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Logistics Trends

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.

There’s no secret sauce for doing this; it all boils down to having the right technology in place. “3PL providers will need to invest in electronic markets, supplier management systems, and supply chain planning systems to utilize Web-based customer service,” says Gabor. She believes that more of them are beginning to understand that EDI and technology is going to help them grow their business without adding additional people power.

“As we continue to get more information out there to them and they better educate themselves, I think we’ll see more of a trend toward 3PLs asking their customers to use their preferred method of information exchange -- whatever that may be -- as opposed to signing up for whatever the supplier wants them to do.”

Besides EDI, some 3PLs have portals to transmit information or they use software, although that may mean having to write a new connection ever time they add a new customer. EDI is the industry standard and seems to be the way to go so they don’t have to do this manual work, and it is something the retailers are pushing the suppliers to use and so on down the line.

“It’s the most efficient way for a retailer to know… what’s in the shipment,’’ says Gabor. Once the retailer places an order and sends it to a supplier, it likely sends it to their 3PL to process it. Then an ASN goes to retailer so it will know what to expect, what store the goods are going to – all the way down to what shelf they will be placed on. This saves hours and hours of time opening boxes and looking at packing lists so the retailer can efficiently get products the shelf so they can be sold. It eliminates a lot of manual processes for retailers. Sounds like a trend whose time has come and what better time for it to happen than in the New Year?

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