January 2003 | Commentary | 3PL Line

Building Bridges With Your 3PLs

Tags: 3PL

With competition at an all-time high, it is more important than ever to develop a trusting relationship with your logistics partners. As the logistics business grows, 3PLs offer services that encompass the entire supply chain. They no longer just manage your warehouse—today they offer global solutions that include transportation, warehousing, customs, and IT services.

Because their service offerings cover a vast array of areas, successfully integrating a logistics company into your business takes time and should not be entered lightly. When reviewing 3PLs look for one that is dependable and can be a partner for the future, not just the next year.

How will you know if you have a logistics partner that is trustworthy and dependable or even one that you could be doing business with in five or 10 years? To what extent are you taking the necessary steps to ensure a strong relationship? What steps is the logistics company taking to do the same? These are the types of questions managers face when selecting a 3PL partner.

3PL Support Beams

A relationship with a 3PL is more than simply a contract. It is a bridge between two companies that can lead to success or failure. The more support beams your bridge has, the stronger it will be.

Here are four support beams that can help bolster your relationship with 3PL partners:

1) Strive for "always". Your 3PL should always deliver results. Always respond to issues in a timely fashion. Always try to please you. It's understandable that this may not 'always' happen, but if your logistics partner strives for it, and you do as well, you're bound to achieve it more often than not.

2) Don't hog the credit. We all want to prove how valuable we are, so every idea becomes our own. If your 3PL gives you credit for ideas and collaborates and compromises on solutions, however, you can tell they are not only in it for themselves.

3) Never say no. Anything can be done with the right amount of resources and effort. Does your 3PL offer options?

4) Improve, improve, improve. A good 3PL will never get complacent with its duties. Businesses and processes change all the time, so a 3PL should change with them.

It doesn't matter how much experience a 3PL has, or how big it is, if its customers are not happy.

In the past, I worked for a 3PL that had a thriving business, but after a few executive changes found itself floundering. Unfortunately, executive leadership lost focus, and as a result, customers became an afterthought. The only thing the customers knew was that they had to pay more money for the same service. It didn't work.

Customer Service Number One

What can be learned from this? Quite simply, customer service must be a top priority, and businesses should expect nothing less from their providers. Third-party logistics providers that choose to act as a true partner with their customers, through good times and bad, will be the companies that sustain business growth.

Right now is a perfect time for any business to grow its relationship with its 3PL providers and look for ways to create more cost efficiencies.

What should you expect from your provider? Third-party logistics providers should be willing to propose cost saving initiatives before asked as well as offer temporary rate cuts or process improvements, if necessary. It's a give and take relationship and one that requires a great deal of trust. Remember, it takes two strong foundations to build a bridge.