If you’re running a business, then you should stay focused on a couple of critical things. The first is creating your products and getting them to your customers as cheaply and expediently as possible. The second is using all available means that allow you to get ahead, dominate your niche, and expand if that’s what you want.

One of the ways that you accomplish these goals is through third-party logistics companies. These are third-party entities that can handle things like manufacturing and keeping an eye on your supply chain to ensure it’s running as it should be.

If you’re looking at different third-party logistics companies and trying to choose between them, you might be having a tough time deciding which one is best for you. Here are some services they might provide that you’ll probably want.

Serial Number and Lot Number Tracking

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Because logistics often involves your supply chain, you want a third-party company that knows how to keep track of your physical products when they’re in transit. That’s going to be true regardless of whether you’re shipping those products via:

  • Trains
  • Trucks
  • Planes

Fulfillment Express, a third-party logistics company, states on their website, “using our unique lot number and serial number tracking services, you’ll easily be able to pinpoint exactly which item went to each of your customers.”

That’s what you want from a third-party logistics company: accountability. One of the main reasons you might choose to hire this sort of entity is that you might have issues misplacing your products.

Unique lot numbers and serial numbers that they can as they leave and when they reach their destination should fix these problems.

Customer Return Handling

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You might also want to engage a third-party logistics company that can handle your product returns. There are always going to be some. A customer might choose to return a product:

  • Because it’s defective
  • It’s not what they expected it to be
  • They have different needs than they did when they placed the order

Handling returns is part of any business model unless you explicitly state on your website that you don’t accept them, in which case, you’ll probably lose a lot of potential customers fast. Assuming that you do take returns, a third-party entity with a great deal of experience in this area will benefit you.

You want one that will notify you daily of any returns, especially with larger orders. You also want them to find out for you why each customer returned that product. That way, if you need to do a recall, you’ll know about it as soon as possible.

Kit Building, Disassembly, and Assembly

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Your third-party logistics company should also know how to fix any manufacturing issue you encounter. If you’re shipping out promotional kits and there is a design flaw with them, they should have some suggestions as to what you can do to fix that.

They should also handle the everyday packaging and labeling that’s part of any major industrial process. They should be able to suggest cost-saving measures, such as using more inexpensive materials that will still allow your products to get where they’re going safely.

You should make it clear to any third-party logistics entity that you elect to use that you want them to look closely at your entire operation. They should not be afraid to make suggestions if they see a way to run things more cheaply or smoothly. Part of what you’re paying for is their professional feedback in these areas.

Technology Use

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You also want any third-party logistics entity you hire to have a full technology arsenal at their disposal. If there was ever an area where you want a company to be on the cutting edge, this is it.

They should have things like dedicated apps for scanning and tracking your deliveries. They should have a fully functional, modern website. You must be able to get on there and track any of your shipments at any time.

They should also know about techs like AI and IoT. For instance, they might use an artificial intelligence algorithm to determine better truck routes to get your products to their destinations faster. They can use IoT-enabled devices to monitor any shipments that go off-course.

Any advantage they can give you, you should embrace, especially if you want to expand into new markets.

The Human Touch

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While you want your third-party logistics company to use the latest tech, you want the human touch from them as well. That means having a dedicated account manager that you can always talk to whenever you have a question or concern.

They should have excellent customer service. Even if it is the middle of the night, they should have chatbots on the website to answer some basic questions for you.

When they’re packing your orders, you’ll want them to have two-person teams, making it much less likely they will overlook any product. Two people working together often reduces human error.

You also want them to be friendly and genuinely invested in having you succeed. There is nothing wrong with a businesslike approach, but remember that if things go well, you might give this company many thousands of dollars over the years. You want to have good working relationships with all their high-ranking or managerial staff.

They Should Be Big Enough to Handle Your Needs

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One final thing you should look at with third-party logistics companies is whether their size seems to compare favorably to your own. Just as there are small mom-and-pop businesses and enormous conglomerates, the same is true of logistics companies.

If your business seems to be much larger than the logistics company and what they’re capable of, you’ll probably need to look elsewhere. It’s a question of what resources they have versus what you need.

When you’re narrowing down the selection, you can always ask them about what size companies they’ve worked within the past, and whether they can handle a job like yours.