Jan 28, 2016

A lot has changed for logistics in the past few years, not just in terms of the technology available, but how the supply chain is handled. One of the big game changers has certainly been the increased reliance on third party logistics providers.

Once simply another business relationship used in a specific area or for special projects, many companies are finding themselves handing off more and more responsibility to 3PLs as they look to increase business, expand their reach, and maximize their efficiencies.

But as you deepen your 3PL relationships, you also need to set your expectations higher. Particularly towards the future. As your business continues to head down the road to tomorrow, you need to know your 3PL will be there with you, keeping pace, if not leading the way.

So the question is, is your 3PL partner moving towards the future?

The basic 3PL needs are more Important than ever
As you plan out the future with a 3PL in mind, you need to make sure now more than ever that you’re working with the right 3PL. Do they share your goals and values? Are they collaborating and transparent? Do they meet the deadlines they say they will?

The small ripples you see in the relationship now can turn into waves of trouble in the future.

(For more on choosing a long-term 3PL partner, make sure you to check out this post.)

Are they investing in and pursuing new technology?
As new logistics technology continues to arise, your 3PL should be at the forefront. Are they utilizing new technology? Do they successfully harness the capabilities mobile data, real-time statistics, cloud access, and more?

Are they then able to help your business adapt to new tech trends?

If they invest a lot in the future already, it’s a good sign that they’ll be prepared for what’s to come.

How do they handle ecommerce and omni-channel fulfillment?
The way people ordered items changed significantly with the internet. And thanks to mobile devices, in-store pickup, and same day delivery, it’s changing all over again. Ecommerce, which is currently 11.83% of all commerce sales is expected to grow to over 20% in the next 3 years. Your 3PL is going to need to be continually more flexible as omni-channel fulfillment becomes the new normal.

If they can assist in last mile transportation, that certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Global capabilities
Just because you only deal nationally now doesn’t mean you always will. If you were to expand to major foreign cities right now, would your 3PLs be able to assist you? What about lesser known cities or developing countries? Know where you’d like to grow and see if your 3PL with go with you.

Just how accurate are they?
As visibility grows, the margin for error lessens. Part of logistics that once consisted of educated guesses is now driven by real-time data. High-level accuracy is no longer just important it’s mandatory. Supply chains are capable of executing on a level that once simply wasn’t possible.

Currently, distribution centers lose an average of more than $400,000 a year due to accuracy. With mobile and data driven technology, this number should be able to be brought down drastically, and that should be a big priority for your 3PL.

For the long-haul
Finding a hardworking, relevant, competitive 3PL is one of the best ways to prepare your business for the future. If you’re looking, we’d love to talk. Not to brag, but we stay pretty hip when it comes to trends and capabilities. And we’re always looking to build strong, long-lasting relationships.

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