Choosing to partner with a third-party logistics (3PL) company is a big step in your business. You’re putting a lot of trust in someone else’s hands, hoping that they can help get your products to where they need to be on time.
Part of getting the best service – and the most for your money – from your 3PL, is to foster a great relationship with your chosen provider.
Here are 7 tips to help you build and maintain a strong relationship with your 3PL:
Understand Your Reasons
The first step toward getting your relationship off on the right foot is to fully understand why you want the 3PL’s assistance.
If you’re just jumping into outsourcing because someone told you you should, or you think it’s the right thing to do, then you aren’t going to get the maximum benefit out of your 3PL relationship.
Instead, really analyze why you’ve turned to a 3PL for help.
Are you experiencing growing pains and shipping products out on time is becoming impossible? Do you struggle with maintaining staffing levels, meaning it seems you’re always hiring people for your warehouse? Is space where you’re located too expensive to support you renting additional warehousing space as you grow?
Once you’re clear on your reasons for seeking the help of a 3PL, you can better identify what you need out of that relationship, and how you can mark the success of your outsourcing venture.
Set Clear Mutual Expectations
A working relationship is only successful if you set clear expectations up front, and they’re agreed upon by both parties.
If you need a 3PL that responds quickly to changes in your shipping needs, allowing you to call them and say you need to increase their capacity right away, let the 3PL know that up front. This gives them an idea of what you’re expecting as a customer so they can respond properly. And, if they will be unable to meet this requirement, they can let you know and you can either come to a mutually agreeable compromise or you can move on and find a different 3PL partner.
When setting these expectations, always remember that you’re not the 3PL’s only customer. Your needs may outpace their ability to provide for you, and you have to be willing to either adjust your expectations or find another solution.
Get a Baseline
It’s impossible to see performance improvement if you don’t know where you started.
If you’re turning to the 3PL for improved shipping and returns response time, for example, you need to first know how long it takes you to process those requests without their help. Whatever you’re looking for the 3PL to do for your business, measure it and keep track of that baseline.
This baseline will be something you’ll be frequently comparing similar measurements to as you and the 3PL work together to evaluate their performance on your account.
Keep Your 3PL Partner Informed
Routine communication with your 3PL is essential to a solid relationship, especially because your 3PL is essentially acting on your business’s behalf.
You can’t make a big decision such as changing packaging or bringing in a new product line without letting your 3PL know of the change so they can shift their services accordingly. And always let them know when inventory is expected to arrive. 3PL’s dislike surprises!
If you’re working to shift your business and anticipate your outsourcing needs will change, even in minor ways, it’s best to loop your 3PL in early so they can be part of the conversation. Your 3PL partner may even have ideas for how to implement your planned changes more smoothly and at less cost.
You’re turning to a 3PL to improve the way your business operates in some way. Whether you’re looking to save yourself time, save money, or just improve overall responsiveness, you need to be able to measure that and track improvement.
Work with your 3PL to establish how data will be collected and relayed to you, and how often you will receive this data. Some 3PLs may report this information monthly, others may give it to you quarterly.
When you have the data in hand, compare it to your baseline numbers and any other prior benchmarks you may have. Sit down with your contact at your 3PL and discuss the numbers, working together to strategize how you can continue to improve them or, if the numbers don’t show an expected amount of improvement, work through what went wrong.
Involve Your 3PL in Long-Term Planning
Your 3PL is a partner in your business’s long-term growth and success. You want to ensure that they will be able to meet your needs into the future, so involve them in your long-term planning.
If, for example, you eventually want to expand into new markets or offer new product lines, your 3PL should be part of the planning of these new ventures so they can work out how best to support you.
In addition to keeping them informed on changes you’re going to make that impact your service from your 3PL, they can provide feedback and guidance based on their experience working with other companies. This will help you avoid many frustrating setbacks and missteps, potentially giving you greater success overall.
Find Shared Company Values
As a business owner, you have to work with a wide variety of vendors and providers, all with their own unique company cultures. However, when it comes to your 3PL provider, you want to find someone whose company culture aligns as closely with yours as possible.
You will be working very closely with your 3PL and need to trust that they will operate in ways that have the best interests of your business at the forefront. This trust can be difficult to build if you partner with someone whose philosophy is in stark contrast to yours.
If, for example, you are an eco-conscious company, it will be difficult to build a great working relationship with a company that doesn’t at least practice some form of sustainability. The same goes for working with a company that still uses paper forms and files if you’re very technology-based.
You want to do your best to find a company with whom you share some important values, which makes aligning your goals and working styles much easier.
Experienced Third-Party Logistics Company on the East Coast
For more than 35 years, Cannon Hill Logistics has provided flexible, high-quality third-party logistics services to companies across the globe. Whether you’re looking for a little help to ease some growing pains or want someone to handle all your logistics needs, our team has a solution for you. Call today for a quote!