Delivering your product to your customers on time and undamaged is more difficult than it may seem, but it's worth taking the time to develop a successful logistics management strategy for your business. Getting the right logistical solution may be the differentiator that puts you ahead of your competition. The type of product you sell will determine whether you need to consider logistics companies that offer more than just the standard logistics and transportation services for you to meet your customers' demands. You will also need to consider the following to come up with a comprehensive and unique strategy for your business: Transportation (most commonly outsourced to a logistics company) Inventory Management Warehousing and Distribution Material Handling Packaging Logistics management also covers purchasing (including supply chain management) and customer returns (reverse logistics). Searching for information using all of these terms will allow you to create the best logistical solutions for your business. Seek out a third-party logistics provider (3PL) The trend is towards companies focusing on their core competencies rather than being "jack of all trades". Consider outsourcing to a logistics company (a “third-party logistics provider” or “3PL” as they’re commonly known) so that you can focus on growing your business, not minute details of product delivery. logistics company. Make your logistics provider industry specific There are logistics companies and carriers that specialize in every industry from clothing to wine. Search for logistical solutions within your industry to make sure that your product gets to your customers in the same condition that it left your facility. Team with partners on logistics and transportation Talk to vendors and customers to find out what type of logistics technology and services they currently use. Logistics companies base prices on volume, and you may want to team up with your partners to maximize economies of scale. Improve logistics efficiency with electronic data interchange (EDI) You can do anything from gathering customer requirements to providing tracking information with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) software. Use small business logistics services from UPS, FedEx or DSL If you aren't in a position to purchase expensive hardware and software to manage your company's logistics quite yet, start with the Web. FedEx, UPS and DHL all have small business centers that can help. Network for minority- and women-owned businesses If you are a minority or women-owned business (MWBE) search for logistics companies and freight carriers that are also MWBE certified. Take a page from big business Giant retailers use a system called Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) to manage multiple vendors and/or logistics companies. So can you. Stay current on the logistics industry Companies need to stay apprised of the latest and greatest industry news including rules and regulations and technology like Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) and Global Logistics. It's reversible Making returns painless for customers is a good way to build loyalty. reverse logistics companies on Business.com. Don't promise anything through Marketing and Sales that you can't deliver. A successful logistics strategy is just as much about getting the customer the right product as it is about getting it there on time and in one piece. Be sure to monitor the service level of the logistics company you choose. If you will be sending your customer an order from multiple vendors, decide whether you will send everything from one point at one time or through multiple shipments and locations. Whoever is shipping the complementary product might skimp on his logistics costs, and you don't want to have to pay to replace lost or damaged items due to his penny-pinching ways. As fuel costs rise, so do shipping costs. Use the fluctuating price at the gas pumps to decide when its time to reevaluate the costs of your company's logistics provider and/or strategy. It is important to incorporate your customers' feedback and industry trends for successful logistics management. Soliciting feedback from your customers on your website or through check-up calls is a good way to find out what needs to be tweaked. Following up with customers also allows you to further evaluate the quality of the service provided by your logistics company. If you're just starting out, try to at least to correspond and confirm with your logistics company all transactions, via email, to keep a record of deliveries and issues.