The key ingredients to a successful 3PL partnership are collaboration and trust between the customer and 3PL. But, this means genuine collaboration and trust, not just “lip service.”
This is more difficult then it seems on it’s face. The customer really wants Cost Reduction. The 3PL wants to help the customer, but has much more to offer than just Cost Reduction.
Since the 3PL is the specialist in Logistics they can offer: LEAN, 5S, Six Sigma, OSHA guidelines, LTL/TL assistance, Inventory Integrity, faster turn aound to the customers of the partner, just to name a few initiatives.
The answer lies in periodic face-to-face meetings. The partners should talk openly to each other and lay out ground rules that are good for both parties as frequently as possible, but perhaps quarterly.
In my opinion, it is best to start with a 3PL as a public account. During the transition to a contract account, get to know each other and create a good partnership chemistry.Start off with the best prices you can negotiate that are fair to both parties. The best solution is unit rate pricing along with the usual accessorial pricing. As a public account, there are no upfront charges by the 3PL.
As you move to contract pricing, together you can both create a good Service Level Agreement (SLA) with negotiated Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In this way Cost Reduction is an Indicator for both parties, but the other KPIs will be there for the 3PL to show the customer what they can do for you in other areas.
Let’s face it, sometimes partnerships do not work out. Try to catch problems while you are a public account. But, always include a cancellation/ modification clause in your contract should either party want to withdraw from the contract.