What Is The Difference Between CNF, CFA, And 3PL?

Is your ultimate goal to be a manufacturer? That’s easy, however, it’s the delivery of your manufactured goods to the target customer or final point of sale that can interfere with your market reputation and customer satisfaction. So, how can you manage the delivery aspect when the core part of your business needs a lot more time and energy? Well, the solution is going for a competent supply chain, logistics, and distribution unit for your product.

Managing all aspects of a business can be difficult in such a competitive market. As a result, organisations seek third-party logistics to outsource their operational logistics.

On the other hand, different ways of handling logistics and distribution have emerged over time. Be it the Clearing and Forwarding agent (CNF) or Carrying and Forwarding Agent (CFA) or Third party logistics (3PL), these modes have been brought into practice. Although their foremost function is to deliver the final goods to the customer’s doorstep, each one is different in their core operations

The difference between CNF, CFA, and third-party logistics (3PL) is as follows:

Difference between CNF, CFA, and third-party logistics (3PL)
CNF vs CFA vs 3PL

Clearing and Forwarding Agent (CNF)

CNF deals with the distribution of stock in a specific zone. The primary function of a CNF agent is to procure and maintain a large number of stocks to distribute further. The agent obtains stocks from the manufacturer and makes them available to the company’s dealers and distributors.

Thereafter, the agent is responsible to push the sale to earn a certain percentage of the stock sold. For example, in the pharmaceutical business, a primary distributor procures medicine in bulk below the MRP from the manufacturer and then keeps a certain percentage of the margin in the order received by other distributors. By doing so, the agent is just not forwarding the stock but also clearing the procured stock.

Here, a CNF agent takes charge of all the inventory procured from the manufacturer, procures stocks as per the stock-keeping capacity (SKU), bridges the gap between the manufacturer and wholesaler, and acts as a representative of the company to other distributors.
A CNF agent’s main role is to allocate the product to other distributors in a specific zone and link the gap between a manufacturer and other distributors. And in order to deliver the ordered product to distributors, they approach forwarding agents.

Clearing and Forwarding Agent
Clearing and Forwarding Agent (CNF)

Carrying and Forwarding Agent (CFA)

A CFA agent is someone whose primary concern is to manage the storage and transportation of products from one point to another. These forwarding agents are responsible for bringing out the best carrier service providers – as air freighters, trucking companies, rail freighters, and ocean liners – for the client and then negotiating with the service provider to get the best price for transporting the stocks.

Further, after picking up the stocks from the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, they will be stored at the CFA warehouse or secondary warehouse. The products are then loaded into the fleet according to the size of the order, by third-party logistics.

CFA agents are responsible for organizing methods to decide the fastest and safest mode of transportation of stocks to a designated destination.

Carrying and Forwarding Agent (CFA)
Carrying and Forwarding Agent (CFA)

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) is a one-time solution for all logistics solutions. It comes into play when a company outsources its logistics operations to an external company. It enables the accessibility of its product in the domestic as well as international marketplace. 3PL integrates all the logistic solutions under one roof, improving the supply chain operation. For instance, warehousing, transportation, inventory management, inventory forecasting, material procurement, picking and packing, order fulfilment, freight forwarding, customs brokerage & clearance, payment, documentation, shipment tracking, etc.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)
Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Furthermore, the various functions operated by third-party logistics that make it different from other forwarding agents are:

Supply chain solution –

As we know, the supply chain is a prominent part of any production unit. In this case, the solution involves converting raw materials into finished products and then delivering those products to the target market. This may sound simple, but it’s a complex process and in order to reduce the complexity, companies are approaching third-party logistics. Under the supply chain solution, the services provided by 3PL are packaging, assembling, labelling, licensing, housekeeping, and security of the stocks.

supply_chain Solutions
Supply Chain Solutions

Fulfilment Centre –

The greatest beneficiary from the fulfilment centre function of 3PL is the e-commerce business. Third-party logistics provides facilities for sourcing, quality checking, sorting, storing, picking, packing, and dispatch under the fulfilment centre as per the business requirement of a company. Along with this, third-party logistics reviews the requirement of a business and thereafter, analyses, plans, designs, and implements.

Fulfilment Centre
Fulfilment Centre

The Warehouse –

This function of 3PL has broadened the scope of companies to manage their logistics. These days, for any manufacturer or supplier to allocate a spare space for storing the final product is difficult, but now with the warehouse facility provided by 3PL, this hindrance can be overcome.

There are different kinds of storage spaces 3PL provides. For example, an organisation not willing to spend much on buying property can lease a warehouse for rent. Similarly, ready-to-move (RTM) warehouses, Built-in-suit (BTS) warehouses, customised warehouses, integrated warehouses, and in-city warehouse options are accessible through third-party logistics.


Transportation – 

The foremost function that a 3PL performs is to actually execute the delivery and transport of goods from the warehouse to the endpoint. In addition, the carrier and fleet are selected based on a number of factors, including the size, cost, and destination of the shipment.


Shipping – 

A third-party logistics service provider also provides services to the shipping industry. It means they also manage logistics for companies that do business in the international market.

In order to operate, 3PL uses technology such as transportation management systems (TMS), and integrated management services. Additionally, 3PL attains freight data and matrix reports for better management.

Moreover, third-party logistics also comprises many advantages that compel companies to outsource their logistics to a third party. Some of the advantages include cost reduction, expert opinions and expertise, market expansion, scalability, customer satisfaction, and handling international logistics.


StoreFresh Boosts E-commerce Business Revenue by Offering Best 3PL Services

At StoreFresh, we offer the best 3PL services for businesses. From receiving, quality-checking, sorting and storing, packaging, and reverse logistics, we offer end-to-end fulfilment solutions for all e-commerce businesses. Based in West Bengal, we extend our range of services to Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, and Odisha.

Ready to boost your business with reliable and effective 3PL services? Get in touch with StoreFresh to experience the change.

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2 replies on “What Is The Difference Between CNF, CFA, And 3PL?”

This is an awesome blog, and thanks StoreFresh for listing the differences between the three terms. Really informative and interesting.

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