How To Build a Better Fulfillment Outsourcing Relationship

October 8, 2019 by Amware Fulfillment

When my kids were young, I read numerous books that ended with some variation of the line: “And they lived happily ever after.” 

Wouldn’t it be great if the story of all fulfillment outsourcing projects could be just as positive?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  Even though most companies invest considerable time and money into finding the right 3PL fulfillment partner, many forget that it’s equally important to put comparable sweat equity into being the right kind of 3PL partner, too.

That doesn’t mean a mediocre 3PL relationship has to happen to you – because this week’s Amware blog is chock-full of advice that companies like yours can use to enhance your fulfillment outsourcing success. 

Begin your 3PL search with a firm grasp of what you really want

fulfillment outsourcingOK, this sounds like a no-brainer.  Yet, you’d be amazed at how many prospective fulfillment outsourcing clients really don’t have a clear consensus of need before they begin their 3PL search – and how difficult this can make things. 

For example, one company department may favor a simple single-location fulfillment network, while another department may believe the most important hot button is being close to end customers for rapid delivery.  Meanwhile, another may believe the move to outsource should be all about significant fulfillment cost reductions.

Faced with these conflicting priorities, who’s a 3PL to listen to?

In order to do its best work for your business, your 3PL needs to have a unified performance mandate from your company as early in the game as possible – and clear, data-based objectives that have already been carefully prioritized. 

Make sure you’re actually capable of playing well with others

Albert Einstein advised that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

The statement does a great job of explaining why it’s smart to conduct an honest internal compatibility assessment before getting too far along in your fulfillment outsourcing journey. Like it or not, your past record with outsourced business partnerships is a huge indicator of your future success.

If your company’s history of working with “outsiders” (even non-fulfillment ones) has been more about conflict than cooperation, consider doing a root-cause analysis on the reason for the disconnect. Your company and any 3PL you eventually work with will be glad you did.  

Avoid setting pie-in-the-sky KPIs

Years ago, a friend’s dad requested a blue belt for Christmas – a seemingly reasonable “ask” that sent my friend on a long and frustrating journey to numerous stores and websites.  It was only after she called her dad to admit defeat that he finally told her, “That’s okay.  I’ve never been able to find one either.”

Keep this illustration in mind as you move into the KPI phase of working with a 3PL, because unless you’re careful, it’s all-too-easy to saddle your provider with similarly unachievable, ‘blue belt’ requests.

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While it’s certainly okay, and expected, to have more aggressive performance goals for your 3PL than you have for your own company, it’s also imperative to make sure these expectations are realistic and not just wishful thinking. 

Be an open book

On a final note, let’s talk about open communication.

Despite the fact that the use of 3PLs has come a long way over the past couple of decades, a lot of businesses still view their 3PLs as replaceable commodities instead of as strategic partners.  As a result, they don’t always entrust their providers with the insights required to take their fulfillment performance to the next level – including sharing things like competitive information or long-term business plans. 

If you want your fulfillment outsourcing relationship to be truly successful, don’t hold back. Be upfront about all of the factors that could help or hinder future fulfillment success, including cost constraints, the factors behind past delivery lapses, or any other factors that might have inspired your decision to outsource or change providers.  And by all means, don’t worry about trying to put a positive spin on things in order to make your company look good – because if you can’t trust your 3PL of choice with your trade secrets or operational realities why would you be willing to trust them with your products and brand?

The more forthcoming and collaborative you can be with your 3PL, the better the odds are that your outsourced logistics relationship will live up to its full potential. 

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Filed Under: Logistics Outsourcing, eCommerce Fulfillment