A couple former clients of mine have come to me recently asking me to help them find a 3PL, or Third Party Logistics, warehouse overseas. One of the clients is looking for a 3PL warehouse in China close to where they manufacture their product. They have a lot of clients in Asia and are looking to cut their shipping costs. Currently all their product is shipped to the US and then they ship it out again to countries in Asia. So finding a warehouse in China that will ship their product directly for them is important. The other client is looking for a contract warehouse in Europe. They have been using one in the UK but that warehouse is closing so they are looking for another. The interesting thing about this client is that their 3PL provider in the UK charges a percentage of sales and actually has an incentive to help my client drive sales. This is a bit unusual as most 3PL providers charge based on volume and labor. But in reaching out to some 3PLs in Europe I did find a few who said they might be willing to work with this arrangement as well.
Needless to say, if your international customer base is growing enlisting the aid of a good 3PL can save you a lot in overhead and shipping. However, you need to make sure you pick the right provider otherwise you risk an interruption in your supply chain. If your 3PL suddenly goes out of business then you face a major problem with your customers, what has happened with my client whose UK 3PL has suddenly decided to close. So longevity is a key here and you only want to pick a 3PL that has an established track record. You also should ask for references. Most 3PLs will be happy to pass these along. And as you do when you look for a prospective supplier in China, there are a couple things to keep in mind:
- Only approach 3PLs that service companies the size of your own. A large 3PL is probably not going to be interested in your business anyway.
- Attach much importance to communication when evaluating 3PL providers.