Best Practices in Food & Beverage Logistics: a 3PL Checklist

Need to store cartons of crackers? Bottles of beverages? Pallets of pickles? It’s important to select a qualified third-party provider for warehousing and distribution. The food and beverage industry poses unique supply chain challenges, and not all 3PLs are equipped to handle them.

You’ll want an experienced partner with an in-depth understanding of the food and beverage marketplace and the resources to meet your needs. That’s a tall order.

10 Good Warehousing Practices for Food and Beverage 3PLs

How can you make sure you pick a provider that can deliver? Here are 10 characteristics to keep in mind when looking for a food-and-beverage 3PL:

  • Food-grade facilities. Start with the basics. You’ll want a provider with facilities that are food-grade, temperature-controlled and have an A.I.B. “superior” sanitation rating .
  • Quality focus. You need to maintain your reputation for quality, so look for a provider with equally high standards and a commitment to continuous improvement. Ask your prospective provider if they use Lean Six Sigma methodologies to optimize processes and ensure service excellence.
  • Scalability. If you experience seasonal or promotional fluctuations, you’ll want a flexible provider. Ask if they offer a shared-space environment with scalable space and labor resources, so they can accommodate dramatic peaks and valleys in order volume.
  • Integrated logistics services. Chances are, you need more than warehousing for your food and beverage products. Transportation, fulfillment, packaging… If your 3PL can deliver single-source solutions, they’ll help streamline your supply chain, control costs and improve service to your customers.
  • Strategic location(s). Does your provider have conveniently located facilities that enable them to optimize your distribution network to get your products as close to your customers as possible? This can help to reduce your transportation costs and minimize transit times.
  • Support for postponement strategies. Can your provider delay product configuration until the last minute to meet consumer demand? This goes hand-in-hand with location since it’s important to be close to the customer. Postponement strategies are convenient if, for example, you want to convert a standard size pack of beverages into smaller packs to give customers what they’re asking for.
  • Value-added capabilities. Make sure your 3PL can help to streamline the process of getting your food and beverage products on store shelves. Price marking, tagging, display building… these functions are best handled close to the consumer.
  • Transportation management. Can your provider give you cost-effective options for delivering products when and where needed? What resources do they have in place to ensure on-time performance? Are they able to provide real-time visibility and reporting? Starting in December, it’s also critical to ensure that they are in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • Cross-docking. Is cross-docking an option? While typically associated with durable goods, cross-docking also can help increase speed to market, reduce costs and improve service for food and beverage items. It can be effective for temperature-controlled, perishable items like bakery goods, thanks to its high velocity.
  • Advanced technology. Ask about your 3PL’s ability to integrate technology solutions like order management systems (OMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), and transportation management systems (TMS) with your current systems. Automated fulfillment and material handling equipment such as pick-to-light, automated label application/manifesting, etc. are also valuable tools. Sophisticated technology can help provide better visibility, improve inventory management, speed order processing times and enhance customer service.

At Saddle Creek, we’ve been providing warehousing and logistics services for leading companies in the food and beverage industry for more than 50 years. Needless to say, we know a few things about good warehousing practices.

For a first-hand look at our logistics services in action, read our case studies:

Interested in learning more about our food and beverage logistics? Contact us.


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At Saddle Creek, we help customers across the country increase supply chain efficiency, streamline their businesses, and manage operational costs. Find out how our integrated solutions can be tailored to meet your specific business goals and give you a competitive edge.