Logistics Service Providers Add Value

Three ways 3PLs can enhance your capabilities: efficiency, technology and access to vital analytics

Logistics Service Providers

Increasing consumer expectations, ongoing volatility, and the drive to increase efficiency and control costs continue to enhance the value logistics service providers offer to shippers. The supply chain and logistics sectors have relied significantly on third-party providers to create and deliver value to end-user customers and consumers, the 27th Annual Third-Party Logistics Study reported.

“As the relevance of the end-to-end supply concept continues to advance, it has become clear that the quality of relationships between 3PLs and shippers is a valuable component of overall supply chain success,” according to the report, which was sponsored by Penske Logistics.

Dr. John Langley, a Penn State University supply chain professor and the founder of the Third-Party Logistics Study, wrote within the report that shippers continue to leverage what logistics service providers offer, and this facilitates optimization of the supply chain, minimization of costs and creation of value. Here are three ways logistics service providers are adding value to their customers.

Logistics Service Providers Drive Efficiency

The use of outsourcing can drive efficiencies, and each shipper organization needs to diligently assess the need for all of its supply chain services and determine which strategies relating to outsourcing best fit their needs, according to the study. The percentage of total logistics expenditures directed to outsourcing was slightly higher at 42% in the 2023 study, versus the 40% reported in the previous 3PL study.

There has been a continuation of the most frequently outsourced activities, which tend to be those that are more transactional, operational and repetitive, Langley wrote. The most prevalent activities shippers outsource is domestic transportation (69%), freight forwarding (60%), international transportation (52%) and customs brokerage (51%).

Technology Provided by a Logistics Service Provider

The 2023 Third-Party Logistics Study highlighted once again how important it is for logistics service providers to provide a range of IT-based services to help create value for their shipper customers. Shippers are increasingly aware that if they do not have the technological capabilities to accomplish their goals, they should partner with those that do.

Technology is increasing at a rapid pace and 65% of shippers stated that their expectations have been increasing, while 78% of 3PLs believe that shipper expectations have increased in regard to the technology solutions they offer.

Shippers appear to be becoming more confident in 3PLs’ technology offerings. Execution and transaction-based technologies tended to increase over the previous year, including transportation management-planning (62%), transportation management-scheduling (57%) and warehouse/distribution center management (48%), according to the study.

The majority of shippers — 94% — agree that IT capabilities are a necessary element of 3PL expertise, and 56% of shippers agree they are satisfied with logistics service providers’ IT capabilities, which the study identifies as the “IT Gap.”

Access to Analytics is Critical

As the amount of available data increases, shippers and their logistics partners will need to be able to take the available information and make it relevant. Many logistics service providers are already making significant investments in technology that allow them to analyze shippers’ operations. Nearly half of shipper respondents (48%) said advanced analytics and data mining tools are a “must have” information technology.

Various studies have documented the need for analytics to improve business planning and operations, and a number of these have focused specifically on applications and implications for supply chains and the key processes implied therein, Dr. Langley said.

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