A dependable warehouse provider can make all the difference when it comes to storing your products safely and getting orders out accurately and efficiently. Receiving inbound freight, managing inventory, and using it when you make a sale are essential aspects of your success. Those characteristics are how an eCommerce company should judge its warehouse provider, especially when thinking about changing 3PLs.
To help with further evaluations, we’ve put together a list of five core characteristics that set the best warehouse providers apart. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of:
- Warehouse physical size and layout
- Location in the U.S.
- Security and worker safety
- Service guarantees
- Scalability, up and down, as you need it
Now, let’s get started with what defines a leading warehouse provider. Remember that these are all relative to your business, meaning you’ll want to adjust expectations and requirements to your company’s needs. And the 3PL should be happy to make those adjustments for you.
1. Size and layout fit your SKUs
Some aspects of a top warehouse provider for your business are very straightforward. Let’s start with two of those: the layout and size of the warehouse.
Warehouse layout and design are critical for protecting and supporting your products. You want a facility designed to handle products like yours. This might mean conveyors that move items quickly, forklifts to help manage pallets, or having large racking for big and bulky items. A 3PL that works with comparable products will have the training and procedures to store, pick, and pack orders safely and efficiently.
The size of the warehouse matters for product safety, too. If your goods require forklifts or large carts, the warehouse aisles must be wide enough to accommodate these tools. Ask about loading bays and dock doors to see how much space your inbound freight will get. There should be enough room for workers to unload and check your goods without the risk of mixing up inventory with that of another customer.
Your 3PL may also have ideas to help you reduce shipping costs. The better a partner knows your business and products, the better they can help you control costs, negotiate rates, or otherwise improve last-mile delivery.
Shared warehouse spaces are common but require diligence to avoid mistakes. Get assurances that you’ll have all the room you need, won’t pay for extra space you don’t use, and that every SKU gets its own slotting location. This is also a suitable time to ask about the warehouse provider’s insurance. Insurance policies protect your products, and overall safety features will need to match the warehouse size — such as larger locations requiring higher-capacity fire suppression systems.
2. Warehouse provider locations support your business
The locations a warehouse provider offers matter for a few distinct reasons. The most obvious is that multiple warehouses reduce shipping zones, speeding up fulfillment while lowering last-mile costs. However, locations can also reduce your expenses by allowing the 3PL to slim down their rent, taxes, labor costs, and more. Choosing Utah over California, for example, can give your business some significant savings while not impacting fulfillment capabilities.
The location also matters for shipping options. Access to highways and interstates, nearby air hubs, and proximity to cities all improve a warehouse. These give you numerous ways to move your goods, expedite orders, and have local experts at your warehouse provider as well as from major and regional carriers.
Over the past few years, we’ve all learned that you want diversity in fulfillment options. That can mean access to ports and rail, room for trucks and gates, and a mix of carriers to manage shipments near and far.
3. Warehouse provider’s history of safety and security
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we like to have fun. You’ll always find smiles and jokes in our warehouse as orders are picked, packed, and shipped. But we never play around when it comes to maintaining the safety and security of our facility, systems, products, and people. That means we’re always reviewing security and backup platforms to ensure we use a state-of-the-art security system with multiple redundancies.
Red Stag Fulfillment designed our facility to protect operations and avoid any downtime. That starts with background checks and a professional, clean warehouse with uniformed employees. Then, we follow it up with integrated capabilities and servers plus a hosting provider with a 100% uptime track record. Access to our platforms and physical locations are controlled for the benefit and security of everyone involved.
Some of the other features Red Stag offers include:
- 24-hour security monitoring throughout the warehouse
- Multiple power sources and backups for security, servers, and order tools
- Off-site data servers with multiple backup providers
- Metal detectors at all ingress and egress locations
- User-specific, permission-based login to business account information
- Multiple Internet connection options, including different providers, to keep us online during a local disruption
4. Warehouse provider guarantees protect your needs
Simply put, your warehouse provider should support and protect your business. For this relationship, those considerations mean reducing inventory losses, speeding up inventory and order processing, and getting orders out the door accurately, the first time. We take guarantees seriously and offer a selection that is difficult to find in our industry.
Some of Red Stag Fulfillment’s guarantees include:
- Accurate receiving: Your shipment will be received accurately within two business days after it’s been unloaded in our facility.
- Zero shrinkage: If any of your inventory is damaged or missing after we receive it into our facility, we will pay you the wholesale cost of that item.
- Fast processing: 100% of orders will be shipped according to your chosen service level every day, or you don’t pay for that shipment.
- Accurate orders: 100% of your orders will go out accurately. If they don’t, we pay for the shipment and pay you an error fee.
These guarantees apply to every partner. They’re not dependent on a specific number of SKUs, certain size, or other details. You’re protected with no long-term contract requirement, no setup fees, and high-quality security for every product and order.
5. Ready to help you scale today
Your warehouse provider should be a partner that helps you manage volatility in your supply chain and operations. While that often means responding quickly to disruptions and threats, it also includes taking advantage of key opportunities that arise. Your partner’s flexibility should be something you can leverage to grow.
So, ask your potential 3PL about their ability to scale with you up and down. Do they offer cubic storage model pricing, so you only pay for what you actually use? Are they building warehouse locations and expanding storage consistently? Do they have room for you to increase your next resupply order or restock sooner than usual, as soon as today?
Look for a partner that has the space to meet your needs. Ask how they can help you scale up and down, whichever is right for your business. Determine how they collaborate with partners to understand those needs and support long-term growth. Red Stag Fulfillment offers these supports and more to allow all our partners to flex and meet customer demand, even during tumultuous times like 2021 and the holiday rush.
Let’s talk about what that means for your business, specifically. Click the button below to get a customized understanding of our capabilities and how they match your SKUs, scale, and customers.