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Opinion: Time for change?


As retailers complete the reviews of their peak period it’s a time that some may reconsider their choice of logistics partner. But picking the right one isn’t easy says William Walker, sales director of Walker Logistics.

As the dust from the busy fourth quarter ‘online shopping season’ finally settles, now is probably a good time for internet retailers to evaluate the performance of their supply chain.

Were your orders shipped on time? Did you get the best shipping prices? Were customer returns handled effectively?

After a review of this essential part of any online business, a number of companies that have been fulfilling orders ‘in-house’ may conclude that the time is right to bring in specialist logistics help, while other retailers that already work with a third party logistics (3PL) provider, could decide that they’re not happy with their 3PL’s work and set about finding a new partner.

But, picking the third party logistics specialist that will be right for your business can be a daunting process. Whether you are outsourcing for the first time or looking for an alternative supplier of logistics services to the company that you are currently using, there are many things to consider.

Does the company have a proven track record? Is its geographic location right for you? Will the 3PL offer a scalable service capable of growing with your business’s needs? Does it offer the range of services – warehousing, packaging, transportation and re-work – you are looking for? And so on.

Unfortunately, the search is sometimes made more problematic due to the fact that many companies often lack the expertise or infrastructure to undertake the range of logistics services they appear to offer.

For example, Google ‘Fulfilment Company’ and you will get page after page of businesses claiming to offer everything the online retailer needs to maintain a slick supply chain but, on closer inspection, these companies may turn out to be more focused on a business model centred around storing and trunking full pallet loads.

So, be aware, a company is not a ‘fulfilment expert’ simply because it calls itself one in its advertising and on its website!

A true fulfilment specialist will be able to demonstrate that it has the IT infrastructure, facilities and staff numbers required to store product in many different layouts, pick and pack stock into multiple formats as well as re-work and deliver in the necessary volumes.

If a review of your existing supply chain model suggests that your business would benefit from an upgrade in your logistics support, take care when choosing your new partner or you might find that you have to go through the process again in no time at all.

William Walker is sales director of Walker Logistics Ltd

Image credits: Fotolia and Walker Logistics

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