider? What are you hoping to accomplish? If you need specific kitting and packaging accommodations, you need to find a company that is able to provide you with the necessary services. You may only need basic shipping and packaging solutions, or you may need some overly elaborate assistance. Take a moment and reflect on what you, as a company truly need from your fulfillment service.
What is the Company’s History?
Understanding the history behind the available third-party logistics company will allow you to gain insight as to how they became the company they are. History ranges from the build-up of the company to the company’s history with past clients. Look into reviews and comments about the company you are looking into partnering with. A large sum of working with customers is about meshing personalities. You don’t want to get yourself stuck working in a situation where you just don’t feel connected to your team. Their history also provides valuable insight into how well the company engages in global trade. If the company has had to overcome more challenges globally, they may be able to offer you more resources that may not have been available at the big-name 3PL providers.
What is your fulfillment process?
A third-party logistics company should already have a functioning system in place when it comes to kitting, packaging, and shipping. Ask them about the process involved in their fulfillment. A company that runs smoothly and successfully should be able to map out exactly how their day-to-day operations take place and how they can fit your needs into that system. This is especially important if you need specialty kitting and packaging because they will be much more likely to adapt to your needs than a group without a good fulfillment process.
What services do you recommend for my business?
It is incredibly important that your fulfillment provider can answer any questions you may have, especially about your business. Possibly one of the most important parts of your logistics partnership is having the confidence that the 3PL company you choose to work with has a firm grasp on who you are and what you require out of a business. If they are able to make appropriate recommendations about how to best serve your customers and provide improvements, they are likely to be a valuable asset to you. This can also help you understand any limitations to the service a good provider might have to give you a good idea of what can and cannot be done.
Who are your suppliers?
As your logistics provider will essentially be an extension of your business operations, the companies to whom they contract their services out are an extension of theirs. You probably will not have much direct contact with these suppliers, so you’ll want to know who they are and take some time to research their reputation as well. Knowing who your potential fulfillment providers trust can also tell you much about their business priorities, such as whether they focus on keeping costs low or are willing to pay more for higher qualities of service.
Can you provide references to similar clients?
A final, and very important check is to ask the potential 3PL for references. Though any satisfied clients you are able to talk to are helpful, the most valuable are those in a similar field to your own, or those who require similar supply chain requirements. Once you’ve reached this point, you should be able to list any concerns you have, so take the opportunity to ask satisfied clients if they have encountered similar issues. You may not gain all the answers your desire, but the extra perspective from someone on your side of the fence can have a great impact on your decision.
Once you’ve asked all of these questions to your level of satisfaction, you will be able to continue in the fulfillment process. Choosing a 3PL provider is a big decision, and you need to be 100% sure they can provide you with everything you need. If you have any other questions about 3PL or finding an appropriate provider, contact IDS for access to our e-books and expert insights into your concerns.