Supply chain logistics is one part of a business that’s hard to get right. If you don’t have experience shipping logistics, it’s hard to figure out how to get things right and promptly get your products to your customers.
That’s why the third-party logistics (3PL) industry is so big. The industry is valued at almost $200 billion.
Of course, finding the best third-party logistics company isn’t always an easy task. Keep reading to learn what it takes to filter through the third-party logistics companies available and find the best one.
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Examine Your Needs
Every business is unique and won’t have the exact shipping needs, and that means you can’t always rely on a general third-party logistics company to handle everything. Even if a company can handle general requirements from their clients, that doesn’t mean they can address specialized needs.
It’s essential to understand everything you need with a third-party logistics agency before starting your search. If you have any unique requirements, you need to figure that out beforehand.
Once you do, you’ll have an easier time finding a company to handle your unique needs. You won’t have to worry about a logistics company that needs to develop a solution for you from the ground up.
Look at the Number of Services
In some cases, shipping may not be your only need from a third-party company. Unfortunately, if you work with a company entirely focused on that task, you won’t be able to take advantage of other services that a 3PL company offers.
Before you sign with a company, ask about additional services they offer. Here are a few things you can look for:
- Help with international paperwork
- Educational material for laws and regulations
- Help with refining your in-house logistics
- Access to tools that can help your company
While you don’t need any of the things above or other services, they’re helpful for optimizing your shipping operation. The more value a 3PL company can provide, the better off your company is in the long run.
Ask About Software Integrations
Visibility is everything in supply chain logistics. You need to know where all your stuff is at all times. Without this visibility, it’s hard to know if everything is working as it should.
Luckily, plenty of software today provides visibility into every part of the supply chain. The question is, will your 3PL provider off you this visibility as part of your service?
Ask your potential provider what can of software they use and what your access to this software is. It’s okay if you don’t have permission to make modifications independently. However, you should be able to see what’s going on in the supply chain and get reports showing you how things are running.
Find more information here about third-party logistics software.
Verify Customer Service
Since shipping is one of the most critical parts of your operation, the last thing you want is to have no communication from the company handling the logistics. Unfortunately, some 3PL providers don’t offer that kind of service to their clients.
Do some research about a company’s customer service record before working with it. Look through past complaints with business authorities to see what other companies have to say.
You can also gauge how well a company communicates when you interview them for the job. Look to see how willing they are to help and make sure they don’t just push you to fork over money as soon as possible.
Ask About Scalability
Your logistics needs aren’t going to remain the same forever. The number of products you ship will grow, which means the complexity of your logistics will grow with your needs.
The question is, will your 3PL provider be able to handle your growing needs? Some logistics companies are small and won’t be able to scale as well as larger companies.
If you expect to grow in the future, make sure that your current provider can grow with you. Of course, they don’t have to be able to handle your needs at the moment. However, they should be able to expand to meet your and the rest of their clients’ needs.
Verify Shipping Locations
You probably won’t have many shipping needs in the beginning. You’re only local, so you only need to worry about shipping regulations in your area. Any good 3PL provider should be able to handle that task.
However, things get much more complicated when you start shipping out of the country. You’re dealing with many more rules, which aren’t always easy to understand.
Make sure your shipping provider has the resources to ship everywhere you need. They should have resources and contacts in other countries to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Look for Happy Customers
If a 3PL company has been around for a while, the chances are good that other clients talk about them. Whether it’s posting online reviews or recommending 3PL companies to their network, business owners aren’t afraid of talking about their experiences with their vendors.
That means finding happy customers shouldn’t be a problem if you want to verify how good a 3PL provider is.
Start your search online to look for any reviews. If you see too many problems with a provider, the chances are good that your experience won’t be much different.
You can also reach out to business networks to get recommendations from other business owners. Speaking with current and past customers directly will help you understand more about 3PL companies and how well they treat their clients.
Finding the Right Third-Party Logistics Company Takes Time
Logistics is one of the most complicated parts of running a business. You need to deal with shipping, packing, and ensuring products get to customers on time. It isn’t easy to get right, so use the guide above to find a third-party logistics company that can provide the service your business needs.
If you found this post helpful and want to learn more business tips, head back to the blog. You’ll find more information about optimizing the other parts of your company.