What is 3PL?

A 3PL service offers various logistical services such as order fulfilment, warehousing, and freight transportation to manufacturers. Basically, a 3PL acts as a middleman between your business and the carriers that deliver the products.

Most 3PLs manage their facilities where your inventory is stored and fulfilled, creating a more efficient service and superior customer experience. 

Advantages of a 3PL Solution

Choosing a 3PL solution has its perks, depending on the size of your business and the nature of your needs. Some of the common benefits associated with working with a 3PL service include the following:

International reach

3PLs can help you overcome customs obstacles if you’re looking to get into global trade. 3PL companies are well-versed in local markets, regulations and government agencies. This can help you with customs clearance and documentation and allow you to focus on your core competence areas.

Improved customer services

Working with a 3PL service can help improve customer service in two ways. The experience and efficiency of 3PLs can help deliver customer goods faster and provide a better overall customer experience.

Letting a 3PL company take over the tedious burden of logistics leaves you with more resources that you can use to focus on serving your customers better and responding to their queries within a shorter time. Think about it as a job division. Everyone gets to do what they are good at.


A 3PL service can grow with you. Most services have scalable resources such as space, labour and transportation. As your inventory needs grow, the service can adapt to your business's growth or seasonal demands. You don't have to worry about a surge in inventory or warehouse costs denting your bottom line.

What is 4PL?

4PL goes beyond physical logistics. It’s an integration that manages all aspects of the supply chain. The elements of 4PL services may differ vastly but can include IT, procurement and finance. Also, a 4PL service may outsource the management of physical goods to one or several 3PLs.

A fourth-party logistics provides transport services with a functional approach. They combine research, follow-up support and management from start to finish.

Advantages of 4PL Services

For a company that is looking for the right fit, the unique offering of 4PL services might be what you’re looking for. Some of the benefits of working with a 4PL service include the following;

Vendor management

4PL eliminates the challenges that come with managing multiple partners. Instead, you have a single point of contact. The 4PL coordinates the effort of your 3PLs, so you don’t have to worry about it. 

Solution-oriented approach

4PLs are neutral parties. They design their supply chain solutions to suit your business requirements instead of using the available infrastructure associated with vendors. As a result, you have a customised supply chain tailored to your needs and industry requirements.

Single view

4PLs integrate information from multiple data points and give you a single view of your data and metrics. The available information includes order status, inventory, billing and shipment status, among others, across the entire network. This level of visibility gives you a better grip on your supply chain and helps you adjust quickly to emerging trends and market demands. It also ensures you meet customer demand regardless of the status or location of the inventory.

Differences Between 3PL and 4PL

Differences Between 3PL and 4PL

On the surface, the differences between 3PLs and 4PLs might look small. But for a company looking for specific services and features, choosing one over the other could be the success or downfall of their business. Therefore, it's crucial to understand what each service offers clearly.

Order fulfilment

3PL focuses on order fulfilment. This includes picking and packing orders, warehousing and shipping packages. 4PL takes this a step further and manages the entire supply chain. It works on order fulfilment, transportation and the associated technology. With a specialist in supply chain management such as thyssenkrupp Materials UK, you work directly with our service team to solve any issues arising in your supply chain allowing you quick response to external market challenges and provides you with the flexibility to adjust.

Supply chain optimisation

Because we specialise in order fulfilment, we are the perfect service provider to approach when you want to find ways to optimise fulfilment. We can give you access to data and tools that helps you make better decisions based on logistics data.

Customer communication

With thyssenkrupp Materials UK as a supply chain partner, you have access to a dedicated account manager. Issues are resolved faster, and you can work with a team that understands your needs and account.

When looking to outsource part of your business, it’s critical to understand which option between 3PLs and 4PLs will best serve your needs. Although some of the functions are intertwined, the two options give a very different service package and customer experience. We are here to help tailor the best service for your business. Get in touch with our team of experts to learn what is the perfect supply chain solution for your business.

Need more help with 3PL / 4PL Logistics?

Check out our helpful aerospace business case:
By integrating 3PL and 4PL services by thyssenkrupp Materials UK, aerospace and defence OEMs achieve several benefits. These include shorter lead times, reduced production delays, improved quality control, cost optimisation, and enhanced customer satisfaction. The streamlined supply chain process allows customers to access high-quality materials promptly, enabling them to meet their production requirements efficiently.