The third part logistics (3PL) industry in the country has grown by over 47 percent since 1998. This growth is lead primarily by the 72,000 transport and trucking providers who bring in more than $14 billion annually. The number of warehousing and storage providers has also increased by 50 percent over the last 15 years. Small businesses can benefit from a 3PL. The providers offer expertise and assets that will help to optimize everyday operations, reduce costs and increase revenue.
Inventory management can become a logistical problem for small businesses. The cost of warehousing, materials handling, stocking and picking can grow very quickly. A poorly managed inventory or warehouse will reduce revenues significantly. A 3PL provider will handle all aspects of inventory management in an efficient way. A small business does not need to invest in material handling or warehousing assets or employees. The inventory management capabilities of an experienced 3PL will accommodate increasing stock levels as the small business grows over time.
Efficient Shipping Solutions
Shipping is something that few small businesses can manage without outside assistance. Carrier-level delivery companies must maintain large fleets of trucks and have thousands of employees. One way to optimize shipping within a small business is to use a 3PL that provides freight forwarding. Freight forwarding services are logistic specialists who arrange for the movement of packages between manufacturers and warehouses, customers or other vendors. The 3PL will work with carriers to reduce costs, meet shipping deadlines and improve deliverability for items that require special handling.
Planning and Consulting
Some 3PL providers provide planning and consulting services for businesses. This can help a small business to structure operations in a more efficient way. The provider will supply a business with the tools and information necessary to acquire the technology needed to remain competitive or to establish productive workflows. This will save money and will place a company in a position where expansion or future diversification is possible without having to restructure every department. A 3PL provider could also recommend reductions in staff levels or outsourcing of different services in order to streamline operations.
The Internet gives every small business the ability to reach customers in nearly any part of the world. An increasing number of companies are starting to sell to foreign markets. Managing foreign shipments is not always easy and often requires special knowledge. A 3PL provider using freight forwarding will have the expertise to allow a company to send shipments to other countries seamlessly. This opens up new markets while also optimizing the shipping or distribution process.
Small businesses can use 3PL providers for support services that are normally only found in larger corporations. Some 3PL providers can handle customer service and returns. This includes receiving items that are returned to a warehouse and then shipping out new items. Certain providers even offer customer contact centers that can handle basic calls and escalate more serious or technical issues. This removes the need for a small business to construct a customer service infrastructure. A 3PL will also provide more complete and professional service.