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  • Amanda Quintanilla

Are Pharma and Biotech Companies Asking Potential 3PL Partners the Right Questions?

When a manufacturer selects a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) provider, they are essentially choosing a partner that will be front and center to the success of their product launch. In many cases, a 3PL acts as the face of the manufacturer, communicating with customers and acting on their behalf.

Tina Gafford, pharmaceutical consultant, Archbow Consulting

At Archbow, we encourage our clients to be mindful about asking the right questions when selecting any vendor partners, including 3PLs. We asked new Archbow team member, Amanda Quintanilla, to share her expertise in this area. Before joining Archbow, Amanda worked at McKesson for 16 years in progressive roles, including launching and managing 3PL programs on behalf of manufacturers.

Are Pharma and Biotech Companies Asking Potential 3PL Partners the Right Questions?

By Amanda Quintanilla

When selecting a 3PL partner, it is essential for manufacturers to start early. We recommend to our clients that they begin the RFP process 18 months prior to product launch. This allows enough time for manufacturers to have crucial conversations and ask in-depth questions of potential 3PL partners.

When reviewing 3PL capabilities, there are key questions to ask:

How flexible is the 3PL to your unique product needs?

Not all product models are the same, so manufacturers will want to ensure that they have a 3PL partner who will listen and conform to end goals. While a lot of the daily functions may be the same across multiple manufacturers, it is essential to have a partner who will listen to your concerns and ideas and help problem solve immediately, when needed. Since the 3PL is on the front line of your business, they should reflect a culture that is adaptable to manufacturer requests and changes.

Good questions to ask potential 3PL partners include:

  • Can you provide examples of how your 3PL has tailored standard procedures to meet the needs of current clientele?

  • Is the 3PL adaptable from systems, customer care and account management, and logistics perspectives?

These examples will allow manufacturers to determine how willing the 3PL has been in the past to tailor changes to their standard processes and if they can provide real-time solutions to problems, should they occur.

How well-connected is a 3PL with your target customers?

Having a 3PL partner that already has existing connections with your customers can streamline your engagement. If customer relationships do not already exist, it may require the manufacturer to become more involved to ensure the right parties are connected.

Good questions to ask potential 3PL partners include:

  • How active is the 3PL with target customers today?

  • Do they trade EDI files with target customers already?

  • Can the 3PL provide data detailing how often files are shared with targeted customers?

  • If a 3PL does not work with targeted customers today, what is required to build that relationship? How long will that take?

What partnerships with logistic companies does the 3PL have?

A partner who understands logistics through and through is another critical factor when selecting a 3PL. Having someone hands-on at the fulfilling distribution center who understands the statistics behind the logistics and options for various shipping methods will prove to be a vital asset.

These areas can often be overlooked during launch because there are many moving parts leading up to launch. But having a subject matter expert who understands the specific product/shipping requirements can help manufacturers identify best-in-class options in support of launch success. 3PLs should be aware of what works best for pack-out and shipping solutions and how to ensure that products realize on-time delivery every time.

Good questions to ask potential 3PL partners include:

  • Does the 3PL have relationships with both logistic and packaging companies?

  • What are turnaround times for scheduling dedicated trucks (if applicable)?

  • What stats does the 3PL track and share for on-time shipments?

  • Is there a hands-on expert to help the manufacturer with the pack out of their product?

  • Who can advise on outer pack solutions and ensure the best price is made available?

When it comes to technology, what sets the 3PL apart?

3PL-generated data is essential for a manufacturer’s management and oversight of a product’s distribution. That makes understanding what type of data the 3PL typically shares and what connections they have to make this data available to the manufacturer very important. Manufacturers should assess data needs internally and understand how the organization prefers to receive data files, and then share that information with potential 3PL partners to confirm capabilities.

Good questions to ask potential 3PL partners include:

  • What data connections are available?

  • Do the requested connections equate to additional pricing?

  • What is the turnaround time for establishing data feed connections?

  • How many users can access available data portals?

  • Is the 3PL able to schedule reporting on a reoccurring basis?

  • How are changes to data feeds managed?

By asking the right questions, manufacturers are able to establish partnerships with 3PLs that drive the success of their products. At Archbow Consulting, we have an experienced team of 3PL experts that work day-in and day-out helping manufacturers build and implement effective 3PL programs. If we can help your team, contact us today to get started.


Archbow Consulting helps pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the USA and Europe design, build, and optimize product distribution and patient access strategies. Archbow was founded by industry veterans to meet a need in the marketplace for consulting options that offer diverse real-world experience, are able to leverage deep connections across the industry, and can also provide actionable strategic guidance. We invite you to learn more about our team, services, and clients’ success, and connect with us via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or subscribing to this blog which you can do below.

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