The Definitive Guide to Understanding 3PL Meaning and How They Manage Order Fulfillment

As organizations continue to grow, they face new problems, including the need for effective logistics solutions. Third-party logistics (3PL) services have grown increasingly popular for organizations of all kinds, helping them manage the difficulties of warehousing, inventory management, and order fulfillment. This post will provide a detailed guide to understanding 3PL meaning and how they handle order fulfillment. 

What is 3PL Meaning?

A third-party logistics provider (3PL) is a company that provides outsourced logistics services to enterprises. 3PL suppliers offer numerous services such as warehousing, shipping, inventory management, order fulfillment, and other value-added services.

Advantages of 3PL Providers

There are various benefits to employing 3PL suppliers, including: 

  • Knowledge and Resources: 3PL providers offer specialized knowledge and resources to manage logistics efficiently, allowing businesses to focus on their core capabilities.
  • Cost Savings: 3PL providers can utilize their network and volume discounts to give cost savings to their clients.
  • Scalability: When organizations grow, 3PL suppliers may scale their services, accordingly, giving a flexible solution.
  • Technology: 3PL providers have access to innovative technology and software that can help optimize shipping processes.
  • Risk Management: 3PL providers can help manage risks connected with logistics, such as regulatory compliance and liability.

Varieties of 3PL Providers

There are three basic types of 3PL providers:

Transportation-Based 3PL Transportation-based 3PL providers specialize in transportation management, including freight brokerage, carrier selection, and shipment tracking.

Warehouse/Distribution-Based 3PL Warehouse/distribution-based 3PL providers offer warehousing and distribution services, including storage, inventory management, and order fulfillment.

Forwarder-Based 3PL

Forwarder-based 3PL companies offer international transportation services, including customs clearing and freight forwarding. 

How 3PL Providers Handle Order Fulfillment

Order fulfillment is a critical component of logistics management, and 3PL providers can offer efficient and cost-effective solutions for businesses of all sizes. The order fulfillment process includes three main stages:

Receipt and Inventory Management

The first stage of order fulfillment is receiving the inventory and managing it. 3PL providers receive inventory from suppliers and then manage it in their warehouses. They use inventory management software to track inventory levels and ensure accuracy.

Order Processing and Picking

The second stage is order processing and picking. 3PL providers receive orders from the business and then pick the products from their warehouse. They use handheld scanners or other automated systems to ensure accuracy.

Packing and Shipping

The final stage is packing and shipping. 3PL providers pack the products and prepare them for shipping. They use advanced technology and software to optimize packing and shipping to ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Understanding how Third-Party Logistics (3PL) providers handle order fulfillment is crucial if you’re considering outsourcing this aspect of your business. Launch Fulfillment’s comprehensive guide ( provides a detailed look at the 3PL process, including how they receive orders, store inventory, pick and pack orders, and ship products. You’ll also learn about the benefits of using a 3PL provider and what to consider when choosing the right one for your business. Check out the guide to make an informed decision and ensure smooth order fulfillment for your customers.

Choosing the Right 3PL Provider

Choosing the right 3PL provider can be challenging. It is essential to consider several factors before selecting a 3PL provider. 

Considerations for Choosing a 3PL Provider

  • Services Offered: Consider the services that the 3PL provider offers, such as transportation, warehousing, and order fulfillment.
  • Expertise: Consider the expertise of the 3PL provider, including industry knowledge and experience.
  • Technology: Consider the technology and software used by the 3PL provider to manage logistics efficiently.
  • Network: Consider the network and resources available to the 3PL provider to ensure scalability.
  • Cost: Consider the cost of the 3PL provider’s services and ensure they fit within the business’s budget.

Steps to Selecting a 3PL Provider

  • Define the business’s logistics needs and requirements.
  • Research potential 3PL providers and compare their services and expertise.
  • Request proposals and evaluate them based on services offered, technology, network, and cost.
  • Conduct site visits to the 3PL provider’s warehouse and ask for references.
  • Negotiate the contract and service agreement with the selected 3PL provider.

Common Misconceptions About 3PL Providers

There are several common misconceptions about 3PL providers, including: 

  • 3PL providers are only for large businesses: 3PL providers can offer cost-effective solutions for businesses of all sizes, including startups and small businesses.
  • 3PL providers only offer transportation services: 3PL providers offer various services, including warehousing, inventory management, and order fulfillment.
  • 3PL providers are not flexible: 3PL providers can offer flexible solutions that can scale with the business’s growth and changing needs.
  • 3PL providers are too expensive: 3PL providers can offer cost savings to businesses through volume discounts and network leverage.

Future of 3PL Providers

The 3PL industry is continuously evolving, with new technology and trends shaping the future of logistics management. Some of the trends that are likely to shape the future of 3PL providers include: 

  • Increased use of technology and automation
  • Greater focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility
  • Growth of e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment
  • Expansion into new markets and regions


3PL providers offer efficient and cost-effective logistics solutions for businesses of all sizes. They specialize in various services, including warehousing, transportation, inventory management, and order fulfillment. When selecting a 3PL provider, businesses should consider the services offered, expertise, technology, network, and cost. Despite common misconceptions, 3PL providers can offer flexible and cost-effective solutions that can scale with a business’s growth and changing needs. The future of 3PL providers is likely to be shaped by technology, sustainability, e-commerce, and expansion into new markets and regions.


What is the difference between 3PL and 4PL providers?

3PL providers offer logistics services such as transportation, warehousing, and order fulfillment, while 4PL providers offer strategic supply chain management services.

How can 3PL providers help businesses save costs?

3PL providers can leverage their network and volume discounts to provide cost savings to businesses.

Can 3PL providers offer customized solutions?

Yes, 3PL providers can offer customized solutions based on a business’s specific needs and requirements.