How can third-party logistics (3PL) improve your supply chain?

Nowadays, when it comes to businesses moving their goods through their internal systems, disruption seems to be the new normal. Events like a pandemic, trade sanctions, and war can seriously affect this supply chain, creating problems for internal logistics, and ultimately, the delivery of goods. To avoid this, companies should be thinking of ways to overcome these obstacles, putting strategies in place to ensure the smooth running of their supply chains.

A good solution to these problems is third-party logistics (3PL) software.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into 3PL and show how partnering with a 3PL company can streamline your business and make it more efficient.

 

What is 3PL?

There’s 1PL, 2PL, and 3PL, and PL stands for party logistics. The first, 1PL, describes  a business that directly delivers its orders to its customers. The second, 2PL, means that a business hires an outside courier service to deliver goods to customers.

In 3PL, a business outsources its supply chain management to a third party. This could include everything from internal logistics to order fulfillment, or any aspect of it.

3PL services you can use include:

  • Warehousing,
  • Transportation,
  • Picking up,
  • Packing, and
  • Last-mile delivery.

You can choose the services offered by 3PL according to your needs. However, since 3PL providers focus totally on logistics, using their expertise to streamline your internal processing and order fulfillment can only improve your supply chain.

How does 3PL work?

Well, that depends on which services you use. But as an overview, this is how a typical 3PL arrangement works:

  • Your entire inventory is stored at a 3PL warehouse. Here, SKU numbers are assigned to your items for easy identification, and they are separated into designated bins.
  • When a customer places an order with you, it’s forwarded to the 3PL company for  fulfillment. To make it even easier, modern order management software will  automatically send the order to the 3PL provider’s warehouse. You don’t have to do anything.
  • At the warehouse, a team breaks down your customer’s order, identifies the storage location for each item, and retrieves them.
  • When all the necessary items have been collected, they are packed in a delivery box, which is sealed shut. An order receipt and shipping label are then printed and attached to the outside of the box.
  • A shipping carrier, organized by the 3PL provider, picks the box up from the  warehouse and delivers it to the customer.

This is how a 3PL provider helps you with order fulfillment.

 

How leveraging 3PL in a supply chain can help your business

Let’s discuss how a 3PL provider can benefit you.

1. Cost benefits

If you choose to do it alone, you’ll have to buy or rent your own warehouse space. That, of course, would mean hiring and training staff to work in the warehouse.

3PL can eliminate this expense, enabling you to put more money into other areas of your business, such as sales and marketing. A move like that could increase your revenue. What’s more, since 3PL providers specialize in logistics, extensive networks they have in the supply chain means they can negotiate better rates.

2. Focus on core competencies

Handling the fulfillment process on your own, means going through a painful trial and error period while you set the system up. Inefficiencies in your warehousing and order processing will cost you time and money.

You won’t have to worry about any of that if you use 3PL. They’ll take care of warehouse management, carrier selection, the paperwork, and choosing the best shipping routes. After all, who better to handle your fulfillment than those who specialize in it, right? Using 3PL will free up time you can spend on your core competencies, leaving the 3PL you use to leverage theirs.

3. Access to expert knowledge

In the logistics industry, 3PL companies are well regarded. Their deep knowledge and  technical know-how could be a game changer for your business if there’s a disruption in the supply chain. That’s because if an unforeseen circumstance occurs, they are able to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that your order gets fulfilled as quickly as possible.

The fact that they specialize in supply chain management means that they’re constantly   upgrading their systems and using sophisticated technology like a warehouse management system (WMS).

All this helps track inventory in real time, giving you information you need to make good, data-driven decisions for your business.

4. Flexibility

If you are planning to expand into new territories, a 3PL can offer you flexibility. It can enable you to test new ground without having to put money into warehousing or staffing.

It means, in short, that you can try out a new market with limited upfront cost to see if it’s  worth it or not.

5. Ensures compliance

Whether you plan to fulfill orders locally or globally, you need to comply with many federal, state and local laws. Joining hands with a 3PL provider can help.  Regulations can be complex, and constant updating means they change over time.  Working with a 3PL ensures that your logistical operations are compliant with the law.

For instance, if you deal with consumer packaged goods (CPG), a 3PL can make sure that  perishable items are not only kept at the stipulated temperature, but that they’re handled properly until delivered to the customer’s doorstep. This includes proper labeling, like clearly showing when a product is hazardous. Taking care of these issues shelters you legally.

When it comes to international compliance, 3PLs are especially helpful. They can take care of all the required paperwork, from customs to transportation documentation,  ensuring that your international deliveries are smooth and stress-free.

 

Let Cin7 help you integrate 3PL into your business

Now that you’re clear about the advantages of 3PL, you may want to use it to streamline your business.  Cin7 could be a good way to do this.

Cin7 works with 200+ 3PL providers, and the list is constantly updated. By using Cin7, your orders will immediately be routed to a 3PL warehouse for fulfillment,  freeing you from the cost and hassle of having to take care of that yourself.

In addition to 3PL, Cin7 provides a complete suite of features that do everything from managing your inventory to giving real-time visibility. Cin7 lets you manage your inventory, orders, and fulfillment in a much better way.

Book a demo with our experts to learn more about how Cin7 can help you with 3PL.

What is freight shipping and how does it work?

Modern businesses from every industry now operate across multiple states and countries. Thus, they need fast, efficient shipping services.

 

What is freight shipping?

Freight shipping means transporting heavy or large volumes of goods, commodities, and cargo by land, sea, or air.

Freight shipping is important for any business that caters to people in different locations. Most ecommerce businesses serve customers worldwide, and often they partner with third-party logistics providers (3PL) for their freight shipping services.

 

Freight vs. parcel

According to FedEx, any shipment weighing over 150 pounds is considered freight. Any shipment under 150 pounds can be shipped as parcels. For instance, a microwave you booked online and delivered to your home is a parcel. A truck of microwaves shipped to the home appliance store is freight.

 

How does freight shipping work?

When goods are too heavy or delicate to be shipped by a standard ground shipping carrier, freight shipping is needed. Freight shipments involve packing items in wooden pallets or crates to keep them safe during transportation.

In general, freight shipping companies use ground, air and ocean transportation. The freight shipping company can recommend the best suitable mode of transportation based on your freight items and weight.

It’s highly advisable to discuss the delivery options with your freight shipping partner. For instance, if your warehouse doesn’t have appropriate equipment for easy loading and unloading of goods, your freight shipping partner can help you with some loading equipment to unload goods at an additional cost.

Freight shipping companies often send messages with a tracking number and freight carrier details when the truck is on its way. After the freight reaches a nearby terminal, you will probably receive a call from the freight carrier. You can schedule an appointment date and time for your freight delivery. You can inspect the shipment for any damage before receiving it.

As an ecommerce business owner, you must clearly understand freight shipping options before collaborating with a 3PL. Thus, you can choose the best shipping method that suits your business requirements and customer needs. For instance, investing in reliable inventory management software is highly recommended if you sell your products on multiple ecommerce platforms. The software allows you to integrate with diverse shipping service providers and fulfill orders in multiple locations.

 

Types of freight shipping

Let’s discuss the significant types of freight shipments used for commercial purposes.

1. Air freight

Air freight is the ideal mode of transportation if you have to ship high-value items. Air shipment is more common in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Though it comes with a substantial cost, the shipment reaches the customer faster.

2. Rail freight

Businesses with large goods that need to be shipped within the country prefer rail freight. It is inexpensive compared to other freight modes but it may take a longer time than a truck. Often, businesses use rail in combination with other transportation modes to ship freight.

3. Ocean freight

Ocean freight is an alternative to air freight when you have to ship freight overseas. However, shipments can take a long time to reach their destination with ocean freight. If there is no urgency, ocean freight is a perfect choice.

4. Full truckload (FTL)

Businesses go for FTL freight shipping when they have enough stock to occupy an entire truck. A standard truck can carry around 26 pallets or load more than 15,000 pounds. However, the load weight or the number of pallets varies with the freight shipping company. Thus, it is always advisable to ensure the limits with the freight service provider.

FTL is only cost-effective when you have enough stock that covers the entire truck. Since you will be paying the truck’s total cost, unlike other freight shipping methods, you should make optimal use of every space available in the truck. It may be worth the money as order deliveries are much faster in FTL, as there are no stoppages in the middle for delivery.

5. Less than truckload (LTL)

Businesses opt for LTL when they have minimum freight quantities. In other words, shipments heavier than a parcel but not large enough to occupy the entire truck space are ideal for LTL freight shipping. Generally, shipping companies set minimum and maximum weight limits for LTL freight shipping. The weight limit varies from one company to another but ranges from 150 to 15,000 pounds, around six pallets.

In LTL freight shipping, businesses will share truck space with other companies. For instance, the shipping company will collaborate with multiple businesses and accommodate their goods optimally in the available truck space.

The prime advantage of LTL shipping is paying for what you store, not the entire truck. However, the downside is that goods are often transferred to different trucks before being delivered to the destination, taking more time for delivery.

6. Partial truckload (PTL)

Another option between LTL and PTL is partial truckload (PTL). If your shipment is over 5,000 pounds or six pallets, PTL can be a cost-effective method for you. Otherwise, it works like the LTL freight shipping method. You split the cost of the truck with other businesses, and you pay for what you store. One advantage of PTL shipping is the relatively low chance of transferring goods to different trucks.

7. Intermodal

Intermodal shipping means shipping freight by two or more modes of transportation. With intermodal containers, freight companies move shipments between truck, train, and ship effortlessly. Businesses prefer intermodal shipping as the freight is moved in containers without manual handling of items. Moreover, it is pretty cost-effective as there are no labor costs.

8. Expedited

Expedited freight shipping is the most expensive of all shipments and is reserved for emergency or time-bound shipments. Generally, expedited goods travel by air rather than by ship or rail, making it costlier. Plus, it also involves transporting goods in express shipping lanes for prompt delivery.

 

Importance of faster delivery

According to Grandview Research, the global same delivery market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3% from 2020 to 2027. The research further predicts that the market growth will be due to increasing urbanization, rapid ecommerce adoption, and evolving customer expectations towards delivery services.

As an ecommerce business owner, you should address the customer’s expectations of faster delivery. Shipping is a pivotal part of the supply chain as the order is closed only when the product reaches the customer safely and promptly.

Whether you own an online store, sell in multiple online marketplaces, or supply to major retailers like Walmart and Target, partnering with a 3PL company can be a winning supply chain strategy. However, before collaborating with a 3PL, knowing the basics of freight shipping and its costs can help you choose the ideal shipping method.

 

How much does freight shipping cost?

Shipping cost directly impacts your business’s profit or loss. Thus, keeping the shipping charges minimal while offering faster delivery to your customers becomes crucial for long-term success. In general, freight shipping costs depend on multiple factors, including

  • Cargo weight,
  • Cargo package dimensions,
  • Value of the cargo,
  • Shipping destination,
  • The urgency of the delivery,
  • Custom clearance, and
  • Unexpected delays.

Based on these factors, you can narrow down the mode of transportation for your shipment. Especially for international shipping, you may need to choose between air and sea freight. For instance, some loads can be too big or too risky for air shipments. Thus, consider all factors before finalizing the shipment mode.

 

3PL or freight forwarder: Which is better?

As an online retailer, you will ship products to customers all over the world. Partnering with the right shipping company can provide better customer service. Therefore, do your research before partnering with a shipping service provider.

The two most common shipping service providers are freight forwarders and third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Understanding how they work will help you choose the right service provider to align with your business objectives.

Freight forwarder

Freight forwarders are companies that move goods from your warehouse to your customer. They don’t really handle transportation or supervise drivers, but they actively manage your shipment. In short, they act as a mediator between you and the freight carrier. Freight forwarders often decide the mode of transportation – truck, air, or ocean for optimal order fulfillment.

Shipping carriers are generally expensive, but freight forwarders regularly deal with multiple shipping carriers, so they can get you better deals for your shipments. Freight forwarders have the expertise and in-depth knowledge of how various modes of transportation work. They are familiar with customs, as they often deal with importing and exporting goods.

So, freight forwarders can help you ship your products anywhere in the world.

3PL companies

A 3PL company can do all a freight forwarder can and manage the entire supply chain process. A reputed 3PL company will maintain your products in optimal condition, get you the best possible shipping costs, and ensure the right products reach the right customers when an order is placed. A 3PL company also handles reverse logistics.

Furthermore, a 3PL company allows you to receive orders from every sales channel and fulfill them seamlessly. By outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL company, you can focus on your business growth and customer experience.

 

How can an inventory management system help your business to ship freights to diverse locations seamlessly?

As an ecommerce business owner, you will regularly ship your products to multiple locations, catering to diverse customers. Thus, managing logistics is as crucial as managing inventory for your business. Cin7’s multichannel inventory management system comes with around 700+ business tools like accounting, marketplace, 3PL warehouse, shipping, and more that connect all your orders, inventory, shipping, and workflows. It’s an all-in-one software that allows you to manage inventory, ship and track orders, monitor analytics, and more. Reach out to the Cin7 team for a quick demo now.

Complete guide to expedited shipping

Your customers hate waiting to receive their products. According to a study by Oracle retail, 13% of them won’t buy from you again if you don’t deliver on time.

Offering expedited shipping can help you meet your customers’ expectations and increase your profitability.

 

What is expedited shipping?

Expedited shipping is performed to deliver orders faster than the regular shipping time. For instance, if your standard shipping time is a week, then using expedited shipping would ensure that consumers receive the product in two days.

Expedited shipping allows you to serve time-sensitive customers, many of whom don’t mind paying a premium to receive their shipments as fast as possible.

 

How fast is expedited shipping?

The exact turnaround time for shipments varies based on factors such as the size and weight of the products and the location of the customer. It’s possible that your standard shipping time could be equivalent to another seller’s expedited shipping.

Let’s look at different shipping options and compare them with expedited shipping.

Standard shipping vs expedited shipping

Cost-wise, standard shipping is cheaper than expedited shipping. That’s why standard shipping is often incentivized with free shipping.

Standard shipping is best for orders that aren’t urgent, whereas expedited shipping is ideal for situations where you need goods faster. Pharmaceutical supplies, seasonal products, and perishable items such as frozen food are suitable for expedited shipping.

Express shipping vs expedited shipping

Express shipping can be used to deliver items on the same day of ordering or the next day. Expedited shipping is simply quicker than the standard shipping delivery time. That can be within three days or the same day as well. If a seller offers both express and expedited shipping, the express shipping option is generally faster.

 

Benefits of offering expedited shipping

#1 Meets customers’ expectations

There is a rising trend of customers preferring faster shipping. Infact, a survey by MetaPack found that speed of delivery is a top priority for 26.6% of respondents. Another survey found that 77% of consumers are more likely to make the purchase if the delivery time is two days or less.

Your potential customers will likely opt for your competitors if they have faster shipping options. Therefore, offering a faster delivery option can provide you with a competitive advantage and help you build brand loyalty. Partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) company can help with strategic warehousing so that there’s less distance between the warehouse and the customer. In addition to choosing a fast shipping provider, a lesser distance to travel can be another crucial component in executing expedited delivery.

#2 Minimizes cart abandonment

In the 2016 State of Ecommerce Delivery Report by MetaPack, 39% of the respondents admitted to abandoning their cart if the delivery option they wanted was not available. By offering expedited delivery, you can prevent cart abandonment issues and boost your sales.

#3 Retains customers

Consumer satisfaction is essential for repeat purchases. By meeting their expectations about faster delivery, customers will not just buy more from you but also generate positive word of mouth, increasing your profitability.

#4 Ensures delivery of fresh items

Perishable items like fruits, frozen food, and dairy products face the risk of getting spoilt over time. Shipping them using expedited delivery can ensure that your customers receive fresh items.

#5 Reduces loss or theft

During standard shipping, products often need to stop at various points, which increases the risk of transit damage as well as theft. Through expedited shipping, the packages stop at fewer locations, reducing the odds of cargo loss.

 

Challenges associated with expedited shipping

There are some drawbacks to expedited shipping.

#1 Higher cost

Around 80% of people preferred to buy from Amazon in 2020 because of their free and fast shipping. Amazon also offers free same-day or two-day delivery with its prime membership.
To remain competitive, you may want to offer expedited shipping. However, expedited shipping costs more than standard shipping, and most retailers don’t have deep enough pockets to offer expedited shipping services for free.

To deal with this, you can often pass on the higher shipping costs to your customers. This way, customers who want fast shipping pay a premium for the benefits. You can also add a minimum cart value to make the order eligible for expedited shipping.

#2 Limited availability

Expedited shipping isn’t offered by all delivery companies. You may need to change your existing delivery partners if they don’t offer expedited shipping.

 

How does your inventory management speed up your shipping?

There’s no magic spell that can miraculously help in teleporting your products. Instead, optimizing your fulfillment process and using effective inventory management can smooth operations and make expedited shipping easier.

Cin7 can help you in this. With Cin7, you can optimize your warehouse’s picking and packing processes, and the software integrates with shipping software, such as Shipstation, so you can expedite delivery.

If getting your products to your customers quickly is a priority for your business, book a call with our experts, to learn more about how Cin7 can help with shipping.

Heritage Building Centre

Heritage and SMB Consultants unlock incredible growth — thanks to Cin7

After a long trial with other, less able inventory management apps, Bill Rendell and Heritage Building found a happy home in Cin7

Heritage Building has a long, storied history. When former accountant Bill Rendell first bought the business, it was simply a supplier of recycled timber, and it was doing pretty well on that basis. 

But Bill had the foresight to start selling other building materials, like doors, windows, light fittings, bathroomware — “You name it,” says Bill. “We set ourselves up to be the one-stop-shop for the heritage building industry, and started selling equivalent-new reproductions as well.”

This transformation happened fairly early in the business’s story, and at first Bill used MYOB and spreadsheets to manage the complex inventory requirements of a second-hand goods business, where nearly every item sold was in some way unique. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well. “With MYOB, there was no accountability for stock. It was just like a big box that you chucked all the information in — but I didn’t think there was anything better around at the time.” 

After struggling with MYOB for almost nine years, Bill turned to what was then a new business in the very new industry of cloud software implementation and coaching — SMB Consultants. 

SMB founder Jeff Atizado and his team helped set Heritage Building up with his first inventory management solution: Lightspeed. At the time, it was best-of-breed software, and the new fully-digital way of operating was revelatory for Bill’s business. But times change. The second-hand market was becoming less and less viable, and growth was stymied by the need to keep on top of manual tasks and fixing errors. “We were doing nothing but fixing stuff-ups,” Bill says. 

The problem, Bill says, was that Lightspeed hadn’t moved fast enough to keep up with the rest of the rapidly-changing world of online business. 

“It’s very difficult to get Lightspeed to work with Shopify,” says Bill. “We couldn’t get the shipping set up the way we wanted it. It just wasn’t possible with that program.

He turned to his trusted advisors to help turn things around.  “I started speaking with Jeff about using Cin7. The more I heard about it, the more I was impressed with what it could do.” 

SMB lends a hand for the second time

“It was interesting for us, because even though Bill had been a customer for eight years, the second time around is an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate their requirements and build a solution that incorporates what is important to them today. It simply isn’t just a process of replacing old with new. Businesses grow and change and you need to take the time to understand what are the new objectives,” says Jeff Atizado. 

Since their first engagement with Heritage Buildings, SMB Consultants have developed a process to deeply understand the business they’re working with. How is the business changing? How has it evolved? And where does it want to go? 

Together, Bill and the SMB team found that a new software solution could help him exit the secondhand goods market altogether, while growing his business in entirely new directions. 

“That process at the beginning of the project, to understand how we were working, was critical,” Bill says. “Back when we first started with SMB and Lightspeed, that process didn’t exist! Doing the scoping showed me an entirely different SMB, and following the process all the way through to implement Cin7 has proved it out. They understood what we needed, and made sure it happened.” 

After the initial consultation, SMB Consultants used Cin7 to create a working proof-of-concept, to introduce Heritage Buildings to new workflows and opportunities offered by the software. Once the proof-of-concept was finalized, SMB worked with Bill and his team to implement the full project. 

Building back better on a strong foundation

Today, Bill has transformed his business from one that physically stored and moved a lot of second-hand goods to a modern, just-in-time purchasing model that doesn’t require carrying a lot of stock. This shift, SMB says, simply wouldn’t have been possible without Cin7. 

“Some big wins from Cin7 have been being able to give Bill a tool that allows him to track which items need to be ordered, and that allows him to keep track of online sales, to order quickly, and get them shipped in time,” Jeff says. “One one side, the purchasing, on the other, fulfillment.” 

Under the old system, it took up to two or three weeks for Heritage Building to get goods to their customers. But now they can get goods into customer hands in less than a week. Cin7’s ability to support a dropshipping model has enabled Heritage Building to reduce its total stock holding by a factor of more than four, with a huge accompanying reduction in administration requirements while improving shipping times.  

“Our stock holding at present is about 200,000. Our stock holding was 1.5 million with half the turnover we’re doing now , and we’re doing it better. We’ve basically reinvented ourselves from the ground up, and we’re now a very viable online shop as well,” Bill says. 

“With shipping, what we’ve achieved now was beyond anything we could conceive. We’ve reduced our turnaround time for orders from about two weeks per item, down to three to five days.”

Soon, with new shipping workflows they’re looking to create with SMB in Cin7, he reckons they’ll be able to use Cin7 to make shipping even faster. 

“One of the things we’re doing now is looking to integrate with his dropship fulfillment provider, so we can streamline how quickly we can get orders from them, which will again cut down the amount of time it takes to get the product into a customer’s hands,”  Jeff says. 

As well as pivoting from second-hand goods to a thriving multichannel business selling new materials, Cin7 has allowed Bill to branch out with a hot new sideline — selling fireplaces. 

“It’s going gangbusters,” Bill says. “Again, that’s because of the website, and the website is because of Cin7.” Having a modern inventory app like Cin7 as their foundation means that it’s easy to sync with best-of-breed ecommerce apps like Shopify. 

“We’ve basically got a direct connection between Cin7 and Shopify,” Bill says. “We can move the products back and forwards, we can adjust counts. No drama. No chance of an error. That’s brilliant.” 

“We can plug a lot of apps into Cin7. Lightspeed couldn’t do that.” 

“A winning combination” 

Heritage Building, SMB Consultants, and Cin7 have been a winning combination. Anytime he’s needed help, SMB has been there for support. Bill has his own specialist implementation partner at SMB, Jess, who’s helped all through the scoping and setup, and can now lend a hand whenever Bill needs it. “I’ve still got Jessica there, when I need her, whether it’s a big or a little thing. You can’t hire for that — well, I don’t think you can,” Bill says. 

Likewise, Jeff says that their work with Heritage Buildings is a great showcase of how beneficial it can be for businesses to have a long-time software and coaching partner – for both parties. 

“It’s been a pleasure working with Bill,” Jeff says. “It’s great being able to look back and see the changes that we’ve made. I think Bill is being a bit humble, knowing how much change he’s actually made, but when you look at how much inventory and overhead he’s reduced, while increasing sales — that’s a winning recipe. It’s been great to be able to grow together.” 

Heritage Buildings had great results the first time they worked with SMB, but the second time around, with the transformation powered by Cin7, things are better by an order of magnitude. 

“The difference between two years ago and now — it’s almost unrecognizable,” Bill says. “I can work anywhere I need to be. For me, that’s a lot of help.” 

The new efficiencies offered by an inventory solution that connects seamlessly with other business-critical apps have paid enormous dividends for the business. After 17 years in business, growth has been unlocked. 

“In the past two years, we’ve doubled our business,” Bill says. “We’ve gone from an average of about 250,000 per month to about half a million per month. And about half of that growth is our online shop. We’ve been increasing turnover every month for the last two years, and we’re now the number three distributor in our category in Australia.” 

None of it would have been possible without Cin7 — and the help they’ve received from SMB Consultants. 

“Without Cin7, it would have been impossible to do what we’ve achieved,” Bill says. “It’s that simple. We are who we are today because of Cin7 and SMB Consultants. Our website is going exceptionally well, and I don’t think it would have been possible before Cin7. It’s worked very well for us.”