How to find a 3PL tailored to your needs

Posted by Harriet Mills on May 1, 2015 4:50:49 PM

Outsourcing logistics to a 3PL can streamline your supply chain, but with so many providers available across the country and around the world, how do you find the right one for you?

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Seeking a long-lasting relationship when the stakes are high requires careful consideration. After all, the success of your business is literally on the line. The right 3PL will exceed your expectations and meet every one of your transportation requirements.

Types of services

The first step is to ask about available services. If a 3PL can't meet your exact needs, then it's not the right provider for you. Do they offer the routes you require and the correct modes of transportation? Ask about van, refrigerated and frozen shipping, as well as refrigerated LTL and flatbed availability.

Do you have intermodal needs? Intermodal is gaining popularity due to its flexibility for customers who wish to cut costs by using more than one form of transportation, such as sea, rail and air.

Size considerations

Bigger isn't always better. Depending on your needs and personal preference, you may decide to work with a big nationwide company or a smaller, regional provider. Decide what's best for you and seek out 3PLs that match. Additionally, always select a 3PL that serves the markets you need with top-rate compliance and cargo security.

Communication styles

Everyone prefers to communicate differently and you should work with a 3PL that has a style that matches yours. Knowing who is in charge of your shipments, who you can call with questions and how often you should hear from the 3PL are important considerations.

Remember, strong communication means connecting about both good and bad news. Know the chain of command to solve problems and how the company approaches conflict resolution. Additionally, communication should be a two-way street; you want a 3PL that listens and understands your unique logistics needs. Chemistry and trust are key.

Relationships with drivers

What reputation does the 3PL have with the drivers it partners with? How many per-qualified carriers does the company have contracts with? Asking around can provide key insights into how they work other businesses and what you can expect. This is a big indicator of their overall business ethics and values.


What technology does the 3PL use to conduct business and track freight? A logistics company who offers transportation management software (TMS) as well as technology to manage freight in transit, such as Macropoint or Locus Traxx, can provide you with a big advantage.

Other technology to consider manages administrative functions. The right 3PL will handle all the behind the scenes paperwork so you don't have to, such as signed BOLs, carrier payments, shipment records, etc. McLeod Software has a great reputation for managing these types of tasks. If your 3PL provider uses it, it's a good indication you'll never have to worry about administrative hassles again.

Future plans

What is the 3PL's plan for benchmarking, analysis and process improvements? Knowing how the organization plans to control costs and maintain efficiency is important to your bottom line. This ensures that your 3PL provider will continue to save you money, improve service and alleviate headaches not just for today, but in the long term.


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