The Third Party Logistics Study, created in the mid-1990s as a means of evaluating trends in the 3PL industry, has developed into a valuable research tool over the course of its 17 years of publication. The most recent survey provides some interesting findings that are worth touching upon. Here is a rundown of the more salient points.
The state of the market today. This year’s research has found that the vast majority of shippers and 3PL providers consider their relationships with each other successful. This would explain why roughly 65% of shippers look to their 3PL partners when the need for expansion arises (rather than returning to insourcing for their distribution needs).
The need for disruptive innovation. Surveyed shippers expressed an increased desire for disruptive innovation from their 3PL providers. Simply put, disruptive innovation is the concept of a development, advance or invention that literally “disrupts” the existing status quo because of its measurable improvement upon prevailing processes. Shippers are challenging their 3PL partners to introduce these types of “positive disruption” within the market – be they in management, infrastructure or technology – in an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Nurturing workforce talent. 3PL companies and shippers alike agree on the importance of cultivating a talented workforce in order to achieve their goals and to drive the aforementioned disruptive innovation. Employee and management training and certifications topped the list of preferred methods of human resource investment.
The importance of IT. Over 50% of 3PL providers are anticipating a substantial investment in their IT services over the coming year. It will be interesting to see if that increased spend translates to buy-in of the emerging cloud computing model, or simply bolstering current IT infrastructure and resources.
Trends for the coming year. Respondents agreed on the need for continual, agile monitoring of 3PL-related data, in order to better identify new opportunities in the field as they arise. Many 3PL providers are also seriously considering global expansion as an antidote for the current weakened national economy.