The Face of Supply Chain Outsourcing!

Supply Chain outsourcing has changed significantly over the last decade.


Supply Chain Outsourcing to a Third Party Logistics Provider or 3PL started out as having a product stored at an outside warehousing facility and then have the 3PL move the product from one facility to another based on instructions provided with each transaction order.

Today’s 3PL providers offer a range of additional services that range from

  • Physical logistics operations, like shipping and receiving.
  • Provide warehousing.
  • Manage complex operational handling, that may include repackaging, product maintenance, product consolidation
  • Administration.
  • Information Management Systems that integrate into and from a client’s backend ERP System, and automate the flow of transaction data, therefore minimizing human intervention and reducing data errors.
  • Providing customer broker services.
  • International freight forwarding, which may include the creation of all required customs forms and complying with all customs regulations (import & export) as well as providing so-called “Free-Trade-Zones”.

The type and number of services provided by the 3PL are defined during the engagement and contract phase, which also includes Service Level Agreements. These add-on services can quickly multiply and must be considered carefully.

Most important in any new 3PL relationship is not to go overboard and assigning to many services to the 3PL or not enough. Both scenarios can have not only a negative impact on your business but also on the business relationship between a 3PL and its client and, “Very Bad”, the client’s customer.

Why wouldn’t you give away as many business processes as possible right away to the new 3PL? Can it not just be in my interest to reduce my internal processes and labor in order to justify the outsourcing cost?

The danger here is, since it is a new partnership the 3PL is not to familiar with the clients operational processes, its customers and its products. Giving to much control and decision making to a new 3PL will cause friction in the day-to-day business operations between the 3PL and its client due to misunderstandings, lack of familiarity of business processes, and other requirements that were communicated either insufficiently or not at all.
At the same time will the 3PL client’s staff not be familiar with the 3PL’s operations and its issues and challenges. For this reason the client needs to monitor the 3PL’s operations and be able to assist and intervene right away until both sides are satisfied with the final outcome of the processes assigned and its expected results.

Keeping to much control inhouse at the client will have similar effects.
To much back-and-forth communication is required which can lead to misunderstandings and untimely business process fulfillment.
It can lead to friction between both parties due to misunderstood instructions and can be seen easily by the 3PL as being micro-managed.
It can lead to delays in any physical operations as it may pertain to shipping and receiving products into and from the 3PL location or processing and submitting the required paperwork or electronic equivalent transactions.
It is imperative to define responsibilities clearly. It is to nobodies favor to have contract and service level agreements that leaves the agreement up to interpretation by either party.

Any relationship with a new 3PL should be setup in stages with clearly defined time-lines in order for all parties to understand the expectations and responsibilities now and in the future.
Not doing so may lead to increased cost and delay in business processes implementation as well as it can put unnecessary strain on the business partnership.

Having a clearly defined Supply Chain Outsourcing Plan, will be a win-win situation for all parties involved, starting at the manufacturing operation, over warehousing and distribution to the final customers. It can lead for all parties to a reduction in cost and increase profits, since each party can concentrate on their core business processes.


Oliver Schmid has extensive experience in offshore outsourcing to the Philippines, onshore outsourcing to Canada and domestic Outsourcing of matrix oriented call centers.  He is also versified in outsourcing of data center operations and data center monitoring and support. In addition Oliver Schmid participated in various 3PL and Supply Chain outsourcing initiatives.


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Comments
  1. June says:

    Defining responsibilities clearly can cut down on misunderstandings and breakdowns in the process.

  2. scor says:

    There are a lots of 3pl who can offer value added service out there. It’s going to be very useful if you can recommend things to be consider in 3pl selection based on your expertise.

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