Streamlining operations: How 3PLs can unlock the power of [.blue]logistics for UK-based businesses[.blue]

July 25, 2023

min read

In today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape, efficient logistics management is crucial for success.

It can make or break your supply chain, impacting everything from customer satisfaction to profitability. That's where third-party logistics (3PL) providers come in.

Imagine a world where you could focus on what you do best – growing your business – while leaving the complex tasks of warehousing, inventory management, order fulfilment, and shipping to experts who specialise in these areas. With 3PLs by your side, this dream becomes a reality.

But what exactly are 3PLs? How do they work? And more importantly, how can they benefit UK-based businesses like yours? In this comprehensive guide, we'll unravel the mysteries of 3PLs and show you why partnering with one could be a game-changer for your eCommerce operations.

So, buckle up as we take you on an exciting journey through the world of third-party logistics, where efficiency meets expertise! Whether you're an eCommerce retailer looking to streamline your fulfilment process or a growing business seeking scalable solutions, this guide covers you.

What are third-party logistics (3PLs) providers?

Third-party logistics(3PLs) are external service providers that handle various aspects of a company's supply chain. They offer services such as warehousing, shipping, inventory management, and order fulfilment. 3PLs allow businesses to outsource these tasks and focus on their core competencies while benefiting from the expertise and resources of the 3PL provider.

Benefits of working with a 3PL

Cost and time savings, low capital commitment, focus and expertise, flexibility and scalability, expanded reach and capacity. These are just a few of the many benefits that come with partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL). By outsourcing your logistics needs to professionals specialising in this field, you can streamline your operations and free up valuable resources to focus on other aspects of your business. Let's take a closer look at these advantages in detail!

1. Cost & time savings

When it comes to running a business, time is money. And that's where third-party logistics (3PL) providers come in. By outsourcing your logistics needs to a 3PL, you can save valuable time and reduce costs by tapping into their expertise, resources, and efficient processes. No more worrying about managing warehousing, inventory, shipping, or order fulfilment - leave it to the experts! Boost your productivity and bottom line with cost and time savings through partnering with a reliable 3PL solution.

2. Low capital commitment

When it comes to running a business, capital is everything. But what if I told you there's a way to minimise your upfront costs? That's where third-party logistics providers come in. With their help, you can avoid hefty investments in warehouses, dedicated staff, and other logistics infrastructure. This means more money for other essential aspects of your business!

3. Focus & expertise

When it comes to managing your logistics operations, focus and expertise are crucial. By partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), you can tap into their specialised knowledge and experience in the field. They understand the intricacies of supply chain management, allowing you to concentrate on other core aspects of your business without worrying about logistics. With their expert guidance, you can optimise processes and make informed decisions that drive efficiency and growth.

4. Flexibility & scalability

Flexibility and scalability are key benefits of working with a 3PL. As your business grows or experiences fluctuations in demand, a 3PL can adapt to meet your changing needs. With their extensive courier network and resources, they can quickly scale up or down to ensure efficient operations without the need for significant investments on your end. This flexibility allows you to focus on other aspects of your business while leaving the logistics to the experts.

5. Expanded reach & capacity

Expanded reach and capacity are key benefits of working with a third-party logistics (3PL)provider. By partnering with a 3PL, UK-based businesses can tap into an extensive network of distribution centres and transportation resources, allowing them to serve customers in new markets and handle increased order volumes without investing in expensive infrastructure or expanding their operations. This expanded reach and capacity enables businesses to scale up quickly and efficiently, meeting customer demand while maintaining cost-efficacy.

Key services provided by 3PLs

  • Order fulfilment & eCommerce platform integration: 3PLs handle the entire order fulfilment process, from receiving orders to picking, packing, and shipping. They also integrate with your eCommerce platforms for seamless order processing.
  • Warehousing & inventory management: With their extensive portfolio of fulfilment centres, 3PLs offer secure storage facilities for your products. They manage inventory levels, conduct regular stock checks, and ensure efficient space utilisation for maximum storage cost savings.
  • Shipping & logistics coordination: 3PLs have established relationships with carriers and can negotiate competitive shipping rates on your behalf. They handle transportation logistics, tracking shipments, and ensuring timely delivery.
  • Returns management: Handling product returns can be a complex process. 3PLs provide efficient returns management services by inspecting returned items, processing refunds or exchanges according to your policies, and restocking returned products as needed.

Order fulfilment & 3PL integration

Order fulfilment is critical to business operations, and integrating with a 3PL can streamline this process. With their expertise in logistics and distribution, 3PLs ensure efficient order processing, pick-pack-ship operations, and accurate inventory management. By seamlessly integrating with your systems, they optimise the entire fulfilment process for maximum efficiency.

Warehousing & inventory management

Warehousing and inventory management are crucial to any business, ensuring efficient operations and customer satisfaction. You can benefit from a reliable 3PL provider's expertise in managing your inventory, optimising storage space, and implementing effective inventory tracking systems. This ensures timely order fulfilment and minimises errors in product availability. Trusting a 3PL for warehousing and inventory management lets you focus on other core areas of your business's success!

Shipping & logistics coordination

Shipping and logistics coordination is a crucial aspect of third-party logistics (3PL) services. It involves managing and tracking shipments, whilst ensuring timely delivery. With a reliable 3PL provider handling this complex task, businesses can focus on their core operations and enjoy streamlined shipping processes.

Returns management

Returns management is crucial to any business, and partnering with a 3PL can streamline the process. From handling customer returns to managing inventory restocking, a reliable 3PL ensures efficient and cost-effective returns management for UK-based businesses.

Factors to consider when choosing a 3PL provider

  • Advanced technology & IT capabilities: Look for a provider that utilises the latest technology to streamline operations and provide real-time control and visibility into your supply chain.
  • Geographic location of fulfilment centres: Consider where the 3PL's fulfilment centres are located, as this can impact shipping costs and delivery times.
  • Industry expertise & customer support: Choose a provider with experience in your specific industry, as they will have a better understanding of your unique logistics requirements. Also, ensure they offer excellent customer support for any issues that may arise.

Remember, these factors are crucial in selecting the right 3PL provider for your business.

Advanced technology & IT capabilities

When choosing a 3PL provider, it's crucial to consider their advanced technology and IT capabilities. These factors can significantly impact the efficiency of your supply chain operations. Look for providers who offer real-time tracking, inventory management systems, and seamless integration with your existing eCommerce platforms. With cutting-edge technology at your disposal, you can streamline processes and stay ahead of the competition.

Geographic location of fulfilment centres

When choosing a third-party logistics provider (3PL), consider the geographic location of their fulfilment centres. Opting for a 3PL with strategically placed facilities can help ensure faster and more cost-effective shipping to your customers across the UK. Don't overlook this crucial factor in optimising your supply chain!

Industry expertise & customer support

Industry expertise and customer support are crucial factors when choosing a 3PL provider. You want to partner with a company that understands your industry's unique requirements and can provide tailored solutions. Additionally, excellent customer support ensures smooth communication, prompt issue resolution, and overall satisfaction. Your business deserves the best!

Common questions & FAQs about 3PLs

3PL vs. 4PL: Understanding the difference

One common question when discussing third-party logistics is the difference between a 3PL and a 4PL. While both involve outsourcing logistics tasks, there are some key distinctions.

A 3PL (third-party logistics) provider primarily focuses on specific logistical functions such as warehousing, shipping, and order fulfilment. They work alongside your business to streamline operations and improve efficiency.

On the other hand, a 4PL (fourth-party logistics) provider takes a more comprehensive approach. They act as intermediaries between your business and multiple 3PL providers, coordinating and managing the entire supply chain for your business.

Evaluating your business needs before deciding whether a 3PL or a 4PL is right for you is essential. Consider factors like the scale of operations, the complexity of supply chain management, and the desired level of control over logistics processes.

Understanding this distinction will help you make an informed decision about which type of logistics provider best suits your business requirements.

Is a 3PL right for my business?

This is a common question that many UK-based companies ask themselves when considering outsourcing their logistics operations. It's important to carefully evaluate your needs and requirements to determine if partnering with a third-party logistics provider aligns with your goals. Assess factors such as the size of your operation, complexity of your supply chain, level of expertise required, and whether you have the resources and infrastructure to efficiently manage logistics in-house. Making an informed decision will help ensure seamless operations and growth for your business.

How does 3PL pricing work?

3PL pricing can vary depending on several factors. Typically, costs are determined by the scope of services required, such as order fulfilment and inventory management. Additional charges may include storage fees, transportation costs, and any value-added services requested. It's important to ask for detailed pricing information from potential 3PLproviders to ensure transparency and avoid unexpected expenses.

Case studies & success stories of UK-based businesses

When The Cheeky Panda decided to start selling its products direct-to-consumer online, that’s when it started seeking out a 3PL provider.

“At the time, implementing an in-house fulfilment solution would have been complicated, time-consuming and expensive. I’m not sure that we’d have the financial capability to make that sort of investment now, especially when you consider all the elements that go into it – building a warehouse, recruiting dedicated staff, and developing the relevant processes. Partnering with a 3PL fulfilment provider was definitely the best solution for The Cheeky Panda.
“There were several factors that influenced our decision to work with Zendbox. Firstly, the service from Zendbox is flexible. Secondly, Zendbox uses cutting-edge technology and provides access to Zendportal – its dedicated order and inventory management platform, which is simple and easy to use. The fact that Zendbox integrates with Shopify is also great. Lastly, Zendbox offers a service that’s ideal on price.”

- Marco Crociani, Operations & Logistics Lead at The Cheeky Panda

Before Zendbox, Complete Strength experienced several challenges, including warehouse and related staff management issues, as well as ever-increasing shipping costs.

“The reason why we went down the route of a 3PL was because we wanted a more efficient process of fulfilling orders, so that our customers had a great experience. It was important that we had a clean, clear system for ourselves and our customers. I also wanted to reduce my stress in relation to managing warehouse staff, increasing overheads, and the like.
“We looked at several 3PLsand each one has its strengths and weaknesses but when I came down to the Zendbox facilities, I was so impressed by the way that everything was smoothly run. Zendbox also seemed to have a real caring interest in not only Complete Strength, but also in making sure that customers got the right products.
“It was a no-brained for us to choose Zendbox as our 3PL provider.”

- Rob Whitfield, Founder of Complete Strength

Final thoughts on 3PLs for UK-based businesses

In today's fast-paced business landscape, efficiency and customer satisfaction are paramount. This is where third-party logistics (3PL) providers come in, offering a range of services to help streamline your supply chain operations. From order fulfilment and warehousing to shipping coordination and returns management, partnering with a 3PL can bring numerous benefits to your UK-based business.

By working with a reputable 3PL provider, you can experience cost savings, reduced time investment in logistics tasks, and low capital commitment. With their industry expertise and advanced technology capabilities, they can also help you focus on what matters most: growing your business.

The flexibility and scalability offered by 3PLs allow you to adapt quickly to changing market demands while expanding your reach without additional infrastructure or resources. Whether you're a small start-up or an established enterprise seeking optimal solutions for your supply chain needs, a suitable 3PL solution is available for every business.

When choosing a 3PLprovider in the UK, it's crucial to consider factors such as the geographic location of fulfilment centres that align with your target markets or customers' locations. The provider should also possess advanced technology systems that integrate seamlessly with yours for efficient order processing and tracking. Additionally, industry expertise and excellent customer support are essential aspects that ensure smooth collaboration throughout the partnership.

Discover how Zendbox can assist with your fulfilment, storage, and inventory control! Contact one of our eCommerce experts by filling out our form.

Gilson Pereira
Head of Customer Experience at Zendbox

Resilient and forward-thinking, Gilson is responsible for leading the strategy, planning and execution of our customer experience (CX) goals, liaising with department heads to ensure every team at Zendbox works cohesively to provide our clients a positive and seamless experience across all touchpoints.

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