What is the true Definition of A Third Party Logistics Provider?
According to Wikipedia: A third party logistics provider (abbreviated 3PL, or sometimes TPL) is a firm that provides service to its customers of outsourced (or “Third Party”) logistics services for part, or all of their supply chain management functions. Third party logistics providers typically specialize in integrated operation, warehousing and transportation services that can be scaled and customized to customers’ needs based on market conditions, such as the demands and delivery service requirements for their products and materials.
Often, these services go beyond logistics and include value-added services related to the production or procurement of goods, i.e., services that integrate parts of the supply chain. When this integration occurs, the provider is then called a third-party supply chain management provider (3PSCM) or supply chain management service provider (SCMSP).
3PL targets a particular function in supply management, such as warehousing, transportation, or raw material provision.
A standard definition of just what a third party logistics provider is can vary from contract to contract. Is everyone who thinks they are engaged in a “third-party contract” really involved in a “third-party contract?”
If a distributor, for example, has a truck pull up to their door a few times a day or week to deliver goods to their customers, is this truck their 3PL provider? The answer is NO.
The definition of a third party logistics provider is as confusing as the term supply chain. Even logistics professional struggle with the term. Many companies refer to trucking, ocean freight services or warehousing as 3PL Services.
Warehousing, transportation and storage by itself is not considered 3PL Services and the company that warehouses and transports the goods is not necessarily a 3pl provider. It is just a warehouse or a transport company.
Many companies require a transport company to deliver the gods from point A to Point B since it does not make sense in some cases to own your own trucks. These transport companies might not be 3PL providers. If that transport company is involved in the warehousing and distribution of the product then it can be called third party logistics provider.
Many freight forwarding companies and shipping companies have added services to become 3PL Companies. For example, large freight forwarders will ship your container, handle the necessary customs paper work, deliver the container to their warehouse and distribute the product to end users.
Keep in mind that 3PL companies outsource some of the services to other 3PL companies, for example a customs broker who wants a piece of the action outsources warehousing and distribution to other companies while they appear as the provider of these services.
Is it a wise decision to outsource all these functions to one 3PL Company?
The answer is : it all depends on the end result. in some cases, the 3PL provider is unable to give provide the best transportation rates including ocean or inland therefore, a company my opt to use another 3PL provider. This has given rise to 4PL Companies that will manage the other 3PL companies making sure that the customer gets the best service and the best rates possible.
What is a 7PL Company ?
7PL is still considered a concept. Some 4PL companies offer back office support such as accounting, customer service, billing and receivables management. This concept is called by some 7PL Services. This concept is becoming a reality very quickly.
In a nut shell, the number of companies calling themselves 3PL providers has risen but the reality is that most of them do not offer the true services a 3PL is supposed to provide. As mentioned earlier providing these services without integration.
Whether it is a third party logistics provider, a fourth party logistics provider or a 7PL Provider, the bottom line is which one will be able to offer end to end solutions.