The Supply Chain Network exists to get something from point A (usually the manufacturer or supplier) to point B (usually the customer). Usually, this happens via a number of different points in between, going through the hands of various logistics providers, warehouses, and distribution centers. To someone who has to keep track of the logistics and tracking of products across the country, the more hands something touches, the more difficult the process becomes. Some 3PL providers, however, are beginning to act as all-in-one providers for many of their clients, handling store distribution, ecommerce, and even providing value-added services to make the supply chain network less complicated.
Deliveries to stores have changed in such a way that more is often required of the driver than simply driving up, dropping off, and driving away. Now we’re seeing white-glove delivery, where drivers are sometimes dropping off in the middle of the day and walking through the store in order to do so, because malls don’t have delivery areas for some stores. This requires being courteous to and not interrupting shopping customers. Drivers may even be tasked with entering information into computer systems and helping to unpack the boxes, though it’s not necessarily in their job descriptions. They have to do this, all while staying on schedule and making all of their deliveries within the timeframe they’ve promised.
For retailers particularly, any 3PL that can handle both store distribution as well as their ecommerce can simplify their logistics dramatically. Instead of product being shipped to two separate areas, products are shipped and stocked in one location. From there, orders are filled and, in some cases, returns are processed, and trucks go out as frequently as necessary to stock stores with products. This happens under one roof, with one team handling the stock. That means chances are low that items will be lost or damaged in transit, and fewer tracking numbers and barcodes to keep track of.
In addition to store distribution and ecommerce, some 3PL providers may also provide their customers with value-added services that just make sense as an addendum to what they’re already providing. For instance, if all stock of an item is coming to the distribution center and it’s noticed that a flaw exists in the product straight from the supplier, they can work to fix the flaw in house before it’s shipped to stores or to customers, or they can work with the supplier to get the flaw fixed. Or, if a driver is delivering stock to a store anyway, they may also deliver showcase pieces for the items, or deliver the items already boxed together into gift baskets or bundles that the store plans to sell. With both store distribution and ecommerce already in-house, it just makes sense to provide other services as well.
As you manage your logistics, how many warehouses and distribution centers are your products passing through before they reach their destination? All-in-one providers may be able to take some weight off of your mind.