Streamline your supply chain and boost your business success with inventory optimization through a 3PL provider. It’s costly to be left with long stockouts or delays in shipping. Say goodbye to stock shortages and forecast errors, and hello to real-time visibility, cost savings, and expert support when partnering with an expert 3PL. In this article, we will cover the power of a 3PL inventory system and how it can take your business to the next level!
What is Third-Party Logistics (3PL)?
Third-party logistics (3PL) is an outsourcing solution for companies to handle their supply chain and logistics operations. Instead of managing storage, transportation, and delivery in-house, a company can work with a 3PL provider to handle these tasks for them. And because providers offer logistical infrastructure as a product, you can utilize their expertise, technology, and resources to handle any logistical needs you might have. This means you save money, improve your supply chain efficiency, and have more time to focus on core business activities!
What is a 3PL Inventory Management System?
Inventory management software is a solution used by third-party logistics providers to manage the storage, movement, and tracking of inventory across fulfillment centers for their clients. The system helps 3PLs to efficiently track inventory levels, manage stock movements, generate reports, improve forecast accuracy, and provide real-time data to clients. With this software, you gain inventory management visibility and get your logistics operational challenges streamlined. You’ll also likely see a reduction in manual errors, and improved accuracy of inventory data.
How Does 3PL Software Help eCommerce Businesses?
3PL software can help eCommerce businesses to reduce costs by streamlining operations, reducing forecast errors, and improving efficiency. By outsourcing logistics operations to a 3PL provider, eCommerce businesses can also reduce the need for in-house logistics staff and infrastructure. An example of this would be an eCommerce business that can use 3PL software to automate order fulfillment processes, reducing manual labor and the risk of errors. Plus, because they ship in bulk 3PLs can get negotiated pricing and reduce your shipping costs as well!
Real-time data from 3PL software provides visibility into inventory tracking, delivery status, and other logistics operations. This increased transparency helps eCommerce businesses make informed decisions and avoid stockouts or overstocking. As an example, an eCommerce business could access real-time data on their inventory across fulfillment centers and delivery status through 3PL software, enabling them to make informed decisions and provide better service to eCommerce customers.
By outsourcing logistics operations to a 3PL provider, eCommerce businesses can focus on improving their customer experience. This software can help to streamline delivery processes, reduce shipping times, and provide accurate tracking information to customers. Meaning, an eCommerce business could use 3PL software to track delivery times, monitor shipping, provide more shipping options, and provide eCommerce customers with real-time updates on their orders.
3PL software provides real-time data on inventory levels, shipping status, and other key metrics. This way an eCommerce business can use 3PL software to track inventory optimization and inventory needs in real-time, enabling them to quickly respond to changes in demand and avoid stockouts.
Software that offers the above benefits also allows for scalability because of the additional technological resources which speed up workflows. Then if a company also outsources logistics operations to a 3PL provider, eCommerce businesses can focus on their core business activities, while their 3PL handles the logistics. This way they have access to additional inventory storage space, delivery vehicles, and shipping options, which are all assets that the business itself didn’t need to purchase.
3PL Inventory Management Services and Benefits
Third-party logistics (3PL) inventory management services offer several key benefits for both off and online businesses. One of the main benefits is cost savings, as outsourcing logistics operations to a 3PL provider can reduce the need for in-house logistics staff and infrastructure. Another benefit is improved efficiency, as 3PLs use specialized software and technology to streamline operations, reduce manual errors, and improve forecast accuracy. With real-time data and visibility into inventory levels, delivery status, and other logistics operations, 3PL inventory management services can also increase transparency and help businesses make informed decisions. By outsourcing logistics operations, businesses can also focus on their core activities and improve their customer experience by providing faster and more accurate shipping information. Additionally, 3PLs can help online businesses to scale their business operations by providing access to additional resources and technology.
What are the Core Competencies 3PLs Provide?
3PLs provide a range of core competencies to their clients, including:
- Storage and warehousing: A 3PL warehouse offers inventory storage solutions for inventory and raw materials, handling the management and organization of these items.
- Transportation and delivery: 3PLs handle the transportation of goods, including pick-up, delivery, more shipping options, and tracking of shipments.
- Order fulfillment: 3PLs manage the process of picking, packing, and shipping orders to customers.
- Supply chain management: 3PLs help to optimize supply chain operations by providing real-time data and visibility into inventory levels, delivery status, and other logistics operations.
- Technology and innovation: 3PLs use specialized software and technology to streamline operations, reduce forecast errors, and improve accuracy.
- Cost optimization: 3PLs help to reduce costs by optimizing logistics operations and providing access to additional resources and technology.
- Customer service: 3PLs provide support to customers by handling inquiries, tracking shipments, and providing real-time updates on orders.
What is the Difference Between a 1PL, 3PL, and 4PL?
A 1PL refers to a company that handles its own logistics operations in-house. This includes storage, transportation, and order fulfillment processes. An example of a 1PL is a retail store that manages its own shipping and delivery operations. Think of Walmart which manages its own storage, transportation, and order fulfillment, or Apple, which manages its own shipping and delivery operations. The primary benefit of a 1PL is that the company has complete control over its logistics operations and can ensure that its processes align with its business objectives.
A 3PL refers to a logistics company that provides logistics services to other businesses. This includes storage space, transportation, and order fulfillment processes. The primary benefits of a 3PL warehouse are cost savings and increased efficiency. By outsourcing logistics operations to a 3PL, businesses can reduce the need for in-house logistics staff and infrastructure, and benefit from the 3PL’s specialized software and technology.
A 4PL refers to a logistics company that acts as a logistics integrator, coordinating and managing the logistics operations of multiple 3PLs. An example of a 4PL is Accenture, which provides logistics management services and integrates the operations of multiple 3PLs. As an example look to DHL supply chain who provides logistics management services and integrates the operations of multiple 3PLs for their clients. The primary benefits of a 4PL are improved supply chain visibility and coordination. By integrating multiple 3PLs, a 4PL can provide inventory optimization, delivery status, and other logistics operations, helping businesses to make informed decisions and optimize their supply chain operations.
Other Than Order Fulfillment, How Else Can a 3PL Help My Business?
3PLs aren’t just there to help you store and ship your inventory. They offer a wide range of other benefits as well. Let’s review a few.
Professional Services and Knowledge
3PLs bring a wealth of professional services and knowledge to the table, including expertise in transportation, storage, and supply chain management. By outsourcing to a 3PL, businesses can benefit from their experience and expertise, ensuring that their logistics operations are handled efficiently and effectively.
Cost Savings for Sellers
When you reduce the need for logistics staff and infrastructure, you save money. Logistical infrastructure is expensive, constantly changing, hard to maintain, and there is continually new technology available to utilize. If you let a 3PL take on that cost and pay them a flat monthly fee instead, you can then reinvest that money back into your own business.
With the software a 3PL warehouse provides, this will likely include advanced inventory management services, including real-time visibility into inventory levels, demand forecasting, and safety stock management. Through software and dedicated staff, you can be sure their inventory is in safe hands and know they won’t overstock or understock.
3PLs bring specialized expertise to the table, including knowledge of transportation and delivery, customs regulations, and compliance requirements. By outsourcing to a 3PL, businesses can benefit from their expertise, ensuring that their logistics operations are handled efficiently and effectively.
Business-to-Consumer Fulfillment (B2C)
When working with a B2C business, 3PL companies offer several services which are key to their success. This includes end-to-end fulfillment services, including order management, picking, packing, and shipping. This means a business-to-customer company knows its product will reach their customer quickly and intact.
Business-to-Business Fulfillment (B2B)
3PLs provide fulfillment services for B2B businesses, including order management, improving logistics efficiency, picking, packing, and shipping. B2B businesses can then ensure that they can rent more or less warehouse space as needed so their products can be found in stores across the nation.
How to Find the Best 3PL for Your Business
All this is good, but as a business owner how do I find the best 3PL for my business anyways? There are so many options. How do I know which is the best one?
Research the different 3PL warehouse providers and their offerings, and ask for recommendations from other businesses in your industry. Attend trade shows and conferences to network with 3PL providers and gain a deeper understanding of their services. Reach out to industry associations and trade organizations, such as the National Retail Federation or the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
Develop a detailed RFP and send it to several 3PL providers, asking for proposals and pricing quotes. This will allow you to compare the services and costs of different providers and make an informed decision. Send out an RFP to a select group of 3PLs, such as UPS Supply Chain Solutions, ShipHero, FedEx Supply Chain, or DHL Supply Chain.
Schedule on-site visits to the 3PL facilities you are considering. This will allow you to assess the provider’s operations and processes firsthand and ensure that they have the capacity and capabilities to meet your needs. Schedule visits to 3PL facilities, such as the Amazon Supply Chain fulfillment centers or a ShipHero warehouse. That way you can see the warehouse space and understand exactly how your inventory will be managed.
Contact references provided by the 3PL provider and ask about their experience working with the provider. This will give you valuable insight into the provider’s performance and reliability. Reach out to companies that have used the services of the 3PL you are considering, such as companies that have used the fulfillment services of ShipHero or Flexe.
Inventory management visibility is a huge key to your success as an eCommerce business. You can maximize your profitability and customer satisfaction with a 3PL and its inventory system software! Not only are they an expert in their industry, but when peak season comes around, they’ve got you covered. When you partner with a reliable 3PL provider to streamline your inventory management, and increase transparency, you’ll take your business operations to new heights.
Inventory Management + 3PL FAQs
What Is the Biggest 3PL Company?
The biggest third-party logistics company is DHL Supply Chain, a subsidiary of the German multinational courier delivery services company Deutsche Post DHL Group.
What Is Meant by Inventory Management?
Inventory management refers to the process of overseeing and controlling the movement of goods, including their storage, stock levels, and delivery to customers. The goal of inventory management is to ensure that a business has the right amount of inventory in the right place at the right time, while minimizing the costs associated with storage space and carrying excess inventory. The goal of these common strategies is to help both off and online businesses reduce stock shortages, lower carrying costs, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profitability.
What Is Logistics Inventory Management?
Logistics inventory management is a subset of inventory management that focuses on the coordination of the physical flow of goods, information, and financial transactions within a supply chain. This involves overseeing the storage, handling, and transportation of goods from the manufacturer to the end customer, ensuring that the right amount of inventory is available at the right time and place. The goal of logistics inventory management is to optimize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the supply chain while meeting customer demands and improving overall business performance.