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The Difference Between 3pl and 4pl

Posted on 20. May, 2015 by in 3pl

Having the proper logistics in place helps business operations to move smoothly. As such, it is beneficial for decision makers to stay abreast of the new and evolving logistical trends. 3pl and 4pl have grown in popularity, and some may wonder about the difference in the two. Understanding the way in which they both function can help to shed light on the matter.


Third party logistics, or 3pl, can basically be described as a third party company that a business’ logistical needs are outsourced to. A 3pl firm can focus on one aspect of logistics or a number of different areas. As such, a 3pl firm usually performs these services for more than one company. This service allows the business to focus on building and growing their company without worrying about the details of the logistical aspects.


Fourth party logistics, or 4pl, is strongly related to 3pl. In fact, the overall duty of 4pl is to oversee and manage the operations of 3pls. This type of logistical management is usually most beneficial for larger companies that may have several 3pl firms in place. The 4pl ensures that the 3pls are operating efficiently to accomplish the company’s set goals. Being that a 3pl firm can be in a number of different places around the world, a 4pl firm must be technological and management savvy. A high level of experience in the particular logistical management areas is also quite desirable.

Main Difference

As you can see, 3pl and 4pl firms are closely related. They both focus on ensuring that logistics are running smoothly. As such, they are both management focused; however, the type of management makes the difference. While 3pl firms focus on managing the operations, 4pl firms mainly focus on managing the people and firms that manage the operations.

With a full understanding of 3pl and 4pl firms, a business can make an educated decision about the logistics system that would be best for the company. For more information and to find the best choice for you, contact your local logistics provider.

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