Outsourcing to a 3PL fundamentally means you are placing your trust in an outsider to complete and control one of the most important stages in your supply network. If you are going to place that trust in a company you need to carefully consider the following points when choosing a 3rd party fulfillment company especially if they are based in another country.
If you are thousands of miles away from your eCommerce fulfillment provider you are going to want total transparency. Find a company that uses a modern WMS and is flexible, adaptive and capable of being integrated with your software to deliver live information including warehousing, shipping and delivery which is vital for inventory control, customer service and even finance.
Live Order Retrieval
Many older warehouses batch collect orders into their system for packing. The problem that can arise from this is that if the orders are sent from a different time zone up to a 24 hours delay can be caused before picking even begins. It is best to use a company that automatically retrieves orders as soon as they are placed in your system.
With the time difference you will need a company that offers live reporting. You must be sure that your orders are being dispatched in good time. Not all companies offer this, find one that offers a full view of the fulfillment process. See infographic below which displays best practices in transparent fulfillment reporting.
Technology and Reliability
Check how technology integration and data exchange will be handled. Find a company that offers simple integration with an open API. Given the time difference and distance you may want to consider operators whose technology is cloud based and can guarantee 100% up-time.
It is a fundamental benefit in a fast-paced business because it enhances the ability of managers and employees to, with the click of a mouse ascertain exactly how much product is in stock. The best companies offer batch control and best before date management so you can select what batches go to particular customers. Also look out for companies that offer inventory alerts that utilize sales data to automatically alert you to a potential stock out when there is still time to act.
You will need to contact the company from time to time make sure you choose one with great customer service and fast response times. When you are dealing with countries abroad you need to find a company that has some level of integration in there system and customer service. A ticket system is particularly useful as you won’t be able to reach the UK by phone at during parts of the day due to time difference.
Nobody wants returns shipped halfway across the world or worse to have to employ yet another 3PL to deal with returns. If the company can ship items out they should be adequately equipped to deal with items coming back.
There are a few companies the the UK that offers these services so do some research and choose a fulfillment company with a good rep for accurate picking, packing and fast dispatch times. Find a company that has been servicing its clients for some time. You want a company that can keep its clients happy and builds a good long term relationship.
James Hyde is Operations Director at James and James Fulfilment. James is an expert in order fulfillment and systems engineering. His company has reinvented eCommerce fulfillment in the UK.