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Ask a 3PL Expert: Compliance and Your New 3PL

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Scott Weiss, Port Logistics Group

Advice on routing guide compliance, 3PL relationships, and domestic logistics topics creating supply chain challenges for your organization. If you have a question or challenge that you just can't solve, please send your questions to  

We are in the process of transitioning our business to a new warehouse provider in the Seattle area and have many questions about setting up routing guide compliance with our new 3PL.
- Andrea, Nelsonville, Ohio

What format should I use to provide my new 3PL with customer compliance requirements?
Routing guide compliance is a big part of a 3PL's business so you definitely want to lean on their expertise. To start off the relationship, it is very helpful to the 3PL if you provide a complete list of all retailers that you ship to; this can be something as easy as an Excel spreadsheet. The 3PL can then review this list and confirm back to you the retailers that they are already shipping to. This a good starting point, but even if the 3PL is already shipping to the same retailer, there is no guarantee that your requirements are the same for that retailer as the other customers the 3PL supports. For example, perhaps your product ships to another department or maybe your product ships out floor loaded versus palletized. The fact that the 3PL is already shipping to your customer is a positive; however, both sides should take nothing for granted and must be certain to go through the entire set-up process.

You should then have the 3PL provide a complete list of sample formats and all documentation needed. If you are already using an existing warehouse that is fulfilling orders on a daily basis, it's helpful to provide the 3PL with sample bills of lading and GS1-128 labels that you are presently using as they may be able to replicate these items. If you do not have an existing warehouse, cannot provide sample documents, or are setting up a new retailer, you will need to work together and start from scratch.

In either scenario, you will want to work collaboratively to highlight all of the key routing guide requirements for the retailer. Ultimately, the 3PL will provide you with all of the documents, allowing you to go back to the retailer for their sign-off and approval prior to going live. You should plan for this process to takes 8-12 weeks and plan to work with multiple retailers at the same time.

Should they have a template for us to fill out for each of our customers where necessary?
A routing guide template or cheat sheet is highly recommended. We have seen something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet all the way to a detailed company intranet site. The main theme is that routing guides are extremely complex and much of the information included in the routing guides relate to order fulfillment and distribution. The 3PL should work with you to highlight the key items that apply.

Should a 3PL have a compliance resource we can reach out to?
Any 3PL that is engaged in the world of routing guide compliance should have one or more resources available for you to reach out to. The resource can take many forms such as a Director of Operations, a Director of IT, or a Director of Vendor Compliance. Regardless of the title, if your chosen 3PL does not have a retail compliance resource available then you are probably looking at the wrong 3PL to work with.

Who should do the routing? Our company or the 3PL?
It is highly recommended that the 3PL perform all routing requirements. The primary reason is that the 3PL has real time access to outbound order pieces, weights, and cubes. Another reason is that they have access to the shipping and receiving schedules and they can coordinate carrier pick-up in an efficient manner. Finally, very often there is a time difference between where the customer is based and the 3PL. There are various schools of thought on who within the 3PL should do the routing and either can work just as well. We have seen the customer service person take the calls, respond to e-mails, and perform routing while other 3PL's have full time employees whose sole job function is to perform the routing.

In any event, it is important that both sides are on the same page regarding all aspects of shipment processing. Communication is key to the relationship.

As Vice President, Business Development, Scott Weiss works closely with apparel, footwear, and housewares manufacturers of all sizes to ensure compliance with retailer routing guide requirements.  Port Logistics Group is a market leader in gateway port logistics services, operating over 5 million square feet of warehouse space.  Services include port drayage, import deconsolidation, warehousing and distribution, retail compliance, local transportation, and store delivery in key port locations of Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York/New Jersey, Seattle, and Savannah.  Scott may be reached at or (562) 977-7620.

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Tags:  3PL  Vendor Compliance 

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