When you think of third-party logistics providers (3PLs), services like transportation, shipping, and warehousing immediately come to mind. While those are the basics of 3PLs, quite a few other features can be part of their offering. These features, called 3PL value-added services, are another way to help these providers stay ahead of the competition in today's fast-paced business world.
With 3PLs already set up to handle start-to-finish fulfillment needs, offering value-added services is a perfect and easy way to give clients one more reason to choose them. In this blog, we will look at what 3PL value-added services are and examine the benefits of bringing them into the fold for a 3PL.
What are Value-Added Services for 3PLs?
Simply put, 3PL value-added services are additional services that meet customer needs or demands. Going the extra mile in the highly competitive shipping world can often prove crucial in enticing a new customer or keeping a longtime customer. Whether big or small, value-added services can please a client and give the 3PL that extra edge. They can be performed on a product before it is delivered or a service done at the customer site.
What are the Common Value-Added Services to Expect from a 3PL?
3PL value-added services come in a wide range that really has no limits only that whatever they are filling is a need for the customer. Here is a list of some common types of services, which providers can certainly expand as needed to evolve with customers in mind.
- Kitting: This service combines multiple products into an easy-to-pick package and easy-to-track stock-keeping unit (SKU). For example, selecting two of the same item and banding them together for a "two-for-one" sale or combining products commonly purchased together into a single package. Kitting is an essential value-added service because it saves the warehouse time picking orders because workers only need to pick one bundled item instead of all the separate parts. It makes picking, one of the most time-consuming procedures in the warehouse, more efficient.
- Blister packs: Blister packaging, produced by heating a sheet of plastic and molding it into shape to form a bubble that covers the product, can protect valuable, perishable, or fragile items during shipping. Blister packaging done by a 3PL close to the point of sale reduces shipping costs and limits the distance that the relatively fragile blister packages need to be shipped.
- Personalizing items: In many instances, adding initials or a laser-etched inscription to the back of electronic items can increase their value. Some 3PLs can personalize items before they leave the warehouse, which means less time you are involved in the supply chain operations.
- Special add-on labeling: A 3PL can often save time and money for customers by attaching specialized labeling for different retailers or government regulatory agencies. One reason this labeling may be needed is if the customer wants a specific branding to be in stores versus the type sent directly to consumers. Another reason can be the need for international shipping labels. Countries might have different label requirements, and a 3PL must ensure the products have the correct label based on the destination country.
- Returns management: In this reversing of logistics, a 3PL works with a customer to determine if returned damaged products can be repaired or need to be flagged to go back to the manufacturer. 3PLs keep extra packaging on hand to ensure refurbished units have a respectable appearance when sent. Some larger 3PLs offer repair services for minor issues. However, if the product must go back to the manufacturer, 3PLs that offer returns processing can help their customers save time and money with consistent warehouse processes and technology that can handle returns and track orders.
- Reworking: One of the paths for returned items is to be restocked. Reworking involves inspecting and repackaging returned merchandise to go back into stock. Often an arduous process, it requires sorting through returned items, conducting a thorough inspection, then completely repackaging things. It may take days or weeks before returned items can get back into the inventory cycle.
- Disposal/product destruction: Returned items can be disposed of if they cannot be reused or resold due to damage. Companies need to get rid of damaged or obsolete products, and that's where 3PLs can add value. They can break down those products, recycle them, or dispose of them safely and cost-effectively. Disposal of some products like batteries is not easy, and this value-added service can come with a higher cost.
- Automating rules for returns: To process returns, you need a qualified operations team and sophisticated technical integrations. Business rules, which the brand determines, are specifications so that the 3PL knows what to do in certain scenarios. The 3PL will work to ensure continuity and a speedy resolution. It can also trigger an automated flow for a new order to go out immediately when a return comes back.
- Postponement: This is when multiple individual units are put together in the fulfillment process to create one SKU. For example, a video hardware company allows customers to purchase their product with three different sizes of memory cards; then, the postponement work is to insert the correct memory card based on each customer order.
- Postponement packaging: 3PLs arrange for bulk shipping and delivery in the manner of the postponement process mentioned, but the packaging looks much different than what the customer receives in their final, single product. The 3PL staff assembles the product and packaging at the fulfillment center into the final single-product package. This approach generally saves labor and shipping costs, plus it can allow changes like adding new combinations or packaging design easier.
- Retail preparation: The preparation process for some retail accounts can be extremely detailed because retailers have precise requirements. Quite often, this preparation requires both kitting and relabeling. Certain products are put together in a certain way in each box. If your products need to go to retailers, working with a 3PL with a great retail track record is important.
- Sorting and inspection: This is a less common value-added service. An example is that sometimes manufactured component parts need to be separated or joined. While manufacturers often handle this sorting and inspection, they can instead have product parts shipped to their fulfillment provider for assembly. In this case, a 3PL should have enough space to store parts and the correct certifications to do thorough inspections.
Other value-added services include international trade compliance, call center management, firmware testing and re-flashing, and vendor-managed inventory.
Benefits of Value-Added Services
Now that we have gone over the many specific types of 3PL value-added services common in a 3PL's list of amenities, it's time to look at the qualities that make a 3PL the perfect choice for a partner.
Flexibility tops the list of significant reasons to use a 3PL. They have more flexibility in space, labor, and equipment needed to respond to fluctuations in orders and meet consumer needs. For instance, some 3PLs often reserve space in their warehouse(s) to accommodate a rush of inventory or last-minute meetings. Another benefit is that a 3PL might have the ability to quickly shift staff to a project and keep the customers labor costs to a minimum. Usually, 3PLs can offer the necessary equipment to help handle extra value-added tasks.
A 3PL will usually have a trained team to help execute specialized projects. Experienced staff can oversee customization with a focus on quality and efficiency. The value-added services team works with the customer to outline the project, create the steps necessary to complete it, and ensure accuracy and precision.
Ease of Integration
Working with the right partner will provide all these 3PL value-added services under one roof and integrated into the same system. A full-service 3PL can help manage transportation, warehousing, and all the value-added services, making it much easier to deal with any changes or updates that arise.
Imagine what it would cost to have your own experienced staff or how much you would have to fork out for a system that can integrate so seamlessly. It only makes sense for your bottom line to join up with a 3PL.
An Expert 3PL Like Port Jersey Can Be Just What You Need
A 3PL providers lineup can not only fulfill the basic logistics needs, but as shown in this blog, it can also include a wealth of 3PL value-added services with experienced people handling in all kinds of areas. With all of that available, you want to partner with a reputable, experienced 3PL. Port Jersey Logistics is just that 3PL to help you take your company up to another level. Port Jersey Logistics is a second-generation, family-owned and operated 3PL that has a deep history in providing solutions. We invest in our systems and infrastructure, but most importantly, we invest in our people to ensure we bring our customers the best possible service in the 3PL industry. Visit our website today to start the path to a better tomorrow.