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People who know storage and integration

It's already started to happen. Sales are up and your new business is taking off. You can hardly keep up with the orders, and you're thrilled to see so many people finding you. The problem is, you're handling all your shipping in-house, and complaints are beginning to roll in. Lead times are too long. Trucks keep showing up at off-hours. Products arrive damaged. Rates are too high. At the same time you and your small sales team are staying late, guzzling coffee, coordinating shipping for sales from Maine to Miami. You want to keep up the pace, but if the complaints hit the Internet, you'll find your evenings have cleared up again. That's when you know it's time to solve both problems at once. Make the customers happy and take the pressure of your sales team. Partner with a 3PL company.

3PL stands for 3rd party logistics, for those not in the know, and a 3PL company does just what it says. It introduces a 3rd party to handle the logistics of shipping products from you to your customers. Using a 3PL will free up your time to focus on your customers and products while an expert handles all the details of pickup, transport, and delivery. That may sound like a lot of control to hand over to a stranger, which is why you want to make sure you do your research before outsourcing. Here's what to keep in mind:

Find out what they offer. 3PLs may offer different services, so make sure you're talking to people who do all you need, or more! If you want someone to store and package products in addition to arranging pickups, you'll have to get pickier about who you approach.

Find out what they're best at. It's a common bad habit of any business to over-promise on services just to get people in the door for their bread-and-butter core services. Ask what their primary focus is, and don't hesitate to ask just how often, and how well, they perform other services, especially if you need them included.

Weigh quality over pricing. You get what you pay for, after all. Your customers will doubtlessly expect the very lowest shipping prices, but if you want consistent good service, go with the provider with great the customer service, tracking features, and reputation. You can train your customers to raise their expectations for shipping that way, too.

Explain your product and your customer. Since you can't expect your 3PL to read your mind, explain what it is you ship and to whom it goes. Any and all details will help them arrange shipping efficiently. Your product type and size, quantity, shipping origin point and destination point. Help them set expectations so you can throw them as few curveballs as possible.

Have a long conversation. Alongside the last tip, get to know potential 3PL partners as much as possible. See what kind of clientele they service. What regions they know. What product they ship. This will help you most in determining if you're a good match.

Ask around. Don't keep things between you and your 3PL. Talk to colleagues and partners. See who they use, find out who has the best reputation. There's no knowing what you'll learn if you just start to ask questions.

A successful 3PL partnership can go a long way in managing the growth of your company and maintaining great customer service. As experts in material handling, we at Speedrack Midwest know the importance of keeping your supply chain fluid and efficient. Call us at 616-887-8886 to learn more about managing your warehouse, fulfillment, and distribution.