• The 3PL Integration Problem - Cured?
  • Ray Tetlow
  • Integration
The 3PL Integration Problem - Cured?

So, you are a 3PL company that offers fulfillment services to businesses.  Your customers do not carry any stock on-site and it is all managed by you.  

Or, maybe you are a business that uses a 3PL to manage your stock, focusing on what you are good at. 

Or, maybe you are a technology company that has a great WMS offering.

Either way, it is all great until the subject of integration crops up.  Then things get a bit tricky.  

The 3PL needs to know when to ship an order to the final customer and when to expect stock to arrive at the warehouse from the sourcing vendor.  The business needs to know what has been shipped and received to be able to account for it. 

There are three ways of doing this:

  1. Manually, via fax, email and phone.   This is absurd.
  2. Semi-automatically via imports and exports.  This is labor intensive, slow, confusing and error prone.  Tower of Babel comes to mind.
  3. End-to-end integration

End-to-end integrations are great in concept; but because businesses and 3PL's use an whole variety of different solutions; rarely executed well.  Integrations have to be designed, developed, customized and maintained from scratch and nobody wants to ante up.  

Managed Integrations resolves this.

As a business owner, you have a legal responsibility to track your inventory correctly (and accurately) and make sure all the necessary accounting entries are made.  As a 3PL company you have a obligation to maintain accurate inventory levels for your customers.  

Lets, therefore break down a typical 3PL integration into core components.  There are 4:

  • Inventory
  • Sales
  • Purchases
  • Adjustments


Both "ends" need to know stock levels.  The 3PL needs to maintain an accurate (and audited) inventory count and the business needs to maintain their books and keep customers informed.  In other words, both systems need to stay in sync; and it needs to happen in close to real-time.


When a sales order is created (via a web order or directly entered), the approved order must be sent over to the 3PL.  It is the document that says "ship products X,Y,Z to customer A". 

When the 3PL ships the order, the business must be notified of that event in their system to record the inventory and accounting movements.  Some of which may trigger a billing event.  


The opposite is true.  When a purchase order is created as a result of demand planning or like; the approved order must be sent over to the 3PL so that they know to expect a delivery.  Once delivered; a receipt must be sent back to the business to record the movements so that the accounting entries reflect correctly and the vendor bills can be matched.


When an adjustment is made to inventory levels in the 3PL warehouse; the business needs to be told.

Combining these processes together in "pseudo real-time" means that:

  • orders get out of the door much quicker. No matter what the originating channel is (web, direct entry or field sales)
  • no manual (and costly) intervention is needed
  • order accuracy increases
  • compliance and audit are seamless
  • you can scale your operations much better

So, if you are a 3PL that wants to add real end-to-end integration as a service offering; or a end-customer that needs to connect to a 3Pl.  We want to hear from you.

Our managed integration solutions can be re-used and rapidly adapted for any end-point configuration that has an API.

  • Ray Tetlow
  • Integration