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Moving warehouses: 4 best practices for switching fulfillment providers

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For growing merchants, periodically evaluating your order fulfillment provider is a necessary part of doing business.

Why? Because as your operation evolves, your fulfillment needs are likely to change as well. This means that your initial fulfillment partner might not be well-placed to support your business as it grows.

But making the decision to switch providers is just the beginning; to ensure that this transition goes smoothly and doesn’t result in lost productivity, you need to follow best practices.

In this post, we’ll cover the four areas that your business should focus on when moving warehouses – and how your new provider can help make this process as seamless as possible.

Why should I look at changing fulfillment providers?

There are a variety of reasons why your current provider may no longer be ticking the boxes for your business. Here are a few signs to look out for which might indicate that it’s time to make the switch:

My provider can’t scale with me

For fast-growing businesses, it’s imperative to partner with a fulfillment provider who is agile. If you’re experiencing a rapid increase in orders, you don’t want a cumbersome 3PL operation jeopardizing your ability to take advantage of growth opportunities as they happen.

If your 3PL is struggling to manage your order volumes or customer support, it’s a good sign that it’s time to transfer to a more flexible provider.

Your provider isn’t seeking to streamline their operations

A fulfillment provider should always be looking for ways to make its warehouses and workflows run more effectively. Why? Because whether it’s faster shipping, timely notifications, or bespoke brand experiences, 3PLs need to be at the cutting-edge of these developments to meet rising consumer expectations.  

If your provider isn’t looking at ways it can upgrade its facilities or utilize new technologies, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep delivering a service that’s fit for the times – which will make it difficult for your business to remain competitive in the marketplace.

I’m experiencing major logistical issues

This should always be a massive red flag. If there are consistent problems, such as orders are being delayed or inaccurate SKU counts, this has a massive knock-on effect on the overall efficiency of your fulfillment operation – and could be a sign of bigger issues to come.

At the bare minimum, your fulfillment provider should be reliable and upfront about any issues they are facing. If not, it’s high time to start looking for a new partner.

So, you’ve made the decision to switch fulfillment providers. What next? You need to start thinking about how you’re going to ensure a smooth transition to your new 3PL. Here are our top tips to make moving warehouses as smooth as possible:

1. Have a clear strategy to ‘phase out’ your old warehouse

It’s no secret that moving fulfillment providers can be a stressful process. It’s a big undertaking which certainly isn’t going to happen overnight. That’s why you need to have a solid handover plan to place to ensure that you don’t face logistical issues in the form of back-ordered stock or delayed shipping.

Your transition strategy to a new 3PL should always contain the following:

  • A defined ‘overlap’ period between your new and old providers
  • Key dates and timeframes for the handover of certain operations
  • How staffing levels will be scaled up/down over the course of the transition
  • New delivery timeframes for orders (if needed)
  • Management of inventory e.g. transportation to new facilities and software integration

At Whiplash, we have dedicated support teams who are specially trained to support new customers and their unique fulfillment needs – including overseeing the entire onboarding process as the operation comes online in our facilities. This ensures that once the transition is complete, they’ll be no delays in getting orders out the door.

2. Prepare for integration with new management systems

Moving warehouses involves far more than just transferring product from one place to another. In 2020, just about every 3PL has its own systems for inventory management. A major part of successfully switching providers is ensuring that your 3PL Shopify integration or alternative store integrator is fully set up across these systems well in advance of the commencement date on the contract.This way, you’re all ready to go the moment orders start coming into your new warehouse.

The Whiplash platform uses a real-time inventory management system, which also offers seamless integration with a range of ecommerce platforms such as Shopify. This ensures that merchants always have access to the latest data on orders, returns, and SKU counts – no matter where their new warehouse is situated.

3. Arrange your new distribution center locations

When you’re changing providers, there’s a pretty high likelihood that your warehouse locations are going to be different from what they were previously. Depending on where your customer base is located, this could affect your ability to offer the same shipping times or promotional deals that you’ve used in the past.

With its extensive distribution network and close proximity to all four of the major ports in the United States, Whiplash is uniquely positioned to move high volumes of inbound goods directly to the closest center via a multi-node fulfillment approach, ensuring maximum efficiency for merchants.

4. Keep your customers and stakeholders informed

This is last, but definitely not least. When you’re making a major operational decision like moving fulfillment providers, it’s vital that you keep your key stakeholders in the loop.

Because while you might have a solid transition plan in place, the unexpected can always happen – and this can have adverse consequences such as shipping delays or stock shortages.

Instead, consider using moving warehouses as a positive outreach opportunity; use your marketing channels to talk up the improved customer experience they will receive through your new 3PL – being proactive always pays dividends!

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