Finding the Right Balance of In-House and Third-Party Logistics
Your business can only go as far as the infrastructure and resources it has in place. After all, how can you deliver the products you're selling if you don't have the equipment or people to do so?
If this is a question, you find yourself asking, a third-party logistics (3PL) can help. But relying exclusively on either in-house logistics or 3PL isn’t always the answer; many companies have found success with a strategic blend of both approaches.
Finding the right balance of in-house and third-party logistics is akin to walking a tightrope - it takes skillful maneuvering with plenty of steps that can trip you up if you're not careful.
Let’s explore how to uncover the best solution for your business so you can confidently walk the shipping solutions tightrope.
In-House vs. Third-Party Logistics
All operations are handled internally with in-house logistics, including transportation, warehousing, and distribution. This method gives you complete control over the logistics processes but requires a significant investment in equipment, staff, and infrastructure – something that not all companies can manage.
We’ll cut to the chase: in-house and third-party logistics both have advantages and disadvantages. In-house logistics can offer you more control over the supply chain but hinder you with inflexible supply chain operations, warehouse space restrictions, slower delivery times, and more expensive shipping fees. It may also mean a lack of flexibility to meet demand increases and limited opportunities to scale as financial requirements outpace available resources.
Third-party logistics bridges this gap. It’s a great option if you don’t have the resources or expertise to handle logistics in-house, as a specialized provider manages some or all of the involved processes. With the right partner, you can look forward to efficiency, scalability, technical expertise, improved inventory management, bulk shipping discounts, and more time for internal teams to focus on other business priorities.
But as powerful as third-party logistics can be, you won't see results if you aren’t working with the right partner. You may experience incompatibility with your current processes, less control of logistics processes, and a poor ROI.
Working with the right partner is critical.
Which Option is Best for You?
The best option for your business depends on your needs and available resources. In-house logistics can work well if you have the team, fleet, and processes in place to manage operations internally.
If you need flexibility and have an eye on business growth, outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider might be the way to go. 3PL also allows you to choose a partner with sustainable business practices (such as route optimization technology and electric vehicles), meaning you can make a powerful difference without investing in building up your internal processes.
Big Picture Thinking and Supply Chain Bottlenecks
If you’re considering working with a 3PL provider, take a moment to analyze your processes, like transportation, order fulfillment, shipping, and reverse logistics. Collaborating with other stakeholders is also a good idea, as everyone will have unique perspectives to bring to the table.
As you look at the big picture, pinpoint any bottlenecks across your supply chain and determine how they could benefit from third-party support. Use data and analytics to identify gaps in the process that could impact the speed and quality of service you’re providing to customers.
Imagine how much your business could thrive in these areas with the proper support. For example, if you’re struggling with retaining drivers and operating a fleet, you’d likely be unstoppable with a pool of capable drivers and vehicles at your disposal. If that’s not enough motivation to address your bottlenecks, we don’t know what is!
Finding the Right Logistics Partner
We've said it before, and we'll say it again, outsourcing doesn’t guarantee results without the right partners. Beyond a provider’s capabilities and reputation, their shipping zones, fulfillment center locations, sustainability, and customer support should be all factor into your decision.
They should also have smart tools - like route planning software - to offer you data-driven insights so you can optimize delivery times, consolidate shipments, track deliveries in real-time, and measure progress.
Here are some other things to look for:
- Capacity and demand planning: Can they meet the demand of peak or seasonal spikes? How quickly?
- Communication: How do they communicate with their clients? Can you speak to a customer service team member immediately, or are you on hold for hours?
- Performance management: Do they use KPIs to monitor and measure the performance of processes?
- Risk mitigation: What are their risk management strategies? How do they respond to potential supply chain disruptions?
Crucial Decisions, Final Analyses, and Coin Flips
As we’ve seen, the right logistics strategy for your business depends on several factors. In-house logistics gives you greater control but means higher investment in the necessary infrastructure. On the other hand, the right partner has the best people and technology to help you take your business to new heights.
While it may be tempting to flip a coin (just kidding!), it’s best to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option and explore a combination of both models. If you decide you’re ready to partner with a reliable, mindful 3PL provider, Ziing would love to work with you.
We empower businesses with data-driven, sustainable solutions that help them scale quickly. Our services include same-day and next-day delivery, KPI reporting, warehousing, product assembly, and more. There's a Ziing to our service you won’t find anywhere else.
Contact us here to start your journey.