A 3rd Party Logistics Partner (3PL) offers order fulfilment services so e-commerce sellers can grow sales. This is a critical position your product’s supply chain. Often it’s referred to as last leg delivery. This is the finish line of your supply chain – so don’t trip now!
This article explores a list of questions to answer before partnering with a 3PL for order fulfilment services.
3PL Order Fulfilment Services – Know Your Fulfilment Partner
What product dimensions can a 3PL order fulfilment services ship out?
What is the maximum size of product packaging that your 3PL offers? Do they ship out oversized items? Do you know the definition of an oversized item?
Oversized Product Dimensions
- Any box above 25″ on any side
- Any box over 50lbs.
Do they offer multi-channel fulfilment?
A solid 3PL can offer fulfilment across multiple channels. Make sure your e-commerce platforms serviced by the 3PL for outbound daily orders. Here’s a short list to look for:
Does your 3PL use a Warehouse Management System?
A warehouse management system optimizes warehouse storage, product distribution, a seller’s supply chain and order fulfillment. From the moment that goods arrive to the warehouse gates, the WMS optimally stows away inventory, prepping it for pick n pack on its way out.
Does your 3PL use a Order Management System?
After you customer clicks your buy box button, a system activates. What system? The order fulfilment system in the back end of your eCommerce business. Order management systems offer order fulfillment software and inventory tracking for the back-end of your business. An OMS integrates into a WMS and eCommerce platforms. As a result, it can capture data related to sales & marketing from different sales channels.
Order Fulfilment Time in 3PL Services
A good 3PL will offer same-day order fulfilment on any order received before 11am. A great 3PL can offer same day fulfilment on inventory re-up’s to fulfilment centers for Amazon or Shopify. On average, you want 2 day turn around on LTL prep requests. A strong 3PL offers order fulfilment services with a quick turn around on requests.
What are their customer returns policies?
Does your 3PL have a Reverse Logistics department? In other words, do they accept customer returns? How much do they charge for returns? How are they organized? Have a conversation with your 3PL about customer returns and how their warehouse can support receiving of these cartons.
How Does a 3PL charge for shipping on daily orders?
A good 3PL with order fulfilment services offers cheap shipping through their own UPS or Fedex accounts on daily orders. After all, they ship out products every day right? They move products en mass. A good 3PL, worth its weight, will be able to offer cheaper shipping than you can procure on your own. With that in mind, Amazon’s fulfilment center always receives the best UPS rates. So make sure to check Amazon’s rates as a baseline to compare your 3PL’s shipping costs against.
Does Your 3PL order fulfilment service offer daily pick ups?
A solid 3PL team extends access to daily UPS, USPS or FedEx pick ups. No excuses. You need your goods out every day. There should be a pick up available, every day for your business.
What are materials costs?
Are your products mail ready? Can you slap a shipping label on the outside of the packaging and pop it in the mail? Or do you need an outer box? What are the benefits of an outer box? Firstly, the outer box protects your products packaging. This in turn, ensures the un-boxing experience desired by your client, when they actually open the product up. Secondly, it protects your product during shipping. Shipping can get a little rough for boxes. They are tossed, dropped, stuffed, and so on, during their transit to your customer. Protect the goods with the extra packaging! Double check with your 3PL on the extra costs related to these materials. Check Uline if you can get cheaper box materials shipped to them and save a couple bucks.
How big is their warehouse?
What exactly is a ‘big’ warehouse. Well lets start with the largest e-commerce warehouses – Amazon’s Fulfilment Centers. On average, Amazon’s fulfilment centers are 800,000 sq ft. Wow! That’s alot of space for activities.
What’s that mean for 3PL warehouses? On average a large warehouse boasts 180,000 sq ft. But not all of these specialize in 3PL services for order fulfilment. Those usually range between 20,000 sq ft – 100,000 sq ft. And to be honest – that’s right where you want it. As an e-commerce seller, you want partners on your team you can trust. You don’t want to get lost in the depths of an Indian Jones ancient artifact warehouse. You want firm grip on your account manager, your products, and the turn around time on your requests. The only way to do this is by partnering with a small to medium sized order fulfilment team.
How big is their team?
A warehouse with 100,000 sq ft will most likely employ about 50 people. However, as a seller, you’ll want to work as close to the owner of the 3PL as possible. A 3PLs order fulfilment services can get messy fast. When you need accountability, you need proximity to management at the least and ownership ideally. As such, keep the company of a team who’s not too big to be held accountable.
How long have they been around?
Again, experience is key here. A long established team will offer access to 3PL order fulfilment services for oversized products. They will integrate a WMS and OMS into your inventory platform. They offer quick turn around on order fulfilment requests. This is accomplished with daily UPS & USPS pick ups. They’ll accept customer returns. All of this combined together is the complete 3PL partner package you want. It takes time to master. It costs a premium to partner with 3PL professionals. At the end of the day, this is the price to scale with a trusted fulfilment team on behalf of your e-commerce business.