July 2013 | Commentary | Checking In

Finding Supply Chain Feng Shui

Tags: 3PL, Supply Chain Management

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Business process improvement is especially important in today's economic climate. Businesses are sensitive to fixed costs when the economy is swinging like a pendulum. There's shared recognition that they have to stick to their principal business to grow out of the recession; and logistics execution and supply chain excellence is too important to ignore.

That's why transportation and logistics outsourcing presents an ideal model that flexes with changing market dynamics. It blends function and flexibility into a supply chain feng shui that brings greater harmony and balance between supply and demand, all while improving enterprise performance.

Inbound Logistics' annual 3PL issue follows a similar theme. Shippers and 3PLs are becoming more creative in how they model and execute transportation and logistics solutions. Function-specific pragmatism has given way to more elaborate and integrated strategies. Supply chains are more connected than ever before—modally, technologically, geographically, and operationally.

As one example, Merrill Douglas' article Supply Chain Remodeling explores how shippers are looking at 3PLs as an extension of the enterprise, whether it's completely divesting distribution operations, or enabling expansion through low-risk, variable-cost networks. Countless variables in today's economy force companies to strive for continuous improvement. 3PLs provide scalability and objectivity beyond what shippers can accomplish on their own.

Outsourcing is often colored by unique vertical needs. In Cool Under Pressure, Justine Brown takes a look at how shippers and 3PLs all along the cold chain are using technology to increase transparency and efficiency as new regulations loom.

Furniture manufacturers face a different set of challenges, underscored by changing consumer habits and the rising costs of delivering white-glove service the final mile. Lisa Terry's article Polishing the Furniture Supply Chain describes how manufacturers, trucking companies, and 3PLs are working in partnership to share the load.

Finally, per tradition, IL's 18th-annual Top 100 3PLs, Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards, and 3PL Perspectives market research report provide anchorage for this month's editorial coverage. This special section offers a sweeping overview of the trends shaping shipper yin and 3PL yang, while also celebrating logistics service providers that continue to demonstrate excellence.