What Is 3PL Logistics and Why Do You Need It?

Feb 13, 2024

Long gone are the days when companies handled all their own warehousing, shipping, and logistics. These days, many businesses outsource those tasks to what’s known as a “3PL”— a third-party logistics provider.


3PL logistics have been around for decades but have really come into their own in the last 20 years. As supply chains have become more global and complex, 3PLs have evolved to help companies cut costs, streamline deliveries, and improve scalability.


In this article, we’ll go over 3PL warehouse logistics, discussing their benefits and why they are not just a trend, but a necessity in today’s business landscape. We’ll explore the many reasons why you might benefit from handing off your warehousing operations, including increased efficiency, cost savings, and fulfilment flexibility. Whether you’re looking to free up resources, guarantee reliability, or plan for growth, partnering with a 3PL could be a strategic move to take your business to the next level.


What Is the Meaning of 3PL in Logistics?

A 3PL logistics staff member checking in with a client with paperwork

A third-party logistics provider, or 3PL, is a company that handles various warehouse and distribution services on behalf of other companies. Essentially, 3PLs allow businesses to outsource key supply chain functions related to storing, managing, and shipping products.


When you work with a 3PL logistics partner, they become an extension of your business. Standard services offered by 3PLs include warehousing, inventory management, order processing and fulfilment, and transportation arrangements. Many 3PLs also provide value-added services like kitting, labelling, returns processing, cross-docking, and real-time inventory tracking.


Major brands like Amazon, John Lewis, and ASOS rely on behind-the-scenes 3PL services to keep their businesses running smoothly. Whether you sell products online, in stores, or both — partnering with a 3PL can help you meet customer demands.


Is 3PL the Same as 4PL Logistics?

No, 3PL and 4PL refer to related but distinct types of logistics companies. While 3PLs directly manage warehouse and fulfilment operations, 4PLs focus more on supply chain strategy, integration, and oversight.


Role Owns warehouses and infrastructure and handles execution Manages workflows, strategy, and relationships
Responsibilities Warehousing, inventory, shipping, transportation Supply chain optimisation, integration, analytics
Assets Owned Warehouses, vehicles, equipment Information systems, software


Essentially, 4PLs serve as supply chain coordinators and 3PLs actively provide warehouse space, labour, and transportation. 4PLs bring everything together strategically behind the scenes, while 3PLs carry out tactical logistics operations.


Benefits of 3PL Warehouse Solutions 

A happy businessman in a hardhat walking through a warehouse

Partnering with a 3PL for your storage, fulfilment, and shipping needs has many advantages. Here are some of the top reasons to use 3PL services:

Save Money

Outsourcing to an established 3PL allows you to convert fixed costs into variable ones and take advantage of economies of scale. You save on real estate, equipment, labour, training, and other expenses. 3PL relationships are often flexible, with no long-term commitments required.

Increase Efficiency

Experienced companies have optimised processes for 3PL warehouse tasks like receiving, picking, packing, and shipping. Making use of their skilled staff, technology, and systems can boost your own productivity, which lets you focus your internal resources on other business activities.

Enhance Customer Service

A good 3PL becomes an extension of your business. They have the tools and experience to provide reliable services, real-time visibility into orders, and timely fulfilment, which enhances your customer’s journey.

Flexible & Scalable Options

3PL networks usually offer flexibility to adjust warehouse spaces and services as your storage and shipping needs change. You can scale to support new product launches, promotions, inventory surges, and overall business growth without spending too much money or time.

Process Improvements

In addition to execution, 3PLs can analyse data to identify opportunities, recommend process enhancements, and drive continuous improvement across your supply chain. Their insights are fantastic for improving your company’s operational efficiency over time.


Key Considerations When Choosing a 3PL Logistics Partner 

Someone looking seriously through stats and figures on their laptop as the decide on a 3PL warehouse company

Selecting the right 3PL company involves taking into account what they offer and how it will suit your business best compared to the other choices. Here are some factors to look over when selecting the perfect partner for your business:

Easily Accessible Locations

Make sure you select somewhere you can easily get to, so look for convenient 3PL warehouse locations near major highways, airports, rail terminals, and ports.  

Price Match Offers

The best 3PLs will be confident in providing competitive pricing matched to their nearby competitors. A partner willing to work with your budget and provide transparent pricing can be a game-changer for your bottom line.

Helpful Staff

Look for 3PLs that invest in hiring, training, and retaining a solid warehouse team. Well-supported, experienced staff who are adept at what they do means you’re never short on help or good advice, which is ideal for when problems suddenly pop up!

High-Quality Storage Spaces

You should always inspect potential 3PL storage facilities to confirm they are clean, well maintained, and secure. You will want state-of-the-art spaces constructed from long-lasting materials with optimised spacing layouts to protect and store your goods.


Streamline Your Logistics With The Self Storage Centre’s 3PL Service 

The Self Storage Centre offers secure, clean storage units and warehouses across Northern Ireland to protect your goods. Our experienced staff, flexible storage options, and delivery and dispatch services will help you meet all your customer delivery demands.


If you want to reduce your logistics costs, boost productivity, and improve your service, check out our comprehensive 3PL logistics offerings. Our strategic Northern Ireland locations and on-site services make us an ideal logistics partner for companies of all sizes.


Contact us today to get the best options for your business!