Are you struggling to find third-party warehouses that can keep up with your workload and provide quality service? Unfortunately, this problem is all-too-common. No one knows where to find great 3PL warehouses. Let’s change that.
How do you find a great 3PL warehouse?
Finding a great 3PL warehouse partner is a daunting task. Whether you are a seasoned facility planner or new to growing your distribution network, you’re going to run into the same laundry list of challenges.
All the issues you’ll face, basically, sum up to there are a ton of warehouse out there but it is almost impossible to find them! It is even more challenging, when you need to find a warehouse that provides top-notch customer service and reliable warehousing.
These 5 simple steps will help you find the right warehouse partner:
- Search Google with Targeted Queries
- Warehouse Associations & Affiliates
- Search within Large, Existing Transportation Networks
- Ask for Warehouse Referrals
- Evaluate & Select a 3PL Partner Based on Your Requirements
If you follow these steps, all of your hard work, research and persistence will payoff exponentially in the future. Your company will work with this logistics partner daily, so it is crucial to find a great partner.
To find the best 3PL providers, look in channels they already use.
Unfortunately, 3PL warehouses aren’t always available where you’d expect.
This article is a collaboration between Warehousing Etc and Warehouse Engineers to help Brands find the best 3PL logistics partners. Brandon Ashby at Warehouse Engineers was kind enough to share his proven 5-step process for finding great 3PL partners with us and allowed us to share it with you. Brandon has used this process for over 5 years to grow the hub-and-spoke distribution model for corporate manufacturers and other clients.
(1) Search Google with Targeted Queries
Google is the easiest place to start a warehouse search. In major metropolitan areas this can be an effective strategy, although it is not the most reliable approach.
In populated areas, you should be able to find 2 or 3 leads for open warehouse space, but you should expect to contact many more facilities than the 3 good leads.
This is because, when you submit a contact form or call a warehouse you find on Google, often your inquiry will be ignored or warehouse owners may tell you “I don’t have space” or “don’t want anymore business”. It is not uncommon for 3PLs, 4PLs, and 5PLs warehouses of all sizes to ghost potential clients.
Anyways, to find a portfolio of warehouses that can help you on Google, follow targeted search queries. For instance, if location is crucial then search for queries like:
- 3PL Warehouse [CITY]
- Multi-client warehouse [CITY]
- Public warehouse [CITY]
- pick, pack & ship in [STATE]
Other reliable ways to find 3PLs fitting your needs are to query by service type, industry or other characteristics of the warehouse services you need. Examples queries include:
- Amazon FBA replenishment warehouse
- Distribution center for [INDUSTRY]
- Fulfillment center for [INDUSTRY]
- long-term storage near [CITY]
- project storage in [CITY]
- order fulfillment [CITY]
- inventory management [CITY]
- cross docking warehouse near [CITY]
Hopefully, you found a handful of reputable 3PL warehouses to reach out to after scouring the depths of Google. Now we’re going to dive deeper to find warehouses trusted by other businesses.
(2) Warehouse Associations & Affiliates
The next place to look for great 3PL warehouses is in the directories of accredited warehouse associates and affiliates. Associations are non-profit and for-profit groups that come together to unite supply chain professionals. Warehouse affiliates are warehouse experts that have a vast network of warehouse owners that they can put you in touch with to move your goods. Both these resources are free to you, as a potential 3PL client with no obligation.
There are several warehouse associations that offer warehouse owners and staff training, research material, tradeshow access and more. These associations are an excellent source for warehouses who may be able to take care of your warehousing needs.
Two popular warehouse associations to look for reliable 3PLs with are the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) and the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC). Both offer directories to browse vendors:
After you look through the warehouse association directories, take time to look for warehouse affiliates who have an existing network of warehouses for you. Affiliate warehouses provide services to customers, like you, who are searching for a new 3PL warehouse partner.
Affiliate warehouses are all over, and not solely based online. To find an affiliate warehouse representative to reach out to Google “Affiliate Warehouse [STATE]”. We recommend consulting these affiliate warehouses for assistance.
Existing warehouse networks can be the best source to find a helpful warehouse. It’s not easy to find these networks though. Luckily, there are several large transportation companies that publicly list their warehouse vendors, past and present partners.
(3) Search within Large, Existing Transportation Networks
Using the same warehouse partners as other large companies who have already tested the warehouse’s worth sounds ideal right? Keep in mind, we’re not talking about looking at who your competitors are warehousing with here. We are talking about finding warehouse partners from outside industries that are trusted to meet the demand of high volume customers, like transportation companies.
Transportation companies are fully immersed in the world of moving goods from point A to point B. And guess what? Along the way, warehouses and their services are a crucial resource to getting goods where they need to go. Warehouses often transload goods or act as distribution centers across modes of transportation.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the third resource to find warehouse partners is on transportation networks such as major rail lines, ports and cargo vessels.
For example you can search the warehouse networks of:
- CSX’s Locate a Warehouse
- Norfolk Southern’s Distribution Solution Locator tool
- Union Pacific rail line facilities
- Port of Tampa Warehousing & Storage Directory
Start out by researching warehouses you find listed on these sites. Then reach out to qualified warehouses using the contact information listed in the directory result.
Most of these tools will list the contact information for the warehouse sales rep or owner. They may also list helpful details about the warehouse like equipment on-site and special handling capabilities.
(4) Ask for 3PL Warehouse Referrals
As you talk to warehouse owners and representatives, always look for opportunities to ask for referrals. The warehousing and supply chain community is very close and word-of-mouth is the only way to find many warehouses! A 5-minute discussion with a knowledgeable, connected warehouse rep could save you hours of headaches, quality issues and future stress.
Before you look for a 3PL warehouse partner, ask your current warehouse partners if they know anyone that can help.
Of course, be mindful when doing this. Don’t ask your current 3PL provider for local warehouse suggestions, so you can leave them. However, do ask your local 3PL if they know anyone in the mid-west that can help you store products there.
Another practical example is to ask your cold-storage provider for references to a beverage warehouse in the area.
If you don’t know any warehouse owners to ask for referrals yet, that is okay too! You are going to meet a lot of connected warehouse reps as you start inquiring for services. Any time a warehouse turns you down (for a multitude of reasons), ALWAYS ask for referrals or if they know anyone who may be able to help you.
Need help finding a great warehousing partner?
There is never any harm in asking for their insight and help. Most people enjoy being helpful and are happy to talk about solutions to your problems, even if their company cannot help. Ask for warehouse referrals to keep your eyes open for great 3PL warehouse providers.
(5) Evaluate & Select a 3PL Warehouse Partner Based on Your Requirements
Although this is the final step in the process, evaluating 3PL options starts much earlier. The key to finding the right third-party logistics partner for your company is knowing what a great partner looks like before you start searching.
In other words, you have to know what you’re looking for and what characteristics to evaluate warehouse partners on to avoid bad decisions.
For example, is a lightening fast-response from customer service most important? Is location a factor in your decision? Do your goods require a special handling or logistics feature that can’t be done by many warehouses, such as indoor loading bays or rail-spur access?
Every business’ requirements and priorities in a 3PL warehouse partner will be different, so take the time to talk to your team about requirements before you get started.
Other aspects to consider before pricing warehouse services are:
- What are the warehouse services you need from a 3PL provider?
- Determine the fulfillment forecast for your operation?
- What are the product characteristics of your goods?
After you know what services you require and how you’ll judge each 3PL partner, it is much easier to make a final decision.
Bringing It All Together
Finding a reliable 3PL warehouse partner can be extremely challenging. No single warehouse company will be the best-fit for everyone. To find the right partner for you, its important to know the most valuable service features for your company. List any must-have requirements for your warehouse partner plainly before starting the search.
While searching for warehouses, persistence is the key to success as you continue to dive deeper into the pool of warehouses who can and cannot service you. Search Google using very targeted queries, use warehouse associations, affiliates and public transportation networks to find 3PL warehouses that are otherwise invisible.
Don’t forget to ask for warehouse referrals throughout your search and always keep your evaluation criteria front-of-mind.
Warehouse Engineers is a result-oriented warehouse consulting company focused on helping 3PLs provide the best and most efficient service to their customers.