If you’re looking for a 3PL provider, you may begin to feel a bit like Goldilocks. You’ll encounter providers that feel “too big” and many that feel “too small” to handle your business effectively. For many companies, the “just right” 3PL is the mid-size provider that has the resources you require, plus the focused, personalized attention you expect. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of working with a mid-size provider and help you determine if such a 3PL is “just right” for your business.
3PL providers of differing sizes
Small 3PLs may have 1 or 2 warehouse facilities within the same region. In addition to warehousing, they may provide additional supply chain services like transportation but with a very limited scope. Small 3PLs are typically limited financially and thus unable to invest in emerging logistics technologies to serve your business. On the plus side, small 3PLs will work with you closely, enabling direct communication with the people who handle your products.
At the other end of the spectrum are the big 3PLs. These companies are national and often international in scope. They may specialize in one specific service (e.g., transportation) or may offer integrated logistics services. They have significant infrastructure and people resources, and the financial strength to invest in advanced logistics technology. However, they work primarily with large companies that can pump a lot of volume through the 3PLs warehouse or transportation network in order to maximize profit. Communication with big 3PLs is both hierarchical and siloed, so it is difficult for anyone other than the major customers to work closely with key personnel.
The mid-size 3PL provider splits the difference between these two poles. They are generally regional or multi-regional in scope but may also provide national or international services. Some offer a full suite of integrated logistics services including warehousing, distribution, and port services. Many mid-size providers are financially sound and may have the backing of investors. They will work with mid-size customers that are too big for small 3PLs and too small for big 3PLs, and will allocate the space and resources to facilitate incremental growth. Communication is closer to that of a small 3PL, where, as a customer, you work closely with a team of people that know your business intimately.
Advantages of the mid-size 3PL provider
If you’re a growing mid-size company, a mid-size 3PL is likely going to be the best match for you. The following are a few reasons why.
Mid-size 3PLs offer the advantages of big and small providers. For starters, mid-size 3PLs provide much of the value that a big 3PL can bring such as firm financial footing and advanced systems and support, while also delivering the personal attention typically found with the smaller providers. Unlike small 3PLs, many mid-size providers have dedicated systems and technology teams that can support your integrations and your growth with automation and other tools as needs dictate. And, unlike big 3PLs, you’ll have access to key decision makers at the company.
Mid-size 3PLs are much more nimble than big 3PLs so that decisions can be made quickly without red tape. If you partner with a big 3PL and need to make changes to your contracted services, you’re going to have a wait a while as the request climbs the company ladder. With a mid-size 3PL, there is none of this red tape and decision-makers are empowered to make decisions in the interest of your business quickly.
Mid-size 3PLs can support growth that smaller companies can’t, while not requiring large commitments up front. For instance, some mid-size 3PL customers start out with shared warehousing but eventually expand to a dedicated operation fully supported by the same 3PL. Big 3PLs are unlikely to scale with you in this way. They prefer to work with companies that have sizeable volume, and in fact may set a minimum volume threshold to even entertain an opportunity. On the opposite end of the spectrum, small 3PLs often don’t have the wherewithal, or even the interest, in growing with you.
Mid-sized 3PL providers that offer integrated logistics services enable you to deal with only one company and one contract for a complete end-to-end solution. As an example, let’s look at the journey of an imported container of a customer of Weber Logistics (a West-Coast-based, mid-size 3PL). The container reaches the port, is drayed to a warehouse, product is stored in the warehouse, the container is returned to the port, and the product is later delivered to its final destination. All of these steps are handled by Weber – with one contract and one point of contact. This eliminates the need to manage multiple contracts and multiple outsourced relationships often necessary with both small and big 3PL companies.
Mid-sized 3PLs can allocate resources to your operation so that you don’t have to compete with other customers. For instance, smaller 3PLs simply won’t have chassis, labor and other resources to allocate to your operation, while big 3PLs will strongly favor their biggest clients when it comes to allocating resources. With mid-sized 3PLs – especially asset-based 3PLs – you can lock in what you need and eliminate the risk of feeling like a small fish in a big pond battling for scarce resources.
Looking for a mid-size 3PL provider from the West Coast?
If you’re feeling caught in the middle between too big and too small, look to Weber Logistics for your ‘just right’ solution. Weber offers a fully integrated solution from the West Coast with 12 distribution centers totaling over 2.4 million square feet of space, and our own fleet of trucks (including a temperature-controlled fleet) for last mile delivery. To learn more about how our mid-size capabilities can support your growth, contact us today.