The Pros and Cons of Using a 3PL (Third-Party Logistics) Service

The use of third-party logistics (3PL) providers has become increasingly popular in the drinks industry, especially for breweries. These providers offer a range of services that can help companies streamline their supply chain operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs. However, like any business decision, there are multiple factors to consider before committing to a partnership. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of using a 3PL service provider to see whether it's the right fit for your brewery. 

Understanding 3PL Providers

What is a 3PL Provider?

A 3PL provider is an external company that takes over all or part of a business's logistics operations. This allows the business to focus on its core competencies while the 3PL provider handles the logistics aspects. The types of services offered by a 3PL provider can vary depending on the specific needs of the business, but typically include transportation, warehousing, inventory management, packaging and distribution.

The Role of 3PL Providers in Supply Chain Management

3PL providers play a crucial role in supply chain management. They act as intermediaries between manufacturers, suppliers, and customers, ensuring that products are delivered efficiently and on time. By leveraging their expertise and infrastructure, 3PL providers can help businesses overcome logistical challenges and achieve a competitive advantage.

One of the key benefits of using a 3PL provider is the access to their extensive network of transportation and distribution channels. These providers have established relationships with carriers, warehouses, and other logistics partners, allowing them to negotiate better rates and secure faster delivery times. This can be particularly advantageous for businesses that operate on a global scale, as 3PL providers often have a global presence and can navigate complex international logistics.

In addition to transportation and distribution, 3PL providers also offer warehousing and inventory management services. They have dedicated storage facilities equipped with advanced inventory tracking systems, ensuring accurate and efficient management of stock. This enables businesses to have better control over their inventory levels, reduce costs, and improve order fulfilment rates.

3PL providers can also provide value-added services. These services can include packaging, labelling, kitting, and customisation of products. By offering these additional services, 3PL providers can help businesses meet the unique requirements of their customers and enhance the overall customer experience.

Furthermore, 3PL providers often have expertise in regulatory compliance and can ensure that businesses meet all the necessary legal and industry requirements. This is particularly important for breweries or other businesses operating in the drinks industry, where non-compliance can have serious consequences.

The Advantages of Using a 3PL Provider

There are several advantages to using a 3PL provider for your logistics needs. Let's take a look at these advantages in more detail.

Cost and Time Efficiency

One of the key advantages of using a 3PL provider is cost and time efficiency. By outsourcing logistics operations to a specialised provider, breweries can save on the costs of maintaining their own infrastructure, hiring and training staff, and acquiring transportation and warehouse facilities for their stock.

Additionally, 3PL providers have established networks and expertise in supply chain management, allowing them to optimise operations and reduce delivery times. They can leverage their relationships with carriers and negotiate better rates, ultimately saving businesses money.

Expertise and Experience

3PL providers possess extensive knowledge and experience in logistics operations. They are well-versed in industry best practices and have the latest technology and systems in place to streamline processes.

Furthermore, 3PL providers continuously invest in technology and systems to improve efficiency and accuracy. They may have advanced warehouse management systems, tracking tools, and analytics software that can provide businesses with real-time insights into their supply chain performance.

Scalability and Flexibility

Another advantage of using a 3PL provider is scalability and flexibility. As breweries grow or face fluctuations in demand, they may require additional warehouse space or transportation capacity.

Furthermore, 3PL providers often have a network of warehouses and distribution centres strategically located across different regions. This allows businesses to reach their customers faster and more efficiently.

In conclusion, using a 3PL provider offers several advantages including cost and time efficiency, expertise and experience, as well as scalability and flexibility. By partnering with a 3PL provider, businesses can focus on their core competencies, benefit from industry knowledge and technology, and adapt to changing market conditions.

The Disadvantages of Using a 3PL Provider

While there are advantages to using a 3PL provider, it's essential to consider the potential disadvantages as well.

Potential Loss of Control

One of the primary concerns when outsourcing logistics to a 3PL provider is the potential loss of control. Breweries may find it challenging to relinquish control over critical functions such as inventory management or customer service. These are areas that directly impact customer satisfaction and can significantly influence the brewery's reputation.

Dependency on External Entities

Using a 3PL provider means placing a significant amount of trust in an external company. While 3PL providers are experienced and strive to meet business requirements, there is still a degree of reliance on external entities. This dependency can introduce a level of uncertainty into the supply chain.

Hidden Costs and Complex Contracts

When entering into a contract with a 3PL provider, businesses should carefully review the terms and conditions. While outsourcing logistics operations can lead to cost savings, there may be hidden costs involved that businesses need to be aware of.

For example, a 3PL provider may offer value-added services such as packaging or labelling, but these services may come at an additional cost. Businesses need to consider whether these services are necessary and if they justify the extra expense.

Furthermore, complex contracts can make it challenging for businesses to switch to alternative logistics options if needed. It's crucial to thoroughly understand the terms and conditions, including any penalties for non-compliance or early termination. Failure to do so can result in unexpected costs and difficulties in transitioning to a different logistics provider.

In conclusion, while using a 3PL provider can provide numerous benefits, it's vital for breweries to carefully consider the potential disadvantages. Loss of control, dependency on external entities, and hidden costs are all factors that need to be weighed against the advantages before making a decision. By conducting thorough research and due diligence, breweries can make an informed choice that aligns with their specific needs and goals.

Making the Decision: Is a 3PL Provider Right for Your Business?

When deciding whether to use a 3PL provider, businesses must carefully consider various factors.

Factors to Consider

Factors to consider include the size and complexity of your supply chain, the level of control you wish to maintain, and the specific logistics needs of your brewery. Conducting a thorough analysis of your supply chain operations can help determine if outsourcing to a 3PL provider would be beneficial.

On the other hand, if your brewery has a relatively simple supply chain with a limited number of locations, the cost-effectiveness of outsourcing might be a crucial consideration. By outsourcing logistics functions to a 3PL provider, you can potentially reduce costs associated with warehousing, transportation, and labour.

Evaluating Potential 3PL Providers

If you decide to explore partnering with a 3PL provider, it's essential to conduct thorough due diligence. Evaluate potential providers based on their industry experience, track record, available resources, technology capabilities, and suitability for your business's unique requirements.

Industry experience is a vital aspect to consider when selecting a 3PL provider. Look for providers who have a proven track record in handling logistics operations similar to yours. A provider with extensive experience in your industry will have a better understanding of the specific challenges and requirements you may face.

Furthermore, assessing the available resources of potential 3PL providers is crucial. Consider factors such as the size and location of their warehouses, fleet size and capabilities, and the availability of specialised equipment. These resources will play a significant role in ensuring smooth and efficient logistics operations.

Technology capabilities are another critical aspect to evaluate. In today's digital age, advanced technology solutions can greatly enhance supply chain visibility, inventory management, and overall efficiency. Look for 3PL providers that offer robust technology platforms, such as real-time tracking systems, inventory management software, and data analytics tools.

Lastly, the suitability of a 3PL provider for your business's unique requirements cannot be overlooked. Consider factors such as their flexibility in adapting to changing business needs, their ability to scale operations as your business grows, and their commitment to customer service. A strong partnership with a 3PL provider should be based on shared values and a common goal of achieving supply chain excellence.

Meet Tap’in: The Operations Team of Your Dreams

If you have made the decision to partner with a 3PL provider, you need to ensure that you work with one that you can trust.

Running a successful brewery involves juggling multiple tasks, often resulting in a logistics nightmare. From managing stock to warehousing and getting your drinks to top venues, the complexities can take up valuable time and resources which could be spent elsewhere. At Tap’in, we understand the challenges you face in this ever-changing industry and we’re here to provide you with the most effective and efficient logistics solutions to help alleviate this burden. 

So, if you are looking for a partner who lives and breathes the brewery industry and is as passionate about your growth as you are, find out more about our logistics service

We have helped multiple brewers scale their operations so get in touch with our dedicated team today.

Conclusion: Weighing the Pros and Cons of 3PL Providers

Using a 3PL provider can offer numerous advantages, such as cost and time efficiency, expertise and experience, and scalability and flexibility. However, businesses should also consider the potential disadvantages, including a potential loss of control, dependency on external entities, and hidden costs. By carefully evaluating their own needs and assessing potential providers, businesses can make an informed decision on whether to utilise a 3PL provider for their logistics needs.

Curious to learn more about how Tap'in can help optimise your operations and propel your business's growth through our 3PL services? Don't hesitate to get in touch with our team at