One of the biggest benefits of 3PL fulfillment services for a growing company is the ability to deploy a modular solution.
LEGO® blocks are probably the simplest example of modular design. There are many types of pieces that could be used to build your final structure, but every single piece fits together and can be added at any time.
Modular furniture lets you go from a few people to hundreds of connected workspace cubicles quickly and affordably.
Modular homes let you design your home from a host of styles and configurations.
Why has modular design become so popular? Because it combines the advantages of standardization (repeatable solutions that work) with those of customization (building a solution that is tailor-made to your precise needs).
This is very applicable to fulfillment since a key challenge companies have is how to scale warehouse and fulfillment operations to adapt to changing order volumes and profiles.
Given the option, most fast-growing eCommerce and direct selling companies would rather outsource to a 3PL fulfillment company than invest time, energy and capital to continually adapt their own infrastructure. The want flexible fulfillment.
3PLs Offer a Modular Solution to Growth
The accompanying illustration is an example of how companies can use different technologies during different phases of their growth. Not all 3PL fulfillment companies can offer this level of modularity.
Smaller, single-location operations tend to specialize in smaller, manual pick-and-pack environments. They may be an excellent solution if your products are just gaining traction in the market, but they may not have the ability to scale as your business grows. You’ll then be faced with managing a difficult transition to a new partner just at the time you least need the distraction.
The largest 3PLs are interested only in managing large-scale operations that require a dedicated facility. They have a minimum order volume number that must be present for them to even entertain the project.
In between here are a number of 3PL fulfillment companies that will work with small but growing companies and can deploy new strategies and technology when, and only when, your business requires it. That is a huge advantage if you need to preserve capital. Ideally, you want your fulfillment costs to parallel your revenue stream.
This approach is modular, but also very customized. Operators and engineers assess growth projections and suggest proven options for warehouse design and picking methodologies – to be deployed once certain volume thresholds are hit. The pieces are ready to go when needed.
3PL Fulfillment: Modular Answers to Scaling Your Business
Fulfillment operations can be highly complex and automated – a far cry, engineering wise, from a LEGO house. But growing companies benefit from 3PLs that can borrow from LEGO’s modular approach. That can add pieces – technology, equipment, automation — when they are needed, and not before.