The fulfilment market is heating up, and it is the perfect time to review your warehousing and distribution situation. Maybe even see if there might be a better provider out there. One of the things we seem to forget to look at, though, is the 3PL’s IT situation.
The following are five questions you should ask any provider you are considering moving to, and ones you should ask your current provider as well.
So what should you be asking your warehousing and distribution company?
1. What kinds of reports can the fulfilment company provide, and do one or more of these reports together give you all the information and key metrics you need to properly manage your operations? Do they let you zoom in on your actual, bottom line ROI for using this provider?
At the bare minimum, you should expect web access to generated reports on your inventory, including history and transactions, your orders, including current order status, and billing/payment data.
2. Does your provider offer a web-based pathway for you and your reps to place orders directly onto their system? If you’ll be placing orders on their system, it will have to be fast, and flexible enough to integrate onto your own systems seamlessly. It should at all times show how much inventory you have available, let you control who can and cannot access the ordering tools, and be able to handle anything from bulk wholesale lots to individual product orders.
3. Does this potential fulfilment partner provide a platform for you to manage and automate key notifications? If you’re running dangerously low on widgets at 3am, it should be able to text you in time for the 5am cut-off for same day widget delivery. It should be able to alert you to a low stock situation, r you of pre-set reorder points, confirm receipt of new inventory, and register that a return has been processed. You might not need all of these features, but odds are that one of them could save your hide once in a while.
4. Is your potential provider able to integrate directly with your e-commerce storefront? Can they handle troubleshooting any problems that arise? This one is almost taken for granted, but sometimes the IT side is weak, and you never know until you need it.
5. Do they offer any kind of list management service? Properly stored an organised customer data is a goldmine, both for you and for your partners (be careful of data protection issues, of course). A 3PL has access to this data. Do they make it available to you, and do they protect it properly from others?