Where can you find retail 3PL’s? Can they help with e-procurement?

May 17th, 2010

Third party logistics providers typically specialize in integrated operation, warehousing and transportation services that can be scaled and customized to customer’s needs

According to Wikipedia a third-party logistics provider (abbreviated 3PL) is a firm that provides outsourced or “third party” logistics services to companies for part, or sometimes all of their supply chain management functions. Third party logistics providers typically specialize in integrated operation, warehousing and transportation services that can be scaled and customized to customer’s needs based on market conditions and the demands and delivery service requirements for their products and materials.

As such, there are a number of types of SPL’s within retail that may in fact service a single retailer. All might fall under this umbrella including wholesalers such as SUPERVALU, collective buyers such as TOPCO or even a retailer collaborative that may in fact just coordinate aggregated purchases and in fact pick other 3PL’s to provide warehousing, picking and packing and distribution. Each of these providers may in fact provide some or all of the same services and also may all be in play at an individual retailer. The later or collaborative of multiple retailers might even be looked at as a non asset based 3PL.

In all categories of third party logistics providers however it is still the  retailer regardless of size that determines what products they buy and accept delivery of for their stores. As such, it should be no more difficult for smaller retailers to run e-negotiation events?  There will need to be discussions as to costs that are purely associated with the warehousing, slotting, picking and distribution of products by a 3PL once an e-negotiation event has been planned, but these items should be easy to break out for bid or add to the final pricing prior to award of business as a flat fee. This is a practice that all 3PL’s should be familiar with already. Retailers should anticipate that their existing 3PL depending on services offered would rather not have you conduct these types of events as it negatively impacts their volumes with manufacturers and other providers and as such their company’s margins.

Understanding your options and the flexibility that 3PL’s can provide may actually make it easier for all retailers to use e-negotiation tools to impact their bottom line.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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