Published Feb 16, 2024

Supercharge your 3PL processes with automation



3 key takeaways

  • Integrate your systems to sync real-time data with your 3PL provider.
  • Automate order fulfillment, returns, shipments, and more with 3PL integration.
  • Leverage our checklist to ensure successful 3PL integration and automation.

Partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider can be an exciting leap forward for your business. By tapping into their logistical expertise and extensive network of supply chain resources, you can venture into new markets and deliver excellent customer experiences.

However, this once exciting business opportunity can quickly sour when manual processes bog down your operations–leading to errors, poor visibility, delays, and slow delivery. This ultimately costs you time, money, and customers.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. With 3PL integration, you can automate your processes and effectively collaborate with your 3PL provider. Let’s dive into the importance of 3PL integration and how you can set your operations up for success.

Why you need 3PL automation

At first, managing manual 3PL processes might seem manageable. You can fill out spreadsheets and communicate with your 3PL providers through phone calls and emails. But, as your business grows and customers expect faster deliveries, it becomes impossible to keep up.

By fully automating your 3PL processes, you can stay in sync with your 3PL provider. This allows you to access the real-time data you need to provide customers with timely updates on their orders and to prevent stockouts.

Taking the first step

To successfully automate your 3PL processes, you need to integrate disparate systems and applications together. With integration, you can streamline multiple workflows. So, where should you begin?

Explore the workflows that you can automate with 3PL integration.

The first step is to address your most important business processes and identify which areas are most critical to be in sync. Here are a few areas you might want to consider starting with:

  • Order fulfillment: This includes new sales orders, order cancellations, shipment confirmations, and more.
  • Inventory visibility: Align your storefront and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with your 3PL providers.
  • Item or product updates: Keep your 3PLs up to date with your item catalog, including the correct SKUs.
  • Returns processing: Sync your return merchandise authorization (RMA) with your 3PLs.
  • Inbound shipments: Automate inbound shipment requests, purchase order (PO) imports and exports, and shipment receipts with your 3PLs.

Remember, you don’t have to address everything at once. Instead, taking a phased approach will make this transition easier and more successful.

Your integration checklist

Once you know what processes you want to update first, you can start integrating. This checklist will guide you through the next steps you should take to ensure successful integration:

1. Review your business processes. Categorize your business processes into key areas for integration, so you can determine which solutions best fit your needs. For example, if you want to start by automating order fulfillment and inventory management, you can group your business processes into four categories: orders, inventory, catalog, and inbound shipments.

2. Identify and map manually transferred data that could benefit from automation. Pinpoint the critical data transfers that must be accurate and timely, as well as the number of current errors from manual entry. This will help you identify which integrations are most important to focus on.

3. Create an ROI metric. Note the current number of hours and full-time employees needed to support manual processes. Now you have a benchmark to measure success, when your integrations are up and running.

4. Select an integration solution. When it comes to integration solutions, you have a few options. You can opt for fully custom-from-scratch integrations. However, building and managing these integrations requires technical resources and can be costly and time-consuming. Another option is pre-built, native integrations. These integrations are limited to one-size-fits-all, point-to-point integrations, so they may not support additional endpoints or use cases. Another solution you can leverage is an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service). iPaaS allows you to create and manage all of your integrations in one place. A modern iPaaS like Celigo offers customizable pre-built integrations that fully automate your 3PL business processes and speed up the implementation process.

Next steps

To maximize the benefits of your 3PL partnerships, it’s crucial to prioritize integration and automation. When executed properly, 3PL automation enables you to provide exceptional customer experiences, increase operational agility, and achieve scalable growth.

Contact us to learn more about utilizing an iPaaS to automate your business processes. Check out our ebook, Integration Best Practices for Optimizing 3PL Management, to dive deeper into executing 3PL integration.