If you’re stuck in a less-than-fulfilling relationship with your fulfillment center or 3PL, chances are you’re wondering how difficult it would be to switch partners. While migrating your inventory to a new distribution center isn’t easy, it’s definitely the right thing to do if your existing fulfillment company lacks the resources to scale their services to meet your needs.
ShipMonk has been migrating eCommerce companies of all shapes and sizes to our fulfillment centers for years. Trust us when we say that while switching 3PLs might seem like an overwhelming task, it doesn’t have to be disruptive to your business. When you find the right partner, they make it easy. And the long-term benefits of switching will make any short-term stress worthwhile. To offer complete transparency, below we list five things you can expect when switching 3PLs.
1. You Will Need A Point Person on the Inside to Manage the Process
We recommend appointing an in-house team of three to four people who can make decisions and manage the migration process. Among them, appoint one person as the team lead to be the single point of contact for your new 3PL. This team will be responsible for managing expectations within your company, overseeing the tasks you’ll need to accomplish, and reaching a consensus for important decisions throughout the transition.
2. You May Get Blowback from Your Current 3PL
Nobody wants to deliver bad news. But chances are, this news isn’t going to come as a surprise to your current 3PL. If you’ve been unhappy for a while, there have probably been plenty of complaints, requests that weren’t met, and mishaps that led you to this point. The unique thing about this business relationship, however, is that this partner has custody of your merchandise.
Before you take the first step in switching 3PLs, review the closing agreement terms on the contract you have with your current provider. This will help you better estimate the timeline and costs involved with transitioning your business to a new 3PL. Once you’ve formally given notice, assign someone from your team to supervise the migration process. If you foresee problems with extracting your inventory from distribution centers due to the nature of your relationship, your new 3PL may be able to facilitate the process.
3. Preparation is Key
A smooth transition begins by establishing goals and expectations for your new 3PL provider. They’ll want to know your requirements for accuracy and timeliness regarding picking and packing services, shipping and receiving, and special services such as returns and custom packaging. You should also discuss restitution if these expectations are not met. Agreed-upon terms should be inked into your contract in the form of Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
In turn, your new 3PL will outline certain expectations from you that will help build a better relationship from the start. These include things like clear and timely communication, and following guidelines to avoid delays.
4. You Can Minimize Downtime Depending on Your Migration Strategy
There are three strategies for migrating inventory, ranging from the “fast and furious” to the “slow and steady” transition. Each has its own pros and cons. Your choice might be determined by order volume, speed, cost, and/or minimal disruption. The good news is you have options; you don’t have to shut down your eCommerce business while the migration occurs. Done correctly, your customers won’t even know a migration is happening. Your former 3PL can continue to fulfill orders while your new 3PL gets up to speed.
5. There Will be Hiccups
In a transition with this many moving parts, there are sure to be a few bumps in the road. Issues can occur when products are mislabeled or not packaged according to your new 3PL’s receiving guidelines. When all goes according to plan, the process average is one to two months to ramp up fulfillment with your new 3PL. Depending on order volume, the number of technical integrations, and special requirements, it may take longer. Keeping stakeholders informed and engaged along the way is an important part of the process so there are no surprises.
Switching 3PLs Today
Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to start looking for the perfect fulfillment company. Of all the decisions you’ll have to make during this process, the 3PL you choose is the most important one. That single choice will make all other decisions easier and less stressful.
To get you started, here are some important things to look for when choosing a fulfillment distribution center. Or contact us for a software demo directly and see what you’ve been missing.