5 Vital Roles of 3PL Logistics in the Supply Chain

3Pl Supply Chain

What Is 3PL in the Supply Chain?

Third-party logistics (3PL) refers to companies that handle warehousing, transportation, and other logistics services for businesses. They help move products from manufacturers to customers without the business having to manage it all themselves.

3PL Logistics providers specialize in the field of logistic services. These services can fulfill a company’s supply chain and logistics needs.

Now you know what is 3PL in the supply chain, let’s explore the crucial roles that these third-party companies can offer your business:

1. Warehousing and Distribution

Warehouse and Distributions

One of the primary roles of 3PL supply chain logistics is warehousing and distribution. 3PL providers run and manage storage facilities where you can store your products and inventory. This service is important for all sorts of businesses—especially those dealing with large inventories or whose needs constantly change. This offers you both flexibility and cost-efficiency.

3PL offers modern and well-equipped facilities that are strategically located, so you can be sure that distribution will be at its most efficient. They handle physical storage, making sure that everything is kept safe and easily retrievable.

3PL providers can also do quality control checks and inspections to make sure that products meet the required standards and specifications. This can be particularly valuable for you if you don’t want to invest in and manage a warehouse—which is its own business and requires expertise, labour, and investment in infrastructure.

As for the distribution part of this role, 3PL providers can manage the transportation and distribution of goods to various locations, ensuring that products reach where they need to and do so on time. They optimize routes, select carriers, and oversee the entire distribution process. This role is essential to meet customers’ demands and maintain a streamlined supply chain.

2. Inventory Management

Inventory Management

Third-party logistics’ inventory management system ensures that your goods get where they need to be. Still, they also make sure that the inventory in their warehouses is at the optimal level to reduce any friction that overstocking or empty stocks can cause.

Using advanced inventory management systems and practices, 3PLs can monitor stock levels, track product movements, and generate data-driven insights. It can help forecast demand, make informed purchasing decisions, and avoid the costs associated with excess and stock shortages.

Furthermore, 3PL providers can offer value-added services related to inventory management, such as cycle counting and product rotation, which can help you maintain efficient inventory practices.

3. Order Fulfillment

Order Fulfillment

The order fulfillment process is like the bedrock of a successful supply chain. In this step, the service providers take charge of order processing, ensuring customers’ orders are accurately and promptly fulfilled. This involves several key activities:

  • Order Processing: 3PLs handle order entry, verification, and processing. They ensure all orders are complete, accurate, and compliant with customer requirements.
  • Selection and Packing: The 3PL provider manages the selection of products from the inventory and their packing in a way that ensures safe transportation and minimizes shipping costs.
  • Shipping and Delivery: The logistics provider arranges the shipping of products through efficient carriers and tracks the delivery process to guarantee that products reach customers on time.

Efficient order fulfillment is essential for meeting customer expectations and maintaining customer satisfaction, which, in turn, can translate into brand loyalty and repeat sales. These are not the only services a third-party logistics in supply chain management can offer.

4. Transportation Management

Transportation Management

Transportation management plays a vital role in the supply chain, which includes several important functions:

  • Carrier Selection: 3PLs have a network of carriers and the expertise to select the right carrier for each shipment, considering factors such as cost, transit time, and service quality.
  • Route Optimization: They use software and expertise to optimize transportation routes, reducing transportation costs, environmental costs, and ensuring timely deliveries.
  • Shipment Tracking: 3PL providers use advanced tracking systems to monitor the movement of goods in real-time, providing visibility to businesses and customers.
  • Freight Auditing and Payment: They handle the auditing and payment of freight bills, reducing the administrative burden on you and ensuring accurate billing.
  • Returns Management: Handling product returns efficiently is crucial in maintaining customer satisfaction. 3PL providers can manage returns, including inspection, repair, and restocking.

Effective transportation management not only reduces costs but also increases supply chain efficiency and reliability. It’s a surefire way of improving customer service!

5. Tracking and Monitoring

Tracking and Monitoring

The ability to track and monitor products and information throughout the entire supply chain, from raw material suppliers to end customers, is crucial but a taxing activity for you to undertake when your business lies in another sector. Third-party logistics in supply chain management can help with this particular task in the following ways:

  • Real-time Tracking: 3PL providers can give you the ability to monitor all shipments, giving your customers and your business a chance to locate every order at all points from the warehouse to the destination.
  • Data Analytics: Via a variety of analytics tools, 3PLs offer insights that can help you make better-informed decisions. By analyzing data on inventory, transportation, and other supply chain components, they can identify areas for improvement and optimization.
  • Collaborative Platforms: Some 3PL providers offer platforms that allow businesses and partners to share data and communicate effectively, enhancing overall visibility and coordination.


3PL services are integral to the modern supply chain, performing crucial roles in warehousing, inventory management, order fulfillment, transportation management, and tracking and monitoring.

By knowing what is 3PL in the supply chain and its roles, you can focus on your core competencies, reduce operational complexities, and enhance customer satisfaction, ultimately contributing to a more efficient and successful supply chain. The partnership between businesses and 3PL providers is often a strategic decision that leads to improved competitiveness and cost-efficiency in today’s complex supply chain landscape.

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