July 2009 | Commentary | Checking In

I Love My Customer

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If you think your love for a 3PL is an exclusive one-way street, think again. The feelings are mutual. Sure, you appreciate the value a logistics service provider brings to the relationship: the core intelligence, the sense and sensibility, the thoughtfulness when planning on future demand.

But don't be fooled. 3PLs have a vested business interest to look after your best interests—and naturally they like to keep you close to the vest.

Partnership is core to logistics and supply chain outsourcing success. It's what helps businesses negotiate rocky roads and rock on through the golden years; it's what enables tactical problem-solving and enthuses strategic decision-making. 3PLs are only too happy to make your acquaintance.

This being our annual Third-Party Logistics issue, outsourcing affection is all around. Small- and medium-sized businesses appreciate the care and attention 3PLs provide as together they size up opportunities to grow even when the chips are down. Merrill Douglas' article, Small Fish, Big Splash illustrates the value smaller players reap by using 3PL partnerships to turn logistics into an expense rather than a capital cost. Who said outsourcing love couldn't be quantified?

Conversely, third-party logistics grew out of calculated, commoditized, and brokered warehousing and transportation contracts. As these relationships solidified, and functional silos crumbled, 3PLs built their value proposition by expanding services and resources, scaling inventory to demand, and growing more invested in their customers' business. Switched On: Bringing the 3PL Machine to Life by Joseph O'Reilly explores the mechanics of logistics outsourcing partnerships, and how service providers and customers are spinning each other in new directions.

Current economic strife is also casting the transportation and logistics industry into uncharted territories. 3PL Perspectives (page 85), our annual report of trends in the third-party logistics market, scopes out how service providers are investing in and tailoring their services to match customer needs and become better partners.

If you're in the market for a best-in-class 3PL, we can help. Our annual Top 100 3PL Providers list, hand-picked by IL editors, serves as an in-depth resource that identifies and illuminates leading logistics service providers.

Or, if you like, consider your peers' top picks. This year, IL readers cast more than 6,000 votes for 3PLs they believe are truly one-of-a-kind. Our Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards profile these attention-getters.

The "3PL machine" is very much a study in change as companies and service providers adapt to enterprise- and market-driven forces. Outsourcing has become less mechanical and more instinctive—passionate, even—particularly as partners grow together and become extensions of one another.

That's why you love your third-party logistics partners—and why they return the favor in hearts of logistics gold.

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