3PL Fulfillment Process: From checkout to doorstep

In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, efficient order fulfillment is crucial for the success of e-commerce companies. Third-Party Logistics (3PL) providers have emerged as indispensable partners, offering specialized services to optimize the fulfillment process.

This article explores the 3PL fulfillment process and what happens from when your customer confirms checkout, to delivery to their door.

Table of Contents

Understanding the 3PL Fulfillment Process
Receiving and Inventory Management
Order Processing
Picking and Packing
Shipping and Delivery
Returns Management
Technology Integration
Communication and Customer Service
Benefits of an efficient 3PL fulfillment process

Understanding the 3PL Fulfillment Process

The 3PL fulfillment process is a comprehensive solution that handles various aspects of the supply chain, enabling businesses to focus on core competencies and strategic growth. At its core, 3PL fulfillment involves the seamless coordination of receiving, inventory management, order processing, picking and packing, shipping, and returns management.

Here is a breakdown of the key steps involved in the 3PL fulfillment process:

Receiving and Inventory Management:

The fulfillment process commences with the 3PL provider receiving products from the company or manufacturer. At 3PL Center, our clients send us a completed 3PL Order so that we know what stock we will be receiving.

Upon arrival, we carry out meticulous quality checks to ensure that the items meet the required standards. After inspection, the received products are counted, and the inventory system is updated to maintain accurate stock levels. The SKUs are then allocated a location in our warehouse either on pallets, shelves or in bins.

At 3PL Center, we understand the importance of efficient inventory management in preventing stockouts and overstocking, as it directly influences the speed of order fulfillment and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

With our advanced real-time inventory visibility and data analytics tools, we can optimize your inventory levels, effectively reducing holding costs and enhancing overall operational efficiency. By continuously monitoring your inventory, we ensure that your products are always ready for prompt shipment to your valued customers.

Order Processing:

Once an order is placed by a customer through various sales channels, such as the company’s website or online marketplaces, the order information is transmitted to the 3PL partner.

Some 3PL providers need this information manually supplied (which can lead to order errors), whereas others, like 3PL Center, provide a multitude of integrations that work with your online store or other sales channels. This means when an order is placed, we automatically get sent the information so that we can start the pick and pack process.

Picking and Packing:

The picking and packing stage is a critical step in the fulfillment process. 3PL providers use various methods, including manual picking and automated solutions like barcode scanners or pick-to-light systems, to retrieve the items from designated storage locations accurately.

At 3PL Center, our skilled fulfillment warehouse operatives navigate our well-organized aisles to swiftly locate and handpick the exact items for your order. With our meticulous attention to detail, your customers receive the right products every time.

After picking, the items are carefully packed to ensure secure and damage-free delivery to the end customers. We use top quality packaging materials and techniques to ensure each item is securely packaged. We have experience working with anything from fragile items to large, bulky products.

Shipping and Delivery:

Once the orders are packed, the 3PL provider partners with multiple shipping carriers to offer a range of delivery options to customers. These options may include standard shipping, express shipping, and international shipping. Real-time tracking systems provide visibility into the shipment’s progress, enabling customers to monitor their orders from the warehouse to their doorstep.

At 3PL Center, we partner with trusted shipping carriers to guarantee discounted shipping rates, fast and reliable delivery services.  For all our clients, we compare shipping costs across our network of carriers to find the best solution on pricing and delivery speed, depending on the type of package being shipped.

Returns Management:

Handling product returns efficiently is vital for maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty. 3PL providers manage the returns process, inspecting returned items for quality and condition. Based on the company’s policies, they process refunds or replacements, ensuring a seamless experience for customers.

Technology Integration:

Throughout the entire fulfillment process, advanced logistics technologies, such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS), are employed to optimize and streamline the operations. These technologies offer real-time tracking, inventory visibility, data analytics, and reporting capabilities.

Communication and Customer Service:

The 3PL provider plays a significant role in maintaining effective communication with both the company and end customers. They provide order status updates, shipping notifications, and address customer inquiries and concerns, contributing to a positive customer experience.

With 3PL Center, our integrations mean that when anything happens in the 3PL fulfillment process, the customer is updated. Key points the customer will be updated include when the order has been picked and ready for dispatch, when the order has been shipped, tracking information, returns received and refunds allocated.

Benefits of an efficient 3PL fulfillment process:

Cost Savings:

Outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL provider allows businesses to save on infrastructure, labor, and technology investments. 3PLs have existing warehouse facilities and distribution networks, enabling cost-effective storage and shipping solutions.


During peak seasons or fluctuations in demand, businesses can easily scale their operations with 3PL providers. The flexible infrastructure and workforce of 3PLs accommodate varying order volumes without compromising efficiency.

Expertise and Resources:

3PL providers are logistics experts, equipped with the latest technologies and industry best practices. Partnering with a 3PL grants businesses access to specialized knowledge and resources that enhance supply chain efficiency.

Focus on Core Business:

By entrusting fulfillment to a 3PL partner, businesses can concentrate on their core competencies and strategic growth initiatives.

The 3PL process summary:

The 3PL fulfillment process has revolutionized supply chain management for e-commerce businesses, enabling them to focus on growth and customer experience. By outsourcing order fulfillment to specialized 3PL providers, companies gain access to cutting-edge technology, industry expertise, and scalable solutions.

The efficient integration of technology at every stage of the fulfillment process ensures timely deliveries, accurate inventory management, and seamless customer experiences. As e-commerce continues to evolve, businesses that embrace 3PL fulfillment will stand better positioned to thrive in this dynamic marketplace.

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