3PL Shipping: How late can you place an order for same- or next-day shipping?

Shipping speed.  In terms of logistics operations, it’s one of the most important metrics to your customers – and therefore one of the most important metrics to you.  When you outsource your warehousing and distribution operations to a 3PL, you’re going to need to understand how late you can place an order so it goes out the same day or the next day.  In this article, we’ll examine typical 3PL shipping requirements as it relates to the timing of your orders.

Understanding 3PL shipping timelines

Before we get into specifics, it’s helpful to consider your 3PL’s role in shipping your products.  Your 3PL basically acts like an orchestra conductor – coordinating people, equipment, and technology to prepare your shipments from your inventory with 100% accuracy and get them out for distribution.  To do it right takes time.  Lead time is then a necessary fact of life for your 3PL.  But how much is necessary?



Generally speaking, most 3PLs (Kanban Logistics included) will perform same-day shipping for all eCommerce orders that come into the warehouse management system (WMS) by around mid-day.  Some 3PLs will have an earlier cutoff, some a later one.  Factors that influence this cutoff time are the daily arrival time of the parcel carrier (FedEx, UPS, USPS) combined with the volume of orders from your operation – as well as the volumes of your fellow tenants if you are using shared warehousing.

Your 3PL needs to ensure that it can have all orders picked, packed, quality checked and prepared for shipment with 100% accuracy before the carrier arrives.  Working with too tight a timeframe puts this operational quality at risk.

If volumes are light on a given day, the cutoff could be extended.  But, in general, mid-day or so will be the cutoff time for same-day shipping for many 3PLs.

B2B/retail distribution

B2B distribution requires more coordination than B2C.  With B2C, packages are compiled each day for pickup by the carrier who then has the responsibility of getting them where they need to go.  With B2B, your 3PL is either handling the transportation itself or coordinating the transportation with another 3PL.  This coordination, whether internal or external, takes time.

Your 3PL will therefore want a day’s orders by the end of the previous day so that it can account for your needs in its advance planning.  Most 3PLs, however, will accept early-morning orders for same-day delivery without charging a “same-day” fee.  As it gets later in the day, same-day “emergency” orders will likely have a same-day fee if they can be accommodated.  The specifics of these fees as well as timing expectations should be explicitly laid out in your 3PL contract.  Changes to your business needs that alter these expectations should be reflected in the contract and/or included as an addendum.

JIT delivery

For manufacturing customers, many 3PLs can provide “just-in-time (JIT)” delivery services in which key production items are delivered to the manufacturing facility as needed or according to a set schedule.  As with B2B distribution, orders – or changes to existing orders – should be made the day before, but early-morning/same-day orders will typically be accommodated without a fee and later same-day orders may have a fee.  Also, like B2B orders, the specifics of fees and timing expectations should be laid out in your 3PL contract.

Turn to Kanban to meet your 3PL shipping needs

At Kanban, we go to great lengths to accommodate all our customers – whether B2C, B2B or JIT.  And, while we love to have defined parameters within a contract, we also know that life doesn’t always work within those parameters.  So, we will always honor our customer’s requests to the fullest extent possible.  It’s part of being a good logistics partner and that’s what we pride ourselves on.  To learn more about how a partnership with Kanban can benefit your warehousing, inventory management and distribution operations, contact us today.