what is 7plLast year we talked about how a Fourth-party logistics provider (abbreviated 4PL) PLUS a Third-party logistics provider (3PL) might be regarded as a Seventh-Party logistics provider. But what is a LEAD LOGISTICS PROVIDER? Do we have too many layers, or does each add value? Is anybody, other than supply chain theory people embracing the 7PL concept?

robot drivingI’ve covered supply chain and third-party logistics (3PL) automation technologies for years. There’s been a variety of “cool” solutions, many of them featuring robots, RFID, sensors and the like. But many of these solutions labor in the shadows of mainstream logistics operations, and some aren’t even that lucky. RFID – arguably thanks to the Wal-Mart mandate in the early 2000s – has perhaps made the most inroads. But there’s another automated logistics solution that’s getting some attention, and it comes in the form of little orange bots.

shiptrackingAnnual revenues of U.S.-based 3PL providers are $60 billion, and the good news is that figure is projected to grow, as 3PL providers increase their service offerings. The next logical step from there is for them to improve customer service. As technology continues to rapidly change, 3PLs “must focus on management and relationship processes, global offerings, comprehensive solutions for the entire supply chain and information technology,’’ says Pamela Gabor, group manager, Logistics Sales, at SPS Commerce.

logisticstruckThe only thing that’s a given when it comes to gas prices is that they are in a constant state of flux, supplies are unpredictable and therefore new models have to be considered. Companies can be proactive, though, when it comes to their supply chain strategies. It is critical to have a dynamic, rather than static supply chain strategy in a time of rising oil prices.

risk2I help my buddy Buzz select articles for the Supply Chain Buzz page every week (our motto: “we read ‘em so you don’t have to!”). We review a range of stories and blogs on the subjects of supply chain, electronic commerce, ERP, continuous improvement, and general management. Since there’s a great diversity of jobs, departments, and company sizes among our readers, not all will be on target. However, we noticed a few themes that cut across nearly all jobs and organizations. Let’s take a look at a prominent one: risk.