Guest Post: What 3PLs Should Look For in a Material Handling Partner

shaking handsWe are excited to introduce a guest blogger, Brad Shorr!  We are always looking to bring fresh and informative content to our blog, so we are always open for new writers and posts! Without further hesitation…


Third-party logistics companies (3PLs) tend to have complex material handling needs:

  • 3PLs have to consider their customers’ specifications as well as their own.
  • 3PLs have continually changing requirements as new customers are brought on stream, and as existing customer needs evolve.
  • 3PLs may require consistent operational processes in geographically diverse locations, and need to conform to industry-specific regulations.
  • 3PLs often have frequently changing or unpredictable budgets, driven by changes in their customers’ business.

Because a 3PL’s business is fluid and must consider customer requirements as well as its own, it will need to partner with a material handling company that offers more than just an average lineup of products and services. Important characteristics 3PLs look for in a material handling partner include:

  • Strong sales department. A 3PL may want to enlist the support of its material handling partner to discuss features and benefits of various material handling solutions. The job is done more effectively when the material handler has an experienced sales team that is comfortable working as part of a team.
  • Regional and national support. Ideally, a material handling partner covers the same geography as the 3PL, as it makes consistency across locations far easier to achieve and greatly streamlines communication.
  • Commitment. Sometimes the best option for a national 3PL isn’t the biggest of the biggest. A lot depends on the volume of business and specific requirements. Many smaller material handlers are able to support business on a national basis, and may be more attentive than a large competitor with less interest in the business.
  • Flexibility. As touched on already, material handling firms with rigid internal policies will be constantly at odds with 3PLs whose needs are ever-changing. By meeting with the material handler’s executive leadership and operational management, a 3PL can get a good feel for how flexible the company will be day-in and day-out.
  • Creativity. A 3PL quite often needs creative engineering and service support to satisfy its customer’s budgetary and performance expectations. A material handling firm that views problems as challenges, that has an energetic in-house engineering team, makes for an ideal partnership.
  • Stability.  A 3PL’s material handling needs go well beyond buying a few forklifts or pieces of conveyor. The 3PL will need to lean on its material handler for technical advice, sales support, trade-in options, special leasing terms, and a host of other value-added services. Thus, it’s vital that the material handler be financially stable, with a proven track record.

About the Author

Brad Shorr is an industrial sector writer for Straight North, with more than 25 years of experience in industrial distribution. He works with several B2B firms, including Magid, a leading manufacturer and distributor of industrial products.