How To Choose The Right 3PL Fulfillment Partner

How To Choose The Right 3PL Fulfillment Partner

6 Things to Consider When Choosing a 3PL Fulfillment Partner

A 3PL Fulfillment partner acts as a direct connection between your brand and your consumer. You collect the orders and your third-party logistics partner (3PL) fulfills them. If done right, your consumers’ experience is no different than if you handled the fulfillment yourself.

The importance of selecting the right 3PL partner cannot be emphasized enough. However, completing that process can be quite an undertaking. To make it easier, here are some helpful tips on choosing the right 3PL Fulfillment partner:

  1. When Should You Partner With a 3PL?
  2. Consider Omni-Channel Growth and Fulfillment
  3. Advantages of 3PLs
  4. How to Evaluate a 3PL
  5. How To Choose Your 3PL Partner
  6. Your 3PL Fulfillment Partner

When Should You Partner With a 3PL?

The biggest driver for deciding when to partner with a 3PL is your fulfillment volume, and at what point that volume becomes a distraction from what should be your primary focus – growing your business.

Did you know that 86% of the Fortune 500 and 96% of Fortune 100 companies use a 3PL partner within their supply chain?

At a certain point in the history of these companies, they had to make an important decision in order to properly support their supply chain, strategic objectives, and growth. They could either make a sizeable investment in their own fulfillment or partner with an expert who can handle it on their behalf.

These three key questions will help you determine whether you need a 3PL:

What is your current daily volume and associated costs?

Once you understand your current daily order/unit/line volume, and the costs of labour/space/supplies to handle the fulfillment, you can then compare that against the calculated costs of a partnership with a 3PL. This may show that switching to a 3PL model is an advantageous solution in your current state, rather than a future consideration.

Are you running out of costly inventory storage space?

Brands often forget to include storage costs when determining fulfillment expenses. Compare your current lease/utility expenses with storage pricing estimates from 3PLs. You may find that consolidating storage costs with outsourced fulfillment is a better value for your company.

What’s your forecasted growth?

If you’re expecting a sustained surge in order volume—not just one-off flash sales or marketing promotions—estimate the costs and resources necessary to meet consumer demand in the future. Compare this with the costs of outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL.

Consider Omni-Channel Growth and Fulfillment

With the explosion of Omni-Channel through this century, the need for partnering with a 3PL that is well-versed and executes exceptionally within each channel is key. Here are three examples of cross-channel implications in fulfillment:

Wholesale

While the wholesale retailer landscape is shifting, there is still a need for a 3PL that can fulfill orders properly and on time for your retail partners. One growing trend within retail is compliance requirements – such as price ticketing and pre-packing – that are asked of brands by retailers both big and small. Partnering with a 3PL who is well-experienced with retailer compliance will ensure a seamless fulfillment experience and that your product is first-to-floor.

Ecommerce

Consumer expectations for ecommerce continues to become more strict; from the time it takes to fulfill the order, to it landing on their doorstep. A 3PL with the processes, technology, and infrastructure to handle ecommerce fulfillment is integral to this element of your business being a success.

DTC (Amazon)

If DTC via partners like Amazon is a channel you intend to put an effort into growing, then it becomes a necessity to have a 3PL who can handle all aspects of fulfillment. Your 3PL provider should manage compliance requirements and electronic routing, which is needed to have your product enter their DCs platform.

Advantages of 3PLs

There are numerous advantages to working with an experienced 3PL fulfillment partner. Below are four of the most significant aspects:

1. Grow Your Business

3PLs will facilitate all the important aspects of your backend logistics and fulfillment, so that you can focus on marketing and sales – the biggest drivers in the growth of any business.

2. Partner with Professionals

Investing in your own fulfillment operation is certainly an option, however, there is more to that then an investment in a warehouse, racking and boxes. You need a team of experts who have the experience in the industry, will share new solutions and knowledge, and can support your brand along its journey.

3. Limit Overhead

Leasing warehouse space, hiring an operations team, and maintaining facility assets is costly. Partnering with a 3PL can minimize costs so capital can be directed toward objectives that will generate growth.

4. International Expansion

As your brand grows outside of its domestic market, having a 3PL partner who is plugged into a large global network can prove to be a huge advantage. Once the time is right, you can launch new international locations or activate new solutions, like cross-border ecommerce.

How to Evaluate a 3PL

When considering a 3PL partner, evaluate the following criteria:

No-Hidden Fees Pricing

A transparent pricing model makes a partnership clear for both sides. Understand how the pricing works in detail and what value-added services are offered, even if VAS may not be a need now but potentially in the future.

Versatile Omni-Channel Service Levels

As brand’s become diverse in the omni-channels that they are active in, it’s important that your 3PL can support those as needed. From brick-and-mortar retail to ecommerce, making sure they are ready to go when these new channels go live will be one-less thing for you to worry about.

Technology

Ensure the 3PL can integrate in any format (API, EDI, etc.) with your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, webstore platform, accounting program or order management system (OMS). Integrating key points enables functions like Inbound Shipment receiving, pick/packing orders, shipping confirmations, and inventory levels to be communicated automatically between systems.

How To Choose Your 3PL Partner

Selecting the right partner is a huge decision, given the important piece they will play with your business’ current and future state. Choosing the right 3PL is equal parts analyzing data and building the relationship. Here are the critical details you will want to obtain – both from your own company and the 3PL – to help with that selection:

The Fundamentals of the 3PL

  1. History
    1. How long has the 3PL been around?
    2. How has their business, team and services evolved?
  2. Service Level
    1. What is the 3PL’s the Hours of Operations?
    2. What are their core services within their operation?
    3. What value-added services (packing slip / gift-card inserts, price ticketing, retailer compliance) do they offer?
  3. Client Base
    1. Do they have strong customer references and long-term partnerships?
    2. Have they worked with companies in your industry before?

Your Brand’s Volume

  1. What is your annual volume – in units – that would flow through the 3PL per year?
  2. How many Inbound shipments from your factory do you receive on a quarterly basis?
  3. How many orders do you ship each month (in the following categories: B2C, B2B, domestic, and international)?
  4. What are your peak seasons?

3PL Technology & Processes

  1. Does the 3PL have a standalone platform you can integrate with via API, EDI or FTP?
  2. Does the 3PL offer automated communications for functions like order fulfillment, shipping notices, returns inspection, inventory counts, receiving reports, and adjustment notifications?
  3. How user-friendly is their Client-facing platform to use?
  4. At a high-level, what are their processes for fulfillment?

Transparent Pricing Model

  1. What is the pricing for the key fulfillment functions such as receiving and pick/pack ?
  2. What value-add services do they offer?
  3. How is storage managed?
  4. Do they have a monthly minimum invoice requirement?
  5. Are there any extra costs to be mindful of?

Your 3PL Fulfillment Partner

At a52 Fulfillment, we offer a solution that is tailored, integrated, and transparent. These are the three principles by which our whole company and culture are built.

We Tailor our business to yours so that a52 is enabled as an extension of your brand.

From there, we Integrate around your company’s software systems and methods to create a seamless partnership on both sides.

Lastly, a52 will always be Transparent with our operation with real-time access to our WMS client portal which is available online 24/7.

It is these core principles that contribute to a52’s successful on-demand shipping for all of our clients.

Contact a fulfillment services expert at a52 today to learn more about our solution!

6 Ways a 3PL Provider Can Help Your Brand with On Demand Fulfillment

6 Ways a 3PL Provider Can Help Your Brand with On Demand Fulfillment

6 Ways a 3PL Provider Can Help Your Brand with On Demand Fulfillment

On-Demand Shipping is rapidly becoming the new normal in the world of fulfillment. The growing expectation from both retailers and consumers is that a brand has its product immediately available for purchase with no delays in order fulfillment. This shift has triggered the need for brands to hold more stock on a regular basis, which greatly increases the space needed to both store inventory and pick / pack orders.

For e-commerce, a brand’s inventory must be available on demand in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. The direct consumers’ expectation is that a brand’s inventory, of any style and size, is always available online for purchase at any moment, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Lack of available inventory not only means a loss of sale and poor consumer experience but the likelihood of a repeat purchase greatly diminishes.

On the brick-and-mortar retail side, one trend contributing to the shift to On Demand Fulfillment is that retailers are decreasing the size of their booking orders and supplementing the seasonal purchases with small, immediate orders placed daily or weekly. This allows retailers to shrink their costly physical footprint while also meeting the needs and wants of their customers based on actual purchasing data. This balance between reducing overhead costs and increasing sales is a driving factor for many retailers.

These immediate retailer orders tend to have a higher SKU count but a lower unit count, essentially becoming like large e-commerce orders which, in turn, require more intensive handling. Immediate orders also have a faster expectation for fulfillment, given their smaller size and the need of the retailer to have it in store as soon as possible. Both are notable factors in differentiating this order type to the more traditional large season booking orders of the past.

Given the time-sensitive nature of retailer and consumer orders, there can also be a demand to ship them on a higher level than what a standard ground service provides. In the world of On Demand Fulfillment, the retailer and consumer want the order as fast as they are willing to pay, which means a brand must be able to offer various shipping solutions that best accommodate the customer. This can be anything from a 3-day or 2-day delivery to early AM next day delivery. All of it available at the click of a button.

While the retailer and consumer’s shared expectation are straight forward – have the inventory available and ship it quickly – there is an immense amount of backend logistical support needed to make that happen successfully. For a brand, they have two common routes to choose from:

They can either make a serious investment into their own operation, inclusive of not only space, infrastructure, and technology but also acquiring the key, talented people required to launch it. This can be a costly endeavour, requiring a lot of resources from both a time and monetary perspective to do it right.

The other option would be to partner with an experienced, knowledgeable, and dynamic third-party logistics and order fulfillment provider. This allows a brand to trust the back-end logistics to a professional who will act as an extension of your brand, fulfilling orders with the same care and practice as if they came out of the brand’s own facility.

In choosing a 3PL partner, there are several key factors for a brand to look for as to ensure their expectations and needs will be met.

1. Strong Technology Foundation

A strong technology foundation is a paramount factor for a 3PL and Order Fulfillment partner being able to execute. Having the ability to integrate their Warehouse Management System to any platform – from CRM to ERPs, accounting software and webstore platforms – is integral in providing a seamless experience to the brand and customer.

2. Transparent Inventory Management

Real-time inventory availabilities must be able to be transmitted back and forth so that the customer, whether retailer or consumer, can have visibility on what’s available to purchase anytime they would like. Once an order has been placed, all the data can transmit over to the 3PL’s WMS automatically, and from there fulfilled within their WMS. Once shipped, the carrier data like tracking must revert to the brand as again, visibility is key for a great customer experience.

3. Responsive Inventory Scalability

As a brand’s inventory holdings grow in order to provide orders on demand, so will the footprint required within a fulfillment center. A 3PL partner with the ability to scale with your volume is important as otherwise, the customer’s demands may not be met. The third-party logistics and order fulfillment provider should to be able to secure additional space as needed, as well as building infrastructure like racking for storage and pick and pack areas with ease and efficiency.

4. Dynamic Order Fulfillment

A 3PL has to offer dynamic order fulfillment so that they can handle not only a brand’s immediate retailer and e-commerce orders, but larger seasonal bookings as well. Having multiple providers with different solutions can create inefficiencies within your supply chain. The 3PL’s warehouse management system, personnel, and processes must be nimble and accommodate the fluctuating volume while also consistently delivering the required service levels on the various order types that a brand has.

5. Forecasting

For a brand, the ability to forecast accurately is an essential element of being successful. Accurate forecasting creates efficiencies throughout the supply chain, from production to transport and all the way down to fulfillment and inventory management. The forecast for orders would not only be at a seasonal or monthly level but down to the week and day, particularly for on-demand volumes like immediate retail orders and e-commerce. As the ability to collect and analyse data becomes easier, so does a brand’s ability to forecast accurately.

6. Fast Shipping

Whether a retailer or consumer, the shared expectation is that the inventory is available and ready to ship quickly. This means that a brand needs a third-party logistics provider can scale as the inventory holdings increase while continuing to offer excellent order fulfillment service levels, both of which a52 excels at.

At a52 Fulfillment, we offer a solution that is tailored, integrated and transparent. These are the three principles by which our whole company and culture are built. We Tailor our business to yours so that a52 is enabled as an extension of your brand. From there, we Integrate around your company’s software systems and methods to create a seamless partnership on both sides. Lastly, a52 will always be Transparent with our operation with real-time access to our WMS client portal which is available online 24/7. It is these core principles that contribute to a52’s successful on-demand shipping for all of our Clients.

Contact a fulfillment services expert at a52 today to learn more about our solution!

Duty Free Cross-Border E-Commerce: How To Prepare For Success

Duty Free Cross-Border E-Commerce: How To Prepare For Success

Duty Free Cross-Border Ecommerce: How To Prepare For Success

The recent changes on the duties and taxes for inventory that is imported from overseas has presented significant challenges to brands within the United States. Seemingly overnight, brands have seen a drastic increase in costs within their supply chain. While these changes are a considerable obstacle, there is a reliable solution.

At a52 Fulfillment, we offer our US Ecommerce Fulfillment from Canada Solution, which can yield significant savings for brands who are facing steep duties on imported inventory they intend to sell online.

Duty Free US Ecommerce Fulfillment From Canada

Our solution utilizes both Section 321 of the US Customs Act and the Canadian Duty Relief Program. These are two independent programs from the United States and Canadian governments that, when utilized simultaneously, may result in relief from the unforeseen added costs to your supply chain.

Section 321 of the US Customs Act is an amendment to the Tariff Act of 1930. At its core, it is the limit of when an order can enter the US, duty and tax free. In 2015, entities with large market-shares in the ecommerce space worked with the US government to increase the threshold from $200 to $800 USD. This increase was significant, and now covers the majority of ecommerce purchases that consumers make online.

Around the same time, the Canadian government implemented their Duty Relief Program, which allows companies to defer payment on duties for upwards of four years on inventory that’s shipping internationally. Effectively, this allows your distribution center in Canada to act like an FTZ or bonded facility without the inventory segregation. This program benefits both the company as well as the Canadian Customs as it alleviates duty drawbacks, which are costly and lengthy processes for all parties.

While this solution is active and successful day-in and day-out for multitude of a52 clients, there are fundamental elements that need to be in place from both sides of the partnership – a52 and retailer – to ensure the solution launches successfully.

To be successful in duty free ecommerce across borders, the following 7 things are required:

1. System-to-System Integration

The ability for a 3PL like a52 to integrate our Warehouse Management System to any platform – from CRM and ERPs, to accounting software and webstore platforms – is integral in providing a seamless fulfillment experience for both the brand and consumer. Key pieces of data such as Order Value and Country-of-Origin for each SKU need to be included at an order-level, as they are a necessity for cross-border ecommerce. Having this data transmitted automatically will contribute to swift turnaround time on US-bound ecommerce.

2. End-to-End Consumer Visibility

Real-time inventory availability must be transmitted back and forth so that the consumer has visibility on what’s available to purchase at anytime. Once an order has been placed, all the data should be transmitted over to the 3PL’s WMS automatically, and from there, be fulfilled within their WMS. Once shipped, the carrier data, like tracking, must revert to the brand again. This visibility is key for a great customer experience.

3. Responsive Inventory Scalability

As a brand grows their inventory holdings in Canada, in order to fulfill US orders, their required footprint within a fulfillment center will also grow. For these companies, a 3PL partner – like a52 – who can scale with your volume is important. Otherwise, the consumers’ needs may not be met. The third-party logistics and order fulfillment provider should be able to secure additional space as needed, as well as building infrastructure like racking for storage and pick-and-pack areas with ease and efficiency.

4. Strong Customs Broker & Freight Forwarder Partnership

Along with partnering with a strong 3PL fulfillment company like a52, a brand should also work with a Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder who are experienced with the Canadian Duty Relief program. This ensures that all inbound shipments arriving to Canada from overseas are properly documented as being part of the program, and will clear through customs without delay, having duties paid. With our experience in the industry, a52 has relationships with numerous recommended Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders.

5. Forecasting

For a brand, the ability to forecast accurately is an essential element of being successful. Accurate forecasting creates efficiencies throughout the supply chain; from production to transport and all the way down to fulfillment and inventory management. The forecast for orders isn’t only be at a seasonal or monthly level, but as granular as the week and day, particularly for ecommerce. With systems integration in effect, the ability to collect and analyze data becomes easier, and so does a brand’s ability to forecast accurately.

6. Fast Order Fulfillment

Whether fulfillment is done in Canada or the US, the shared expectation is that the inventory is available and ready to ship quickly. This means that a brand needs a third-party logistics provider like a52, who can scale as the inventory holdings increase, while continuing to offer excellent order fulfillment service levels for orders destined to both sides of the border.

7. Documentation and Reporting

When shipping a cross-border ecommerce order, it’s important that the proper commercial documentation is generated automatically. The documentation should note that the shipment is Section 321 and state important details such as Country of Origin, HS Code, and Order Value, as to ensure the order enters the US without delay. If your brand is on the Canadian Duty Relief Program, there are also reporting requirements for the Canadian government, which a52 also supports.

 

A 3PL PARTNER THAT UNDERSTANDS DUTY FREE CROSS-BORDER ECOMMERCE

The world of high-touch ecommerce fulfillment is a costly endeavour for any brand. Consumers expect faster turnaround on their purchases in parallel with competitive retail prices. The recent increase in duties further impact US-based retailers significantly.

At a52 Fulfillment, we offer a solution that is tailored, integrated, and transparent. These are the three principles by which our whole company and culture are built.

  • We Tailor our business to yours so that a52 is enabled as an extension of your brand.
  • We Integrate around your company’s software systems and methods to create a seamless partnership on both sides.
  • We will always be Transparent, with real-time access to our WMS client portal, which is available online 24/7.

It is these core principles that contribute to a52’s successful US Ecommerce Fulfillment from Canada Solution. Contact a fulfillment services expert at a52 today to learn more about our solution!

Duty Free US Ecom Fulfillment From Canada

Duty Free US Ecom Fulfillment From Canada

Duty Free US Ecom Fulfillment From Canada

The world of high-touch e-commerce fulfillment is a costly endeavour for any brand as consumers expect faster turnaround on their purchases in parallel with competitive retail prices. How can a brand strike such a balance? Through partnering with a 3rd Party Logistics provider well-versed in Section 321 of the US Customs Act & Canadian Duty Relief Program, like a52 Fulfillment, to implement Duty Free US Ecom Fulfillment from Canada.

Section 321 of the US Customs Act & Canadian Duty Relief Program are two independent programs from the United States & Canadian governments that when utilized together, can yield significant savings for brands with high duty rates fulfilling e-commerce for US consumers.

Section 321 of the US Customs Act is an amendment to Tariff Act of 1930 and at its core is the limit of which an order can enter the US duty & tax free. In 2015, this limit was increased from $200 to $800 USD, which covers the majority of consumer e-commerce orders for most brands.

In Canada, the Canadian Duty Relief Program allows companies to defer payment on duties for upwards of four years on inventory that’s shipping internationally. Effectively, this allows your distribution center to act like an FTZ or bonded facility without the inventory segregation. This program benefits both the company as well as the Canadian Customs as it alleviates duty drawbacks which are a costly and lengthy process on both ends.

Major US retailers and brands are already securing tens of millions in savings right to the bottom line. If you’re interested in learning more about pick & pack e-commerce fulfillment to the US from Canada, reach out to a 3rd Party Logistics Expert at a52 Fulfillment today.

The Role of Technology in Omni-Channel Solutions

The Role of Technology in Omni-Channel Solutions

The Role of Technology in Omni-Channel Solutions

At a52 Fulfillment, we know that the omni-channel solutions market constantly has new trends emerging, and how important it is to remain at peak operational efficiency in order to avoid losing customers. With so many retailers managing online and brick-and-mortar operations, a substantial amount of pressure is placed on the technology platforms that connect these two worlds. Here are some of the key factors of the role of technology in omni-channel solutions.

Better Data Usage Strengthens Fulfillment

If you have insufficient tracking software, you could fall behind on even the most basic fulfillment tasks. A modern and comprehensive inventory management system provides a stream of information that can help to coordinate internal operations and reflect the current state of inventory.Online order tracking is one of the most important factors in omni-channel solutions because it provides consumers with access to more accurate shipping details, including tracking updates, which in turn relieve consumer stress.

Inventory Management Software

Inventory management software works to provide real-time inventory management and to oversee the constant flow of units into and out of an existing inventory; therefore, preventing inventory from becoming too high or too low. This high-functioning technology is designed to reduce spending costs, increase efficiency, and to keep consumers coming back time and time again. Unless you have a good view of where items are within your system, consumers purchasing online might run into an out-of-stock situation. These situations can easily be counteracted with high-speed data and a healthy dose of automation.

The Combination of Technology and Physical Processes

Considering the rise of technology in both business and consumer environments, it should come as no surprise that powerful IT processes will continue to underlie effective fulfillment processes in the years ahead. E-commerce customers are interested in the kinds of high-speed service that is only possible when companies carefully add forward-thinking technology to solutions that have persisted for generations.

Technology Powered by Partnerships

While upgrading to the latest technology is a key differentiator in retail, doing so in-house might not be the best decision. Many companies that handle their upgrades and transformations internally end up losing valuable time that could otherwise be spent making sales. Partnering with third-party logistics provider, such as a52 Fulfillment, instead of a department within the retail organization itself can help increase overall efficiency, while also providing true transparency throughout the entire operation.

If you would like to learn more about the role of technology in omni-channel solutions, or if you are interested in one of our services, please contact a52 Fulfillment at 886-966-0252 or by filling out a contact form on our website.