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What is a 3PL Provider? How 3PL Services (Third-Party Logistics Providers) Work

Published in Fulfillment

3PLs handle the entire order fulfillment process from start to finish, leveraging advanced technology and scale to drive speed, accuracy, and cost efficiency for eCommerce merchants.

3PL services offer an array of logistics solutions such as warehousing, inventory management, order fulfillment, and shipping services. These partners play a critical role in helping businesses maximize efficiency when it comes to customer orders and inventory.

By leveraging the expertise, resources, and advanced technologies of a 3PL partner, businesses can optimize their order fulfillment processes and provide a better experience for their customers.

Looking for a 3PL partner to streamline your business’s supply chain? Get in touch with Print Bind Ship – one of the leading 3PL services in North America!

What is a 3PL Service?

3PL services provide outsourced logistics solutions to businesses, especially e-commerce merchants. This can include a wide range of tasks such as warehousing, transportation, supply chain management, and order fulfillment

Many businesses choose to work with 3PL providers because it allows them to focus on their core competencies without having to worry about the logistics aspect of their operations. A 3PL provider can bring expertise, resources and technology that a business might not have in-house. By outsourcing order management to a specialist, businesses may be able to maximize efficiencies and cut costs. 

Many different 3PL providers are out there, and they can serve a wide range of industries and businesses of all sizes. Some 3PL providers specialize in certain areas such as e-commerce fulfillment or international shipping, while others offer a more comprehensive suite of logistics services.

Working with a 3PL provider can be a great way for businesses to streamline their operations and grow their bottom line.

How the 3PL Order Fulfillment Process Works

As an eCommerce business, efficiently managing order fulfillment is critical to meeting customer expectations and maintaining a competitive edge. This is where partnering with a dedicated third-party logistics (3PL) provider can be a game-changer. Let’s walk through how the order fulfillment process works when you have an experienced 3PL handling the logistics.

1. Inventory Receiving and Storage

Your 3PL provider will receive inventory from your suppliers into their network of fulfillment centers. It’s not uncommon for 3PL partners to have multiple fulfillment centers or warehouses across the country or globe. Using advanced warehouse management systems (WMS), they’ll carefully barcode, scan, and store your products in the optimal locations based on factors like demand, item type, and storage requirements.

2. Order Processing and Fulfillment

When a customer places an order on your eCommerce site, the order details are seamlessly transmitted to your 3PL partner’s systems, automatically initiating fulfillment. No need for manual entry – the integration allows a smooth handoff. Their WMS directs warehouse staff to quickly and accurately pick, pack, and ship your orders using cutting-edge technologies like mobile barcode scanners, pick-to-light systems, and automated conveyors.

Nowadays, the process is largely automated. For example, Print Bind Ship automatically connects with your eCommerce storefront and gets notified of customer orders in real time. That means the fulfillment and order processing stage and begin sooner and your customers will receive their products faster.

3. Shipping

Here’s where a dedicated 3PL partner’s expertise really pays off – their transportation management system (TMS) automatically selects the most cost-effective delivery option across a vast network of integrated carriers to get your shipment delivered rapidly. With freight management capabilities, they’ll handle everything from ensuring compliance to managing claims if issues arise.

Print Bind Ship, for example, even manages international fulfillment. That way, you can ensure your products are reaching their final destination via the most efficient route, no matter how far your customers are.

4. Customer Returns

Top 3PL services will also handle the entire reverse logistics process as well. If a customer needs to return an item, they’ll ensure a seamless experience by quickly issuing refunds or replacements and properly disposing or restocking products based on your policies. You’ll also be notified automatically.

Customer returns are unfortunately all too common and can be incredibly time-consuming for eCommerce companies to manage on their own. 3PL services can help take the burden off your shoulders and help make the process much more efficient overall.

5. Inventory Management

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects for eCommerce businesses is inventory management. 3PL services can help ensure your brand’s inventory is always up-to-date and accounted for in the most accurate way possible.

3PLs will use advanced forecasting and analytical tools to provide complete inventory visibility and management. They’ll ensure your inventory levels are optimized and automatically notify you when replenishment is needed based on demand patterns.

6 Benefits of Working With a 3PL Provider

3PL services are designed to help businesses handle various functions of logistics so they can focus on core activities and achieve greater efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Take a look at some of the most notable benefits.

1. Cost Savings

3PL partners are known to leverage economies of scale and even negotiate better rates with carriers and suppliers through their significant shipping volumes. This bargaining power can lead to substantial reductions of 10-30% or more in transportation, warehousing, and distribution costs compared to managing logistics in-house. 3PLs also optimize asset utilization and streamline operations to cut waste and inefficiencies.

While initially outsourcing to a dedicated 3PL provider may not necessarily help you save on costs upfront, the benefits over time are likely to accumulate in such a way that working with a 3PL becomes a worthwhile investment that pays for itself.

2. Specialized Services

3PL providers are specialized logistics service providers that have dedicated teams of logistics experts who provide personalized solutions for businesses. When you partner with a dedicated 3PL, you can ensure that your customers’ orders are being picked, packed, and shipped in the most efficient way possible. Items are less likely to be lost or broken. And packages are more likely to arrive on time and to the right address.

More efficient shipping processes ultimately lead to more satisfied customers. Plus, many 3PL partners, like Print Bind Ship, even manage customer returns. Talk about making things easier on your business and your clientele.

3. Scalability and Flexibility

eCommerce demand is highly volatile, with dramatic sales spikes during holidays or promotional periods. 3PLs allow companies to rapidly scale up fulfillment operations during peaks without maintaining excess logistics capacity year-round. Plus, as your business grows and more orders come in, you won’t have to worry about managing additional capacity at the last minute.

4. Access to Advanced Technology

Top dedicated 3PL providers invest in cutting-edge technology like transportation management systems (TMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), and data analytics tools to drive efficiency and visibility. While businesses may not have the means to invest in the latest order fulfillment and warehousing technology themselves, working with a 3PL partner may help boost their order fulfillment processes nonetheless.

5. Focus on Core Competencies

By outsourcing complex logistics activities to a 3PL partner, businesses can focus internal resources and efforts on strengthening their core products, services, manufacturing processes, sales, and other strategic initiatives that drive growth. In other words, you’ll have more time to focus on what matters most to your business while allowing the experts to take care of picking, packing, shipping, and customer returns.

6. Customized Value-Added Services

Many 3PLs offer value-added operational services like kitting, bundling, labeling, engravings, gift wrapping, and more that allow eCommerce companies to create customized, branded experiences.

For example, with Print Bind Ship, you can opt to create custom product packaging, custom mailers, subscription boxes, and other materials to give your customers a truly memorable experience.

Recommended: Custom Packaging For Small Businesses

Is Working With a 3PL Right for Your Business?

Even though you may be considering working with a third-party logistics company, it’s normal to assess your business needs and determine whether it’s the right choice. Take a look at the following factors to help you make your decision.

Consider Your Inventory Volume and Logistics

If you’re a small business or just getting started, it may not make sense to partner with a 3PL provider. But if your business is growing rapidly and you’re struggling to keep up with logistics demands, 3PL can be a smart solution. Likewise, if you’re looking for ways to optimize efficiency or cut down on costs, partnering with a fulfillment center may be a worthwhile investment. 

Consider Your Supply Chain

The complexity of your supply chain will ultimately influence whether or not you should outsource fulfillment. If you have multiple locations, deal with international shipping or have unique handling and storage requirements, 3PL may be able to provide expertise and resources that you don’t have in-house.

Consider the Costs

It’s also important to consider the cost-benefit analysis of using a 3PL provider. While outsourcing can save you time and money in the long run, you’ll need to weigh the costs of working with a 3PL against the benefits. While many businesses find that partnering with a 3PL company allows them to operate more efficiently and reduce expenses – you’ll want to make sure your business will benefit as well. 

Reach out to Print Bind Ship for a custom estimate of your inventory management and logistics needs.

What to Look for in a Dedicated 3PL Provider

At Print Bind Ship, we’re one of the top 3PL services in North America. Take a look at some of the perks businesses get when they opt for us as their 3PL.


Print Bind Ship has over 60 years of experience in the printing and fulfillment business. We know how we can help your business grow through optimized supply chain management and know what to do if a problem arises. We’ve worked with all types of businesses across all major industries. Most importantly, we take a proactive approach to every client and order and make sure that we’re always working with your best intentions in mind.

Cost Effective

We’ll work with your business to provide you with the most cost-effective solution you’ve been looking for. We’ll work with you to create a custom solution, and you’ll only pay for what you need.

Integrated Technology

The modern world of order fulfillment cannot function without virtual integration. Our integrated technology solutions will allow you to connect to your eCommerce platforms and other sites so that you can consistently monitor your inventory, provide accurate stock levels to customers and keep everything streamlined for easy order and inventory tracking.

Additional Services

Depending on your business and your specific needs, you may be looking for a partner that offers more than just a fulfillment center. Other companies may be able to warehouse and deliver your goods or even produce and ship them on demand, but what else can they do for you? The more parts of your supply chain you can assign to one person or partner, the more streamlined your operations will be.

At Print Bind Ship, we offer a variety of services that go beyond a basic warehouse management system. We actively partner with brands to manufacture and print custom merchandise and products. 

For instance, we have the most advanced, high-quality printing machines and methods to ensure your materials come out looking perfectly professional every time. 

If you need assistance with printing or producing, we have solutions for you. Take a look at some of the additional services beyond the 3PL space that Print Bind Ship offers.

And all of this is in addition to our full-service logistics solutions that will save your business time and money in so many ways.

Partner With Print Bind Ship for 3PL Success Every Time

Print Bind Ship is one of the leading 3PL services in North America. We also offer a variety of services to help your business improve efficiency, break into new markets and scale. While you could hire one logistics partner and a different manufacturing company, it can be even more cost-efficient to choose a company that can do it all. That’s exactly what you get when you partner with Print Bind Ship.

If you are ready to expand your operations at a fraction of the cost and get a lot of the work off your plate, Print Bind Ship is ready to help. We can handle everything from printing small runs, large runs and printing on demand to warehousing, and shipping. We also can help with marketing and other fulfillment solutions.

Tell us about your project and get in touch for a quote!


What is a 3PL?

3PL, or third-party logistics, refers to outsourcing e-commerce logistics to a third-party business. A 3PL will take over inventory management, warehousing, fulfillment and more, saving your business time and money.

What services do 3PL providers offer?

3PL providers offer a range of services, including transportation management, inventory management, order fulfillment, warehousing, customs brokerage and packaging and labeling.

How do businesses benefit from using 3PL services?

3PL services can help businesses reduce costs, improve efficiency and focus on core competencies. They can also provide access to a wider network of carriers and resources, advanced technology and expertise in regulatory requirements.

What factors should businesses consider when selecting a 3PL provider?

Businesses should consider factors such as experience and reputation, services offered, technology and infrastructure, geographic reach, pricing and fees and customer service and support.

What are the types of companies that use 3PL?

Although most people imagine 3PL partners are primarily for e-commerce businesses, they can also be used by companies across various other industries, including healthcare, manufacturing and entertainment.

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