3PL is often referred to as “warehousing” but there are important distinctions between a basic warehouse that stores your inventory and a full-service 3PL that provides inventory storage as one of its services. A full-service 3PL will manage your products from the time they are shipped from your supplier until they are shipped to your customer.
The common services provided by a full service 3PL are:
- Product Receipt – Receiving products manufactured and shipped from your suppliers
- Inventory Storage – Storing your inventory to fulfill both consumer and retailer orders
- Kitting – Packing multiple products into a single sellable “kit” offered to your customers
- Pick & Pack – Picking and packing the items needed to fulfill your consumer and retail orders
- Shipping – Shipping your completed orders using various carriers (E.g., UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL)
- Returns – Accepting returns, processing them and returning them to inventory as applicable
If your business requires some or all of these services, then a full-service 3PL partnership is probably worth exploring. If you’re already using a 3PL and they don’t offer the services you need, or you’re otherwise disappointed in their performance, it’s probably worth understanding some common 3PL frustrations and how to smartly make a change.