It’s becoming more known that working with a one-stop shop logistics provider offers workflow simplification, increased flexibility, cost savings, and more comprehensive business intelligence.
But what specifically should BCOs be on the lookout for when shopping around for the best 3PL partner for their business. Below is a comprehensive list of key features to be on the lookout for.
Not every 3PL firm will offer all of these services, and some may be more important to your business than others, but knowing what’s available can help you find the right partner for your organization’s needs.
Diversity of Services
Third-party logistics providers come in all shapes and sizes, offering their clients some or all of these services. It’s important to identify what you need in order to find the single-solution partner that’s right for your company.
- Port Drayage
- Third-Party Warehousing / Fulfillment Services
A Focus on Relationships
A 3PL provider with established relationships at the port will go a long way towards making your job easier. Physical location plays a major role in this, as well as the port services your partner offers–especially drayage.
Eliminating the extra step of hiring a drayage operator to move your cargo to a 3PL cross-docking / transloading / fulfillment center will save you big over the long term, and make sure that accountability runs from the ship to the shelf.
Port relationships aren’t the only relationships that matter though, equally important are the relationships a provider has with the independent owner-operator (IOO) drivers who will carry your goods throughout the country.
Trucking and logistics providers that cultivate close, supportive relationships with reliable drivers are able to ensure consistent availability and low freight costs. Working in close partnership with IOO drivers also offers access to a highly diverse fleet to keep your road freight options flexible and scalable.
Demonstrating the growing health of the country’s distribution network, local freight trucking is predicted to grow to over $28 billion by 2020. Cultivating strong relationships with independent owner-operators is key to capitalizing on these opportunities.
The concept of “physical flexibility” when discussing warehouse service providers refers to the ownership and maintenance of warehouse facilities that can be described as “true hubs.”
True hubs are those facilities that offer the maximum flexibility, versatility, and scalability required to meet the retail industry’s changing demands. It is important to consider the physical and technological limitations of any warehouse with regard to your operational needs.
Specific details to look for in terms of physical features include:
- overall square footage
- security precautions
- location as it relates to your business
- number of doors, loading docks, etc.
- in-and-out ease for large volume of trucks
Does the facility you’re considering have enough space to support an increased volume of trucks during busy periods? Do they have sufficient physical infrastructure to handle your specific products in terms of shelving, refrigeration, etc?
When considering the physical attributes of a warehouse facility, remember that bigger isn’t always better. A bigger facility can obviously hold a greater volume of goods, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those goods will be organized in a way that allows for the quickest time-to-shelf when you place an order.
It’s important to evaluate whether your warehouse provider’s capacity lines up with your own size so you don’t get lost in the shuffle amidst much larger clients in a cavernous space.
Beyond the physical infrastructure, it’s crucial to partner with a provider that offers a state-of-the-art WMS so you’re not searching for inventory information amongst the pages of an immense spreadsheet.
Often legacy WMS systems can’t handle the less-than-case quantities that have to be managed for complete fulfillment solutions. Consider how much has changed in mobile technology in the last decade–can you risk working with a 3PL provider running a WMS from the year 2000?
A competitive WMS will offer some combination of online inventory visibility, seamless EDI integration, and all the features you would expect from a powerful Warehouse Control System (WCS) to direct the flow of work and products in real time.
You should expect a great warehouse provider to electronically provide shipping orders, confirmations, change orders, and advance shipping notice (ASN) sent directly to the retail stores that will receive the freight.
The best WMS systems will offer some level of Business Intelligence (BI) as well, giving you access to data-driven insights on your fulfillment system that help you to optimize your operations.
If you’re a logistics manager and need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination, feel free to reach out to us to discuss your needs.
And for detailed information, maps, and contact information for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, be sure to download a free copy of our Comprehensive Port Service Guide.