For making your eCommerce business successful, you need to be very sure about error-free supply chain management and accurate delivery of orders. You should have a list of perfectly defined activities of all the steps of an order fulfillment chain. With the growth of your business, you will need to expand your business strategies. According to research, it has been said that 3PL eCommerce fulfillment service providers are playing the role of critical drivers for the development and growth of most eCommerce companies. This simply means that well-established eCommerce business people are shifting interest towards 3PL services. This provides an unexpected growth to their businesses in just a span of time.
If you are not aware of 3PL services and their benefits then you might be missing a lot. Chances you are at the risk of your business as there is hardly any business person who is not using 3PL eCommerce fulfillment services for his or her business. Don’t worry, with our article, you will know everything about 3PL eCommerce fulfillment services. We will also let you know how your business can benefit from it and why you should make this investment as quickly as possible. Let’s start with understanding 3PL.
What is a 3PL (third-party logistics)?
Third-party logistics simply means the process when a business outsources its logistics process to a third person or firm which is known for the expertise of this work. This logistics process involves several things such as inventory management, warehousing, fulfillment, and many more. 3PL service providers allow a business to automate the process of retail order fulfillment with the help of the latest tools and infrastructure.
Well, it is not known who gave the term third-party logistics but people started to use this terminology in the early 1970s and 1980s. This is when people started the trend of outsourcing their inbound and outbound logistics requirements. With the growth of eCommerce in the 1990s and 2000s, the term has become pervasive and 3PL service providers have expanded their services. The management of warehousing operation and transportation is what we referred to as today’s 3PL logistics.
Third-party logistics order fulfillment process
If you are planning to partner with a 3PL eCommerce fulfillment service provider or are new to this shipping market, the process seems like a mystery box. But it shouldn’t be one, so what actually happens when your customers submit orders from your online store. Have a look at the process –
A 3PL service provider can’t ship the orders without maintaining the available supply of goods or material for a particular time. The receiving stage of this process involves accepting and storing the incoming inventory safely and securely. Different 3PL eCommerce fulfillments follow different processes for managing and storing inventory. For instance, a company might ask its client to fill out a form or submit details regarding warehouse receiving orders. This helps the 3PL service providers to know what exactly they are receiving and in how many units. It is helpful for their staff to maintain an organized warehouse with all the required inventories. This way, all your orders are processed and delivered more quickly.
After receiving complete inventory from your side, the 3PL service providers start storing the products in their fulfillment centers. They work with several stock-keeping units that have dedicated storage for different products of various shapes and sizes. It can either be in the form of a shelf, bin, or pallet. Customers should know that all the warehouses are designed for different requirements and this can never be the same. The client will always find a change in the storage space for each warehouse. You should always opt for a firm that has more than enough storage space for storing your current inventory.
You will never wish to look for a third-party logistics partner in-between your pick season just because of the fact your current 3PL partner is not able to manage the increased orders in its warehouse. There is no doubt that your order volume will grow with time, therefore, your 3PL storage must be capable of scaling with you.
You should know that an on-demand warehousing company is different from a 3PL eCommerce fulfillment provider. On-demand warehousing will only provide you with excess space at the time of urgency. They do not operate any logistics centers by themselves.
At the time when your customer confirms the order, the 3PL fulfillment process starts. There are some 3PL eCommerce fulfillment centers that upload the details of several orders manually in their systems. It could be like adding information in spreadsheets related to the products, customers, shipping details, etc. Though this is one of the inefficient ways to manage the order process and may contain several errors. Therefore you should always partner with the fulfillment center that makes use of advanced technology. This not only makes the work easier and faster but also omits the chances of any errors, as everything will be done through software and machines.
For automated shipping, everything is done in a streamlined manner. With the sophisticated technology, it is easy to connect the systems directly with eCommerce platforms or any other marketplace. With this taking orders, shipments, inventory management, tracking, and other tasks are done in one single place.
This process has one more advantage, the moment when a customer places an order, this information will automatically be pushed to your 3PL. Once the order details come in contact with the 3PL, the warehouse picking team starts its work. Whoever in the team taking the responsibility receives a picking list of the products. The information also contains details about the quantities and storage locations at the warehouse. This way the picking team collects the ordered items from the respective locations.
You often heard picking and packing together, but packing is the next step after picking all the items mentioned in a particular order. As it is clear from the name, items are packed securely for shipping. Now the quality of packing material depends on your budget, preferences, and 3PL’s capabilities. Well, the type of product and your brand preference also impact the quality of packing material. In general, the common and standard packing material involves –
- Bubble mailers
- Quality polythene bags
- Several high-quality packing tapes
- Paper-based dunnage
You may also find some third-party logistics that charge separately for packing the products while there are some others that include the packing process as part of their fulfillment management services.
Professionals very well know which material is best for a particular product. The experience of 3PL logistics packs the material with purposes – First is to secure the product and the second is to achieve the minimum practical dimensional weight of it. Along with this, these professionals ensure that there will be no split shipments.
Finally, the last step is to ship the order. There are some 3PLs that provide the service of printing and labeling on your behalf. Also, you may face a huge difference in the pricing of several firms regarding the shipment process. This difference happens because of the carrier price. Some 3PLs have carrier partners with a fixed rate while others prefer to compare a variety of carriers. The latter allows the company to offer affordable pricing to their clients for shipment.