3PL Partnerships: Finding Your Better Half

Just like people, companies seeking long-lasting relationships need to keep a strategic focus when choosing their “other half.” In the high-stakes world of international shipping, smart companies considering logistics outsourcing for their supply chain needs should carefully consider the question, “How do I choose the right provider?”

Here are five tips to help you properly identify the best third-party logistics provider (3PL) to create a win-win relationship and ensure that your company is adequately “partnershipped.”

1. Choose a partner that will walk beside you. Unilateral decision-making doesn’t work. Find a 3PL that wants to partner and looks at the relationship with a truly vested interest; one that will maintain open lines of communication to guide and collaborate with you. Ask candidates to demonstrate a plan for expansion and technology upgrades that can be put in place if your logistics needs grow.

2. Say no to cookie-cutter solutions and pricing. Find a 3PL that listens to and understands your unique logistics needs. Align yourself with a partner that provides flexible solutions, and takes a tailored approach to suit your specific situation. Challenge candidates to demonstrate distinct examples of how they have provided a customized solution for a similar organization.

And size does matter. Some companies prefer small, regional providers over large international providers because they feel they can benefit from a more personalized, intimate relationship.

Ask your logistics providers to demonstrate a plan for continued process improvements that control costs and ensure ongoing efficiency. Outsourcing can produce many benefits. By leveraging the resources of a 3PL, you can save money, improve service levels, and focus on your core business.


3. Find a partner that will “NIPIM” in the bud. That is, find a company that offers stability of resources through:

  • Network strength. Does the 3PL have good resource availability? Is it actively involved in the industry?
  • Industry knowledge and expertise. Talk is cheap. Find a company that has relevant experience with your type of product, technology integration, geographic area, and other specific needs.
  • People. Ask about the company’s personal and professional development programs. If everyone on the team is involved and shows up for practice, it’s more likely that they’ll win the game.
  • IT (or systems capability).
  • Mindset — dynamic and partner focused.

4. Choose a partner that can serve multiple product markets where compliance, safety, and cargo security are required. If one logistics provider can meet the needs of a diverse base of customers, each with its own challenges and industry requirements, then the chances of a successful partnership greatly increase. Ask about certifications that are aligned with your supply chain and industry-mandated protocols.

5. Make the connection. No matter how smart, successful, and impressive a company might be, if you don’t connect with the organization and its people, it’s not going to work. Like dating, chemistry is key. Being able to work together to resolve mutually defined goals and objectives is paramount to success.

By remaining true to your company’s identity, expectations, and needs — and communicating them clearly to your 3PL candidates — you’ll find a partner that can provide you with reliable, secure, and affordable logistics solutions.

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