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Vendor Compliance from a 3PL Perspective:
Creating a Realistic Implementation Plan

Scott Weiss, Taylored Services

With the peak season of Q4 behind them, it is common for clients to make key warehouse and distribution decisions at the start of a year; so, with the New Year comes new implementations. We are very often asked the question, "What is a realistic timeframe to be up and running?"

Whether the implementation is large or small, the most important thing to remember is that a realistic timetable should be established and followed. It is common to take as long as 1-2 years to make a decision to outsource, then expect the provider to be up and running efficiently in a few weeks. Start-ups that are rushed and poorly planned almost always create difficulties that, in some cases, are never able to overcome.

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Size of the business. Will you move into an existing 3PL facility or will a new distribution center be opening up? Will existing employees support the business or will new ones have to be hired.
  • Complexity of the business. Do you have a high number of SKU's? Is there high volume pick and pack?
  • Number of retailers shipping to. The greater number of retailers, the more testing required.
  • How much customized mapping is required between the two companies. The more customized work that has to be done, the longer the timeline.
  • Will the 3PL generate Advanced Ship Notices. If so, testing is required for each retailer even though they 3PL may already be generating ASN's.

All implementation projects have a lifecycle and that lifecycle will have a sense of overlapping phases. The lifecycle can be extremely complex or broken down in a few simple project phases.


A warehouse implementation can be broken down into 5 phases:

Phase 1 - Requirements Definition
Phase 2 - Solution Design
Phase 3 - Development and Acceptance Testing
Phase 4 - Implementation
Phase 5 - Project Close Out

Warehouse Implementation

Once the contract is signed and the policies and procedures have been developed and agreed upon, the responsibility should be transferred to an implementation team. Each implementation team (client and 3PL) should be led by a project manager. The team should be represented by a cross section of responsibilities and it is important that they remain a part of the process.

The first and most important task of the implementation team will be to create a joint project plan. The teams should have multiple planning sessions and allow for a wider participation of subject matter experts to provide input on deliverables, durations, dependencies and start/finish dates.

A project plan will typically have hundreds of entries depending on the complexity of the project. Here are just a few examples of key milestone task items:

  • Facility Lease
  • Requirements Definition
  • Contract
  • Systems Design
  • Key Management Positions Hired
  • Systems Equipment
  • Systems Development
  • Integration Testing Begins
  • Facility Ready to Receive
  • Integration Testing Complete
  • Staff Hired
  • Staff Training
  • Inventory Transfer
  • Inbound "Go Live"
  • Outbound Training
  • Outbound "Go Live"

The mutually agreed upon project plan will be sent as a separate document and will be the primary driver for daily conference calls and communication between the teams. The tasks will be organized by weeks and the list should show what needs to be done, when it will be done, and who is responsible.

Another very important and early decision that must be made is whether or not the program will be phased in or if there will be a "big bang" approach. Most people that have been through implementations will agree that a phased in approach is the better way to go. Options might be moving over one retailer or one division at a time. This approach allows efficiently sorting out and putting away product that has arrived in from a third party, ease of training of employees, and testing of new systems (i.e., working out the bugs). It also allows you to phase out old inventory. This will minimize trucking costs and reduce product that has to be double handled.

So as you can see, there are many variables that factor into the timeline but a good rule of thumb is 90-120 days. If a start-up can be accomplished more quickly, it should be; but in matters of implementation, conservatism is the recommended way to go. If at all possible, start-ups should be scheduled for those times when volume is projected to be lowest. If another operation is being discontinued, the transfer should be made toward the end of that term, if practical, in order to minimize any early out penalty costs.

Above all, the client is strongly encouraged to listen to the logistics service provider. The provider was selected because it was perceived to be the best choice. Its core competency is logistics and, in this regard, can offer valuable and meaningful advice.

Based in Southern California, Scott Weiss has been a 3PL industry expert since 1996. As Vice President, Client Solutions for 3PL Taylored Services, Scott is responsible for new business development and client satisfaction. Taylored operates multiple distribution centers strategically located by the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Newark and works with importers and manufacturers to ensure compliance with retailer routing guide requirements. Scott may be reached at or (562) 977-7620.