New Study Highlights Role of Third-Party Logistics Providers in Helping Shippers Adapt to Economic Challenges

The fourteenth Annual Third Party Logistics (3PL) Study examining the current global market for logistics outsourcing was recently released. The study surveyed shippers and logistics service providers in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Key findings included:

* The economic downturn has created significant challenges for both shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) – 82% of shippers are employing cost-cutting tactics and 60% are rethinking their supply chains and relationships with 3PLs
* 88% of shippers feel that IT-based logistics services are important, but only 42% are satisfied with the capabilities of their provider – as a result of this IT capability gap, shipper respondents reported a lack of the key performance indicators, alerts and visibility required for an adaptive supply chain and 3PLs reported similar difficulties in getting the data and commitment they need from shippers
* There are significant differences between how 3PLs evaluate their role in the supply chain and how they are viewed by shippers – 59% of shippers feel their use of 3PLs has a positive effect on customer service compared to 88% of 3PL respondents
* Shipper respondents devote an average of between 47% (in North America) and 66% (in Europe) of their total logistics expenditures to outsourcing and this is expected to increase in the next five years.

“Shipper-3PL relationships are being impacted significantly by the prevailing uncertainty and economic volatility in global markets,” said Dr. C. John Langley Jr., Professor of Supply Chain Management, Georgia Institute of Technology. “It is very important for 3PLs to mitigate or reduce any financial risk or service level impact that this may cause.”

Economic uncertainty and the use of 3PLs
Economic volatility has challenged shippers and 3PLs alike to contend with factors such as unpredictable demand, instability in fuel costs and currency valuation, and excess inventory. In response, not only are shippers attempting to cut costs, 77% are also seeking to improve forecasting and inventory management.

Cost reduction and improved reliability in services are the main factors likely to increase shipper respondents’ use of 3PLs. This includes converting fixed to variable costs (59%), expanding to new markets or offering new products (56%), and restructuring the supply chain network to improve financial performance (48%).

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