Is your ecommerce business growing? If so, you likely know that order fulfillment is an essential part of your operations. As your business increases and more orders start coming in, you might find that in-house fulfillment is no longer feasible. When this happens, you might consider outsourcing your fulfillment practice to a third-party logistics (3PL) partner.
What is 3PL and How does 3PL work? 3PL fulfillment services refer to outsourcing the legwork associated with fulfillment and logistics services. This might include:
Third party logistics or 3PL refers to outsourced logistics services. Logistics services like pick and pack, managing inventory and shipping orders. Your 3PL partner can take care of logistics services that might be unproductive or costly to perform in-house. In many cases, taking advantage of 3PL services can some with a cost savings.
When it comes to 3PL fulfillment, logistics companies offer a wide array of services. In fact, third-party logistics services run the gamut of the supply chain. 3PL fulfillment services can include things like:
When working with a 3PL partner, you’ll want comprehensive services. R+L Global Logistics offers partners comprehensive third party logistics services. This means that R+L Global’s 3PL services blend seamlessly. This creates inclusive services to handle your business’s fulfillment needs.
3PL warehouse services are often compared to 4PL, or fourth party logistics. 4PL services add an extra degree of separation between your business and your logistics partner. Businesses can contract with a 4PL to obtain 3PL services. The 4PL partner manages the relationship with the 3PL partner. This practice is also known as “double brokering.” 4PL services offer robust services, including management of the supply chain process, manufacturing, assembly and more. This lets you focus more on customer service and your bottom line.
Third party logistics services are important because they keep you competitive in the marketplace. The packaging and shipping of products can be expensive and difficult. With ecommerce giants like Amazon and Zappos reigning the marketplace with 1 and 2-day shipping, fast-acting 3PL partners are even more important. Third party logistics partners specialize in supply chain management, which can help your business optimize the fulfillment, distribution and shipping processes for efficiency and cost effectiveness.
If you are considered working with a 3PL partner for fulfillment, you likely have any questions. Third-party logistics doesn’t have to be a mystery, as the 3PL order fulfillment process can be quite simple.
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The fulfillment process begins as before a consumer clicks “order” at your ecommerce store. Before a 3PL partner can ship out the order to the customer, they need inventory at their warehouse. This is called receiving. This is the acceptance of inventory into a warehouse or fulfillment center for storage. The products are entered into a warehouse management software for visibility. Each SKU you are storing as a separate area in the warehouse. Items might be stored in a bin, on a shelf, or on a pallet. It is important that you work with a 3PL partner like R+L Global, with lots of storage space at strategic locations for your business and customers. Third-party logistics partners should be able to scale with you as your business grows.
The picking process starts soon after your ecommerce customer clicks “submit order.” R+L Global takes advantage of a sophisticated warehouse management system that can plug into your ecommerce interface so you’ll the picking process can begin immediately. With this software tool, you’ll also have instant access to shipments, inventory levels and other information to keep processes streamlined.
When your order is pushed to your 3PL partner, the picking process takes place. This is the process of physically finding your item in the warehouse and preparing it for the next step in the fulfillment process.
When the items in the order have been picked, it’s time to start packing. This will prepare your customer’s products for shipping. Packing materials like boxes, bubble mailers, packing tape, poly bags and bubble wrap are the tools of the trade. You might find that some 3PLs charge for these packing materials as an additional line item. Others include material costs in service costs. Sometimes picking and packing are combined. When combined, they are pick and pack fulfillment services.
After your order is packed, it’s time for shipment. Your 3PL partner will print shipping labels on your behalf. Some partners use preferred carriers for shipping your products, others network with a variety of shippers to get you the best price.
The chosen carrier will pick up the product from the warehouse. Speed of shipping depends on what is offered by your business.
After the item is shipped, warehouse management software can push tracking information into your ecommerce or business enterprise system using shipping API. This means businesses and customers can easily track orders as they travel on their shipping journey.
Customer returns happen. This process of returning items to the warehouse is called reverse logistics. Once a product is returned by the customer, it could be returned to inventory, refurbished, recycled or disposed of. Every ecommerce business should have a reverse logistics strategy in place.
Your 3PL partner can include shipping labels with each order to ensure returns make it back to the proper warehouse. This can be convenient for businesses, as they won’t have to handle returns in house. Additionally, customers can also track the status of their return as it moves through the reverse logistics process.
The fulfillment process is just part of what an established 3PL partner like R+L Global Logistics can do for you. Other 3PL partner services include:
Most ecommerce businesses can benefit from working with a 3PL fulfillment partner. Regardless of your industry, product or platform, outsourcing logistics services can be a wise move. Here are a few situations in which outsourcing logistics to a 3PL partner might be a wise move:
You’ll find a number of reasons why outsourcing to a 3PL partner could be wise for your fulfillment practices. While different 3PL companies have different fulfillment offerings, you’ll find that working with a partner like R+L Global Logistics offers the solutions you need. From managing inventory, packing and shipping to other logistics services, R+L Global has the reliable logistics services you need.
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Benefits of working with a 3PL like R+L Global Logistics include:
If your ecommerce company has experienced or is poised to experience rapid growth, it might be time to consider working with a 3PL partner to lead logistics efforts. In many cases, 3PL partners are used with an ecommerce company seeks to scale their business in a way that facilitates growth.
When you decide you’re ready to work with a 3PL partner on distribution and fulfillment, there are a few price considerations to take into account. Price shouldn’t be the deciding factor of your choice in 3PL partners, as reduction in errors and quick delivery are priceless to your business.
Costs for 3PL fulfillment services can include:
There are many reasons to take advantage of a 3PL partnership for fulfillment and distribution. Before creating a partnership, though, it is wise to do your research. You likely won’t be able to tell if a 3PL partner is a good fit for your business just by combing their website.
Choosing the wrong 3PL partner comes with a headache. Not only could your business have to deal with unfilled orders or slow services, but you might also have to deal with upset customers. Poor service from a 3PL partner could lead to declining sales - not something you’d like to happen when you’re trying to scale a business.
When you get it right with a 3PL partner, the ball is in your court. Orders will be fulfilled quickly, you’ll always know how much inventory is on hand, and customers will be wowed with service.
So, how does 3PL work? Now that you understand more about how 3PL fulfillment works and what it takes to choose a partner, it’s time to get down to business with R+L Global Logistics. R+L Global Logistics is prepared to be your best bet in 3PL partners.
Things to think about when selecting R+L Global Logistics for your 3PL fulfillment and distribution needs include:
R+L Global Logistics offers scalable 3PL warehouse, fulfillment and distribution services to meet your growing business needs. needs. Regardless of whether you are an e-commerce business, retailer, distributor or even a manufacturer, you need a 3PL partner with experience in supply chain management. Call, chat or e-mail today to get started with R+L Global Logistics’ 3PL services.
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