What’s the difference between 3PL and 4PL?

What is the difference between a 3PL and 4PL

You may have heard the terms 3PL and 4PL used when discussing eCommerce logistics.

In fact, you may have even seen the terms 5PL, or even 7PL bandied around.

With so many different logistics models around, it can get confusing. You just want a logistics partner that understands you, who can handle your inventory and order fulfilment, and help you save time and money on your overheads.

So what do 3PL and 4PL actually mean, and what do these differences mean for your business?

What’s the difference between 3PL and 4PL?

Third party logistics, or 3PL providers, offer flexible storage, order fulfilment, and freight and transportation services to your eCommerce business. They typically focus on managing the logistics of getting your products from point A to point B.

This can involve storing your products in their warehouse, and then shipping them out when the customer needs them. In a nutshell, they take responsibility for every aspect of your fulfilment and shipping, from accepting products from your supplier and managing your inventory, to receiving your orders and picking, packing, and posting your stock.


Where 3PL providers offer warehousing and transportation services, 4PL providers go beyond that to offer value-added services that optimise a business’ entire supply chain performance.

4PL, or fourth-party logistics providers, deliver complete logistics services to not just your eCommerce warehousing team, but to your product manufacturers. Your 4PL partner effectively oversees your entire business supply chain, from the factory through to the final delivery.

4PL providers are also more likely to be involved in the strategic decision-making process within their clients’ businesses. They take a more holistic view of the supply chain and look at how all the different parts fit together and work to optimise it as a whole. 4PL warehouse providers may also provide consulting services to help their clients make improvements to their supply chain.

Why would I choose a 4PL partner?

Finding the right 3PL warehouse partner is a great option for eCommerce businesses that require flexible storage, efficient fulfilment, and a more cost-effective logistics solution.

4PL warehouse partners, on the other hand, are better suited to larger, enterprise-level eCommerce businesses that want to improve their overall supply chain performance and efficiency. They’re able to get involved in the strategic decision-making process within their clients’ businesses, which means they can help identify and resolve issues before they become a problem.

4PL warehouse providers are also typically more technologically advanced than 3PL providers, which is especially beneficial for eCommerce businesses that operate in a global market. They have the scale and expertise necessary to manage complex global supply chains.

3PL vs 4PL: which one is right for my business?

When it comes to choosing a 3PL or 4PL warehouse provider, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each.

3PL providers offer storage and transportation services, which can be beneficial for growing eCommerce businesses that are looking to expand or need support in optimising their logistics processes.

4PL providers offer storage transportation on a larger scale and provide value-added services that can improve a business’s supply chain performance.

So it really comes down to the size of your business, and your logistics needs.

For most eCommerce and traditional businesses, your focus is on delivering exceptional products to your customers, rather than optimising your supply chain processes from start to finish. So it’s more efficient, and much more cost-effective for your business needs, to work with a 3PL warehouse partner like Max Packer 3PL.

At Max Packer 3PL we provide technology-enabled 3PL warehouse services to handle your order fulfilment and inventory management processes for you. We help you streamline your inventory and shipping, optimise your sales processes, and take the burden of managing your logistics off your plate. We work with you to create a strong, long-term relationship that enables your business to grow.

And when it looks like a 4PL partner might be more suited to your organisation, we’ll make sure you find the one that’s best for your business.

Max Packer 3PL is here to help growing eCommerce brands to free up their time, save money, and optimise their logistics. Get in touch with our friendly team today to schedule a discovery call and discuss a 3PL solution for your business.



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