Warehousing has never been an easy job. The products have to be handled with care, stored in optimal temperature conditions, taken care of until they need to be dispatched to the next destination.
One small mistake could damage an entire batch of products, causing losses to the business. And if the warehousing services are offered by a third-party provider, the losses impact both the enterprise and the service provider.
To say that the success of an enterprise depends on the efficiency of the 3pl service provider will not be an exaggeration. A capable, flexible, scalable, and reliable 3pl provider can turn around the business of an enterprise.
With so many 3rd party warehousing and logistics service providers in the market, how can enterprises identify and choose the best company? What sets the top 3pl warehouse companies in the first place on the list? How can an enterprise know if the service provider can be trusted to deliver the expected performance?
Before we take a look at the key indicators that set the best from the rest, let us start by seeing what warehousing means.
In simple terms, warehousing is the process of storing finished products in one place so that they can be sent to distributors and customers as and when required. Is that all to it? Of course not. The 3pl companies take full responsibility for the products from the point of receiving them to transporting them to their destinations.
Receiving the products
Receiving products from enterprises for storage is the first step of the process. The 3pl companies should be ready to accept the products by making the necessary arrangements to move them to the warehouse. But before that, the products have to be checked for damages and tallied with the total number of products mentioned on the invoice. The time taken to double-check the details should also be considered. Being thorough is important, but so is speed.
Arranging the products in the warehouse
Once the products have been received, they have to be stocked in the warehouse. This depends on various factors. Some products require temperature-sensitive warehousing solutions. Some products cannot be stored with certain other products. Some take up more space as they need to be handled with care. Since a 3pl company offers services to many enterprises at once, it is important to see if the company has the necessary infrastructure to safely store the products in the warehouse.
Warehouse management services
What else is there to do after storing the products in the warehouse? Well, for one, the warehouse has to be secured from changing climatic conditions and intruders. Two, the products arranged and rearranged need in a way to minimize their space consumption. After every batch goes out or comes in, the arrangements might have to be changed. This requires capable employees, use of the latest software, and even equipment.
Picking and packing the products
This is where things take time. Unless the 3pl company knows exactly where a batch of products is stored, it is not possible to pick them easily. After picking, the products are weighed, packed, and made ready for transportation to the distributor, retailer, or customer. It again requires employees and software tools to work in tandem. The top 3pl companies gain an edge over others at this stage by minimizing the time taken to pick and pack the products.
Distributing the products
This is another key indicator that shows how efficient a 3pl service provider is. The top companies have a wide network with the necessary fleet, drivers, and docking services. The company has a tie-up with other transportation service providers for intermodal transport and shipping. The aim is to send the products to their destination within the schedule and without causing them any damage.
Reverse logistics are important
Product returns cannot be fully eliminated by the enterprise or the 3pl company. The decision lies with the customers in many instances. However, enterprises need a 3rd party logistics company that handles product returns without causing stress to the customer and the enterprise.
The top 3pl warehouse companies focus on identifying and monitoring their performance at all levels. They are aware of the gaps in their system and find ways to fill them. Measuring warehouse operations is the first step in creating a successful and comprehensive 3pl company that can provide an array of services to enterprises from different industries.
Transparency is another key indicator an enterprise should consider when finalizing a 3pl service provider. The best warehousing and logistics companies do not hide information or provide vague reports. They share data at all times and send detailed reports of the shipping and deliveries to the enterprises. They facilitate real-time shipment tracking for enterprises and customers.
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