Have you said “I do” to your third party logistics provider?
How often are you getting wined and dined by third party logistics companies? Have you maybe had dinner, dropped off a few pallets, then been off to your next 3PL suitor? After letting that company arrange a pickup of some material from an incoming ship and having it do some kitting for you, did you drop it for the next company that brought you football tickets?
If you’re been playing the 3PL field, you know it’s time to settle down. Logistics is a lot like dating. After looking around a bit, it’s time to find the right company, make a commitment and get down to growing your business. And, just as marriage is different from dating, actually working with a 3PL company is very different than serially auditioning them.
Getting to Know You
When you’re ready to really find a third party logistics partner, take your time and figure out what you want first. That lets you focus on 3PL companies that have the right mix of services to match your company’s profile and business needs, rather than just finding those that compete on price. It also communicates that you’re a serious customer who is worth engaging.
When you sit down with that 3PL company, expect to have to answer some questions. Just like you want to make sure the company is a match for you, it will want to find out if you’re a good customer. Ultimately, you both need to trust each other.
Can I Have a Peek?
Part of figuring out if a third-party logistics company is right for you is seeing what it has to offer. While 3PLs can and do change their capabilities, if it doesn’t have what you need based on the self-assessment you already did, you may want to move on before forming a long-term business relationship. With the increasing importance of technology in third party logistics relationships, looking at the company’s IT team is especially important. Their IT staff’s skill will determine how effectively you’re able to remotely monitor the relationship.
Warts and All
The best relationships between companies and their third party logistics providers involve generous information sharing. If your 3PL knows all about you, it can help you and better anticipate your needs. This dynamic should continue throughout the relationship, including if there are problems between you and the 3PL — regardless of where the problem starts. With a long-term 3PL relationship, you have enough invested in each other to work through issues instead of using them as an excuse to start bidding out services from competitors.
An Open Relationship
Many 3PL relationships are best when they’re open. If your company has a national or global reach, you may need to call on multiple third party logistics service providers to fully cover your distribution system. The right 3PL for you is one that won’t get jealous and that is open to working with other companies as a partner, rather than as an adversary.
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