December 2012 | Commentary | Viewpoint

3PLs Create a Unified Supply Chain Voice

Tags: Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations, Industry Associations

Joel Anderson is President & CEO, International Warehouse Logistics Association, 847-813-4699

The International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) created its new Public Policy Center to ensure third-party logistics (3PL) providers are knowledgeable players in the public policy arena. Its goal is policy creation that makes sense and benefits all businesses, employers, and employees throughout the supply chain.

The IWLA and its active, policy-aware members have experience leading this fight. One example occurred in 2007, when the Michigan state legislature, in a midnight maneuver, adopted a six-percent tax on warehouse, logistics, consulting, and courier services—without holding a hearing or debate.

IWLA swiftly commissioned a Michigan State University study, which showed that, if allowed to remain in place, the tax would result in a net annual loss of $55 million in tax revenues for state and local governments, and would eliminate more than 7,000 warehouse-related jobs. Because of the study's persuasive findings, the state legislature voted to withdraw the tax.

More recently, IWLA Washington Representative Pat O'Connor organized educational visits to warehouse operations by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors. These visits came after an FDA inspector entered an IWLA member's warehouse facility and demanded to see the warehouse owner's sales receipts for the inventory of vitamin supplements—and could not understand that the warehouse was merely storing the vitamins for a customer.

Guiding Policy Makers

IWLA members twice yearly take part in organized visits to their members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Some have furthered the education of our lawmakers by inviting them to visit logistics facilities so they can see how the supply chain really works.

We have found these efforts to be effective in putting a human face on the consequences of government policy. For a public awareness campaign to work, however, a daily commitment to telling our industry's story is required. This is a never-ending effort.

Warehouses, other 3PLs, and the broader supply chain sector need to make a greater effort to manage our collective public image by deploying facts and the truth. This is where the IWLA Public Policy Center comes in. It is driven by four guiding objectives:

  1. Commission intellectually rigorous and credible studies from non-partisan, Class I research academic institutions that have a recognized supply chain discipline program.
  2. Leverage the research by deploying a robust and effective communications campaign.
  3. Retain legal counsel to develop briefs in regulatory proceedings as required where the industry's legal protection is in question.
  4. Engage additional grassroots resources on an issue-by-issue basis to realize our goals.

The IWLA Public Policy Center is now commissioning original research on the role of the warehouse-based 3PL sector in creating jobs and career ladders. This research will also assess the multiplier impact this employment has outside the industry.

IWLA will disseminate the facts across multiple media platforms to clarify the important role of 3PLs and their supply chain partners as valued contributors to the economy and society.