Auto parts retailers have traditionally sold through brick-and-mortar stores because of the challenges of eCommerce fulfillment for heavy and oversized or oddly-shaped products. But the automotive aftermarket is an ideal match for online shopping, giving buyers access to hard-to-find parts for a wide range of makes and models. And 3PLs can help automotive sellers by providing expert warehousing and order fulfillment for consumers.
What is an automotive 3PL?
An automotive 3PL is one that’s set up to handle a range of auto parts. For full-service automotive sellers, that means a warehouse that can store and ship oversized merchandise such as fenders, tires, seats, and even complete engines.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we have expertise in shipping heavy and bulky products. Our warehouse aisles are extra wide to accommodate large boxes, and our conveyor belts are extra sturdy to handle heavy items.
Third-party logistics in the automotive supply chain
The automotive industry aftermarket was $326 billion in 2021 and is expected to keep growing. In 2022, $57.3 billion of that was online sales and, with eCommerce fulfillment able to handle more bulky and heavy products, the demand for automotive order fulfillment will only get bigger. With the growth of online sales, third-party logistics has become a crucial part of automotive supply chains.
Most eCommerce packages weigh one pound or under, so shipping smaller items like spark plugs and wiper blades falls within the capabilities of a wide range of 3PLs. But 3PLs now help automotive sellers send a much wider range of products direct to consumers.
Automotive merchandise that can be bought online and shipped to customers includes:
- Tires and rims
- Steering wheels
- Fuel pumps
- Seats and seat covers
- Floor coverings and rugs
If your business sells a range of automotive parts, including oversized or heavy products, you need a third-party logistics provider that knows how to ship those items safely and cost-effectively.
5 ways 3PLs help automotive sellers
Expert fulfillment is an excellent way for any business to grow, but it’s particularly crucial for automotive sellers because auto parts can be both bulky and fragile. You need a logistics provider that understands what it takes to ship a rim so it arrives without dents and what shipping service is best for delivering an engine to a residential address.
Here are some of the ways that 3PLs help automotive sellers thrive in the eCommerce space.
Secure storage and inventory management
Selling auto parts can be an inventory management nightmare. Not only do you stock dozens or hundreds of parts, but you need the right version of each item to fit different models and model years. That could mean keeping thousands of SKUs organized, ready to ship, and secure.
That’s where professional warehousing comes in. Logistics companies use warehouse management systems (WMS) to track the movement of SKUs from inbound shipment to order processing and shipping. And a 3PL services company will provide 24/7 security to keep your inventory safe.
Fulfillment center space is easily scalable, so you can use more space during high demand and reduce your footprint when sales slow. You pay only for the storage space you use each month, and you have more flexibility on storage than you would by renting a warehouse for in-house fulfillment.
Kitting is pre-packing items to ship together. Automotive sellers use kitting to prep SKUs that often sell as a group or to create sets to sell under a new SKU. For example, a customer who orders a steering column for a 1999 Ford Mustang might also need a steering coupler, column cover, steering wheel, power steering pump, and other related parts. Using kitting, you can pre-assemble everything your customer needs to rebuild their power steering system in one package.
You can also use kitting for package consolidation to save money on shipping. With package consolidation, you pack small items in with large products that could ship by dimensional rather than actual weight. Package consolidation saves on shipping and allows you to send orders in fewer boxes.
When you kit items that commonly ship together, you save time during the pick and pack process because the picker can pull a single item instead of multiple SKUs to fill the order. Kitters set up assembly lines to efficiently create kits that are ready for shipping. You also support the packing process because the kitting process can include a detailed SOP for how to pack each set of products together for safe shipping.
Professional pick, pack, and ship services
Fast, accurate, and complete order delivery may be the most crucial element driving eCommerce customer satisfaction. When a customer needs to send something back because it’s the wrong part or it arrived damaged, your seller reputation gets dented, too. That can shrink your customer base, but excellent fulfillment can grow it.
An automotive logistics provider focuses on nothing but shipping orders on time and in full. The WMS generates pick lists so pickers can move efficiently through the warehouse. Systems such as RFID tags or barcoding ensure they get the right items every time. And packers have the right materials and expertise to pack each order professionally, so it arrives in perfect condition.
Cross-docking is labeling orders on the inbound dock and moving them directly to shipping without placing stock into inventory first. The process works best with items that can ship in manufacturer’s packaging without overboxing. Cross-docking is an excellent way to save time on order fulfillment and reduce storage charges. Ask prospective 3PL services providers if they can do cross-docking to speed your order fulfillment.
While top-notch automotive logistics will reduce your return rate, you still need reverse logistics solutions. Accepting back an engine block or a transmission is a returns challenge a 3PL can help you overcome.
Shipping auto parts, especially heavy or oversized parts, can be expensive. Carriers add surcharges for packages over 70 or 150 pounds. Oversized boxes can incur dimensional weight pricing, which can increase the cost of shipping on packages that aren’t subject to weight surcharges.
Keeping shipping costs low is vital to your eCommerce success, and your 3PL can help with that. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment has negotiated favorable rates with the major carriers, including better DIM factors to reduce dimensional weight charges. So we are able to offer shipping discounts to our clients, making it more economical to ship automotive parts.
The logistics of shipping oversized and heavy merchandise
Many 3PL warehouses will say they can ship bulky automotive parts, but you need a 3PL services provider with experience in oversized shipping to provide quality automotive logistics.
Here are some of the supply chain solutions you’ll find at an automotive logistics provider:
- Safe handling for heavy products. Warehouses that know how to deal with bulky inventory will have processes in place to safely move and store heavy merchandise. That includes palletizing for moving by forklift, extra wide aisles to accommodate big boxes, and procedures for lifting heavy items with two people. Those processes protect your products from warehouse damage.
- Access to appropriate transportation services. Some items are better shipped by residential freight than FedEx or UPS. An automotive logistics warehouse will have relationships with freight services to deliver even the biggest, bulkiest auto part.
- Proper packaging. Dense, heavy products need specific packaging, even if they’re small (think spark plugs). That could mean a heavier cardboard box or extra infill to protect the goods during shipping.
How Red Stag Fulfillment can help online automotive retailers thrive
Red Stag Fulfillment is an industry-leading service provider for oversized fulfillment. Our fulfillment guarantees mean that you don’t have to worry about inventory shrinkage, late deliveries, or incorrect orders. And our near-perfect accuracy rate speaks for itself.
When you’re looking to improve your automotive parts supply chain management, you need the best logistics services in North America. And that’s Red Stag Fulfillment. We’d love to tell you how it works.
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