This is part two in a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In part one of this two-part series on choosing the ultimate 3PL for a small business, we discussed some of the most common logistics terms to know if you’re about to jump into a new relationship.
What we didn’t discuss was the other really important factor in today’s fulfillment service partnerships: data. Lots and lots of data can be collected in a fulfillment house and it can change how your 3PL services you in ways big and small.
Big Data, Big Results with 3rd Party Fulfillment
When you partner with a 3rd party fulfillment services company, the main goal is to get logistics off your plate. But there are other things that they can do that you should expect from a good 3PL. One of the things that sets a great 3PL apart from an acceptable one is the data they collect and what they do with it. Anybody can mail a package, that’s not really an accomplishment, but not every company works effortlessly to find better, cheaper ways to get that package on its way.
It all comes down to data. From the moment a package enters a 3PL’s distribution warehouses to the moment it leaves with a shipper, it should be tracked and the data collected crunched constantly. Each person who handles it, each time it’s scanned, each time it’s moved is recorded to reduce the amount of times that box is touched, thus reducing wasted efforts and cost.
Ultimate Inventory Management is Made Possible with Data
Inventory management is another vital part of ultimate data collection techniques. Not only can your 3rd party fulfillment services company know exactly when to reorder products for your inventory, thus reducing or eliminating backordered inventory, it will also rotate your stock to keep it fresh and profitable. Products that aren’t moving get attention in this system, too, and you can easily see which ones are simply not popular with customers.
This attention to detail comes through at every level, allowing you to micromanage your business in ways you never thought possible and giving your shoppers deeper insight into their orders as they go through the fulfillment process. Tools like customer web portals help buyers track their packages from your door to theirs, even allowing them to reroute deliveries with certain shippers in specific areas.
When searching for the ultimate 3PL partner for your small business, data is key. A great 3PL should be able to tell you just how long it takes to get a package moved from the warehouse to the pick floor and then out the door. Ask about their data collection technology, the data you’ll have access to and, most importantly, how they’ll integrate your shopping cart and other computer systems with theirs so you can get information on demand.