Just like it has for numerous other industries, automation is changing things up in the field of third party logistics (3PL). 3PL companies have begun leveraging automation technologies in order to meet complex distribution challenges, master different product markets, get ahead of their competition, and, of course, fulfill both consumer and client expectations. Be it in the areas of order management and fulfillment, packaging, warehousing, or IT services, 3PLs can harness automation for the ultimate goals of moving products faster, more accurately, and more efficiently—even with minimal human assistance.
This can only be a good thing not only for a 3PL company’s profits, but for their client merchants as well. If your 3PL provider is using the most up-to-date automation technologies in the service of your business, you can rest assured that deliveries will be done on time, in an orderly manner, and in a way that preserves your own company’s reputation with your customers. The 3PL’s use of automation means that you can worry less about inventory management and dedicate your human efforts to marketing and taking care of customer service.
Are you curious about the benefits of automating 3PL services? Wondering about what you stand to gain from a 3PL’s automation technologies? To give you some perspective, here are five ways that 3PL services can be automated and what good they do for supply chain management.
- Automated API integration with a merchant’s online store. If your 3PL provider has an Application Programming Interface (API) that can sync with the orders made on your online store, then you will not need to go through the trouble of forwarding any emails or spreadsheets with your customers’ order information. The 3PL’s API can get that info for you automatically and make order fulfillment a seamless and worry-free procedure.
- Automated email notifications to customers. Email notifications are another IT process that the 3PL can automate, to the great assurance and peace of mind of your customers. Some utilize an automated order cut-off system that notifies customers of successful order placement, plus when they can expect to receive the product.
- Use of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). AS/RS consists of computer-controlled systems for the accurate storage and retrieval of loads, with each storage location already pre-defined. Chances are, if your 3PL provider has a state-of-the-art warehouse, they have AS/RS at their disposal and they are already using it to handle large volumes of your product.
- Box dimensioning. Choosing the right box sizes for particular product types is an exacting task, and it’s one that most people can’t think of outside of manual picking and choosing. But the truth is, some 3PLs use dimensioning tools to automatically calculate the package’s volume and the specs needed for its shipping box. Boxes can be made to fit the package exactly, thus reducing the need to use foam chips as well as the risk of incurring damage due to ill-suited packaging.
- Automated barcode generation and scanning. Every one of your product packages will demand a unique barcode or a machine-readable data representation that identifies the product type, customer’s address and contact details, and mode of shipping once it’s scanned. Some 3PLs have taken this up a notch and automated their barcode scanning process, which speeds up package identification and sortation to a great degree.
When a 3PL successfully determines the correct ratio of automation to labor, the enterprise becomes a profitable one for them indeed. But this isn’t to say that merchants and end-users are very far behind. With automation driving supply chain management, businesses can grow faster and meet the market’s ever-changing demands!