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2PL’s, 3PL’s: Should You Outsource Your Pick Pack Logistics or Bring It Back in House?

April 4, 2024
Manufacturing and 2 party logistics, and 3rd party logistics operations

Effectively navigating the decision between outsourcing pick pack operations to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider or maintaining an in-house approach is a pivotal decision point for businesses, and it necessitates a thorough examination of numerous factors. Each of these factors holds significant implications for the efficiency and overall success of your operations. To assist leaders in making an informed decision, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages associated with outsourcing your pick pack to a 3PL, versus managing your own 2PL logistics. The emphasis is placed on aligning these choices with the unique needs of your business, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the implications involved. 

Let’s dive into your choices. 

Running Your Own 2PL 

Establishing and managing your own 2PL can yield cost savings and provides you with complete oversight of your company’s operations. However, the venture demands a substantial initial investment and a solid plan to successfully set up and run such an operation. It is imperative to meticulously set up all facets of the operation to optimize storage space, ensure efficiency, adhere to regulatory compliance standards, and furnish the necessary equipment, supplies and resources. Additionally, securing the right location, configuring internal processes, implementing appropriate technology, assembling an experienced team, establishing clear policies and procedures, and ensuring compliance with safety guidelines. This high level list is not meant to deter you from embarking on the challenge, it is, however, what you will need to set up your warehouse successfully.  

You can eliminate or minimize some of the common challenges companies face when outsourcing their pick pack logistics such as losing pallets of inventory, misshipments, reverse logistics, last mile reporting and logistics, claims, and damages. You will oversee managing vendor relationships, negotiating fees, and tracking. Customer service teams will also need to manage customer concerns and have the tools to rectify customer issues.  

Despite these challenges, operating your own 2PL provides unparalleled control over every aspect of your business. This encompasses authority over carriers, pricing strategies, kitting processes, operational hours, and inventory management. Essentially you can run the logistics of your business to align with your goals and brand.  


  1. Total Control: Complete control over your pick pack operations, enabling customization and immediate response to your business’ changing needs. You decide how, and how much.  
  1. Direct Oversight: Of your team, processes, and inventory, fostering a hands-on approach to managing all facets of your logistics.  
  1. Costs: Managing and maintaining costs is a key advantage to operating your own 2PL. You will not pay the markups 3PLs charge for their services.  


  1. Resource Intensity: Setting up and maintaining an in-house logistics operation demands substantial upfront investments in infrastructure, technology, and skilled personnel. 
  1. Limited Scalability: In-house operations may face challenges scaling up or down efficiently in response to fluctuations in demand. 
  1. Human capital limitations: Hiring and managing the right talent can be challenging in a competitive market. 

Outsourcing Your Pick Pack Logistics to a 3PL 

Outsourcing your pick pack logistics to a third-party logistics provider (3PL) offers a key advantage: the capacity to scale your business while entrusting the intricacies of pick pack logistics to professionals. This eliminates the need for a specialized in-house team, allowing your recruitment efforts to be directed toward other essential skill sets. Delegating this operational aspect to a third party affords you the opportunity to redirect resources to critical areas of your business, such as sales and marketing. Moreover, you sidestep the overhead costs associated with maintaining your own warehouse, including insurance, human capital insurance, and the need for a comprehensive continuity plan. 

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the trade-off. You will need to align your policies with the lead-time, reverse logistics, returns and damages policies of the vendor handling your logistics.  

Depending on a 3PL involves relinquishing control over your operations, reputation, and inventory. Adherence to the 3PL’s rules, regulations, and policies becomes necessary, and their services come at a cost that must be factored into your financial considerations. You will need to decide on whether you can and will pass some of those costs off to your customer such as shipping and return charges or building these costs into your price.  


  1. Scalability: 3PLs often offer scalable solutions, allowing your business to adapt quickly to fluctuations in demand without the need for significant internal adjustments. 
  1. Cost Efficiency: By leveraging the resources of a specialized logistics provider, you can potentially reduce operational costs associated with infrastructure, staffing, and technology. 
  1. Expertise: 3PLs bring a wealth of expertise and experience to pick pack logistics, staying abreast of industry best practices and innovations. 


  1. Loss of Control: Relying on a 3PL means relinquishing some control over critical aspects of your operations, including the handling of inventory and adherence to specific procedures. 
  1. Dependency: Your business becomes dependent on the 3PL’s performance and reliability, which could impact your overall business continuity. 
  1. Fees: Remember pick pack is a transactional business, you will pay per pick, kitting projects, inserts, reverse logistics, and storage fees.  

The Balancing Act 

Every business is made up of four essential components: people, processes, technology, and customer experience. To navigate the complexity of organizational strategy, each business must embark on a journey of self-discovery, meticulously understanding its unique needs, challenges, and operational preferences. Before deciding whether to embrace outsourcing or expand internal operations, a thorough examination of these internal dynamics is imperative. 

It is essential for businesses to introspect and define their operational intricacies, discerning the interplay between their workforce, established processes, technological infrastructure, and the overall customer experience. This introspective analysis forms a starting point for strategic decision-making regarding the allocation of resources and the structuring of operational frameworks. 

Amidst the dynamic landscape of business competition, it is prudent to resist the temptation of mirroring competitors without a comprehensive understanding of one’s own organizational fingerprint. While it is crucial to be aware of industry trends and benchmarks, blindly emulating the strategies of others can lead to misalignment with the inherent strengths and weaknesses of a specific business. 

The decision-making process regarding whether to internalize operations or opt for outsourcing should be a product of the internal analysis. This analysis should delve into the specific needs, risk tolerance, and overarching goals of the business in question. By aligning the decision with internal requirements and strategic objectives, a business ensures that its chosen path is a tailored fit, fostering long-term sustainability and success. In essence, the choice between internalization and outsourcing should be an organic outcome of a thorough self-assessment rather than a reactionary response to external circumstances. 

The Pros and Cons of 2PL vs. 3PL Strategies 

Navigating the choice between 2PL (second-party logistics) and 3PL (third-party logistics) strategies involves a nuanced exploration of their respective pros and cons. Contrary to a straightforward decision, the considerations are multifaceted and demand careful examination. The following provides a comprehensive overview of the advantages and disadvantages inherent in both 2PL and 3PL strategies, shedding light on the complexities of this pivotal decision. Most importantly, this list will vary from one company to another, and it is important to fully understand the pros and cons of both choices.  

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Strategy: 

In summary, the choice between outsourcing pick pack operations and managing them in-house is a nuanced decision, and its success pivots on aligning the chosen strategy with the specific size and needs of your business. Deliberate consideration of the outlined advantages and disadvantages empowers you to make a well-informed decision, steering your business toward optimal operational efficiency and sustainable growth. 

When formulating a strategy for pick-pack operations, the dimensions of your business—its size, budget, and unique requirements—must be central to the decision-making process. Smaller enterprises might find value in internalizing pick-pack logistics, whereas larger businesses, grappling with extensive operations, could benefit from the scalability offered by third-party logistics services. Considerations should also encompass your capacity for regulatory compliance, customization needs, and shipping requirements. 

The choice between a 2PL and a 3PL strategy emerges as a pivotal business decision, demanding a meticulous evaluation of your current business standing and long-term aspirations. While each strategy carries inherent advantages and drawbacks, a nuanced understanding of your business’s distinctive needs becomes instrumental in selecting the solution that fosters sustained growth. Seeking counsel from logistics experts can be invaluable in guiding your decision-making process, ensuring that the chosen strategy aligns seamlessly with your business objectives. Speak with a logistics expert today about your logistics needs.