Readers’ Choice Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards 2015

Tags: 3PL, Supply Chain Management, Partnership, Logistics, Third-Party Logistics, Logistics Solutions Providers

3PLs have the tools, people, knowledge, and experience to help supply chains run more efficiently. Which 3PLs did our readers vote the best of the best?

Managing a global supply chain takes a lot of specialized and complicated know-how. Shippers who don't have the right people on staff to manage logistics operations, or whose businesses grow too big or diverse, may need to hand off those functions to someone else.

Third-party logistics (3PL) companies have the tools, the talent, the knowledge, and the experience to help supply chains operate more efficiently, and savvy logistics managers know when to ask for help.

When bringing a 3PL partner on board, managers need to look for certain qualities.

First, your 3PL should provide some bang for your buck. "C.H. Robinson provided me with the most value for my dollar as it pertains to knowledge of logistics, business trends, and sense of urgency in terms of listening to customers. They are always available 24/7/365, and have proven their commitment," says T.S., a global sourcing specialist.

A good provider helps to offset its own cost by saving shippers money in their own operations. "Menlo has been effective at driving down our transportation costs, finding new providers, and identifying and eliminating unnecessary costs," says I.D., a lead logistics analyst.

Second, strong 3PL partners handle problems before you even know there are problems. "Flexibility in SEKO Logistics' processes makes things easier on us, and they have the knowledge to resolve problems before they affect our service level," says logistics manager G.K.

Third, 3PL partners should have the right attitude, and a willingness to put your needs above all else. "Kenco keeps an extraordinary focus on customer service and regulatory compliance. They go above and beyond to make sure that our customers get their shipments on time and correctly. And they use validated systems that ensure regulatory compliance, with no exceptions," says J.B., a company president.

Finally, 3PLs should display the three R's set forth by R.R., a vice president of business development: "J.B. Hunt consistently meets my three R's: Response, Rates, and Reliability."

By taking on transportation and logistics functions, 3PLs give shippers the freedom to reallocate resources and focus on what they are best at: providing services and making products. Each year, Inbound Logistics' Readers' Choice Top 10 3PL Excellence survey gives those shippers a chance to sing the praises of the partners that do so much for them.

In 2015, 6,250 voters filled out the awards survey to show their appreciation for their logistics partners. Working in myriad positions across the entire spectrum of the supply chain—from purchasing, to warehouse management, to transportation management—voters represent many household names and brands, including Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, American Apparel, YMCA, Nestlé, 3M, Whirlpool, Monsanto, Ace Hardware, and McDonald's. Each of those companies spends millions on transportation and logistics annually. (See About the Survey Respondents and Vote of Thanks on the following pages for more background on this year's voters.)

With such a large sampling of job titles making up the voter pool, our reade rs provide us with valuable data that lets us take the pulse of the supply chain. For example, survey respondents love partnerships that are easy: "Landstar? I call them plug-and-play," says J.L., an asset manager.

For many shippers, reliability is paramount. "With Echo, my shipments always arrive on time, and I've never had to file a claim for damaged or missing items," reports logistics manager M.H.

Most importantly, shippers care about service quality, with 70 percent of survey respondents saying quality is more important than price (though that number notably declined from 80 percent in 2014). Additionally, 43 percent say poor customer service is the reason shipper/3PL relationships fail. With such a high focus on quality service, many shippers say the key is to find a partner that can best meet your needs, and stick with them. "SEKO Logistics is the only company we now use, after having tried many," one shipper says. "They always get the job done for us."

1. C.H. Robinson

Why They Won: "C.H. Robinson has always valued our employees who have a knack for building strong relationships with our customers and work hard to help make their supply chain a competitive advantage," says John Wiehoff, CEO and Chairman of the Board. "Our global employee base has the local market knowledge and the ability to develop innovative solutions for our current and future customers, which, in turn, helps position C.H. Robinson as the 3PL of choice."

Customers consider the Prairie, Minn.-based 3PL a true business partner. "C.H. Robinson plays a pivotal role in our daily operation, andcontinues to exceed expectations with its high level of customer service and strategic approach to managing our business," says Aaron Leach, senior director of supply chain at Wayne Farms.

"They are a true extension of our logistics department, and get freight moving seamlessly," says another customer.

Client Roster:

  • VIZIO
  • REI
  • Evergreen Packaging
  • General Cable
  • Dole Packaged Foods
  • Shell

Case Study: Energizer Holdings

Diverse transportation processes across products prevented Energizer Holdings, a battery and personal care products manufacturer, from reaching the maximum potential for savings and efficiency. The manufacturer turned to C.H. Robinson to help expand a successful crossdock solution in China to incorporate all of its business lines. This allowed the company to reduce its transportation budget and cut the total weight and volume shipped between U.S. distribution centers by 65 percent due to added visibility, efficiency, and upfront planning.

Thanks to the success of the crossdock, Energizer Holdings started plans to expand the process for the remaining products shipped from Asia to the United States. The company anticipates the expansion will consolidate activities and cut redundancies to drive financial savings.

2. Echo

Why They Won: "For 10 years, Echo has been focused on helping our clients simplify and streamline their transportation management processes," says Chairman and CEO Douglas R. Waggoner. "We do that throughour proprietary technology platform, the expertise of our dedicated teams,and our significant buying power. We provide the technology, capacity, and expertise that many middle-market organizations needso they can focus on their core business and leave the rest to us."

For Jon Backes, director of operations at global water solutions company Culligan International, the 3PL is an extension of his company's team. "Echo carries the load of our logistics network. They've enabled us to make smart decisions about how we save money and better service our customers."

The Chicago-based 3PL makes transportation management less complicated. "Echo gets it," says one IL reader. "I am a small company with big needs and whatever the situation, Echo delivers, follows up, and completes the job."

Client Roster:

  • Archway
  • Cholula Hot Sauce
  • Culligan
  • Greenheck
  • Guthy-Renker
  • Monster Beverage

Case Study: Culligan International

Global water solutions company Culligan International has worked with Echo for eight years to continually improve its supply chain with technology solutions.

Among the many solutions Echo has provided Culligan during their partnership are programs that track performance indicators such as freight's cost-per-ton-per-mile and its on-time percentage, allowing Echo and Culligan to make adjustments as needed.

"With Echo's technology solutions, we've been able to reduce our workload and focus our resources on more value-added activity," says Backes. "Echo has proactively come to the table at every step and provided technological solutions that we could integrate into our ERP systems."

3. Transplace

Why They Won: "Our focus on North American freight transportation management as a non-asset-based provider, our proprietary technology, our successful human capital development strategies, and our many referenceable customers across numerous industries set us apart from other 3PLs," says CEO Thomas K. Sanderson.

The Frisco, Texas-based 3PL helps shippers take control of their supply chain. "Since we began our partnership, Transplace has helped streamline our transportation management while achieving greater visibility," says Joe Tocci, Intertape Polymer Group's senior vice president of global sourcing and supply chain. "Transplace's team established improved processes and provided industry expertise to drive continuous improvement."

Client Roster:

  • BorgWarner
  • Brenntag
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • Cummins
  • Diamond Foods
  • Del Monte
  • KMG Chemicals
  • Sunny Delight
  • U.S. Gypsum
  • Welch's

Case Study: Del Monte Foods

In February 2014, an ownership change at Del Monte Foods Inc., a producer, distributor, and marketer of food products, necessitated the implementation of a new ERP system under a constrained timeline. Del Monte needed to transition its integration with Transplace to the new ERP. In November 2014, Del Monte also decided to replace its incumbent automated appointment scheduling system with the appointment system from Transplace.

The target date for both implementations was Jan. 26, 2015. While both timelines were compressed, the level of collaboration and preparation between Del Monte and Transplace facilitated complete integration testing well before the cutover date, and ensured no gaps in transmission of orders from the new ERP to Transplace's TMS for tendering to carriers. The implementation of Transplace's appointment scheduling application allowed for the load tender process and appointment setting to be a "one stop shop" for both Del Monte and customer-controlled carriers in and out of Del Monte facilities.

4. Ryder

Why They Won: Customers come to rely on the Miami-based 3PL's supply chain expertise and proactive solutions. "Ryder understands our products, what we're trying to accomplish, and how our business works," says Jim Billings, director of supply chain management, Royal Building Products. "They're not just focused on getting freight onto trucks—they help us execute our business strategies and achieve our business goals."

IL readers agree. "Ryder eases the complication and burden of managing transportation and logistics services so that my team can focus on our core competencies," says one shipper.

Regulations, talent shortages, and shifting consumer behavior are creating changes in business and supply chain operations, but Ryder is helping businesses stay on top.

"When it comes to trends, Ryder considers the disruptors that are causing them. These disruptors are leading to trends such as nearshoring, flexible port options, peer/competitor collaboration, and leveraged networks," says Steve Sensing, President, Global Supply Chain Solutions, Ryder System, Inc. "Ryder is leading the way by turning the tide and helping businesses become the disruptors, and driving innovation in the supply chain."

Client Roster:

  • Apria Healthcare
  • Royal Building Products
  • Pilot Pen Mexico
  • WB Mason
  • Toyota
  • Whirlpool
  • General Motors
  • Windmill Farms Nurseries
  • Hunter Fan
  • Cisco

Case Study: Apria Healthcare

Apria Healthcare, one of America's leading providers of home respiratory services and medical equipment, turned to Ryder for help in redesigning its supply chain. More than 75 percent of shipments are now consolidated into full truckloads, moving at truckload rates. Expedited freight shipments have also been significantly reduced. Ryder operates a dedicated fleet of 23 tractors, 34 trailers, and 29 drivers for Apria, and optimizes lanes regularly to take advantage of backhaul opportunities. Apria has realized annual cost savings of more than $1 million, a reduced carbon footprint, and improved customer service.

5. (tie) UPS Supply Chain Solutions

Why They Won: "While there are hundreds of 3PLs, there are only a handful that are industry-focused and global, and that's where UPS excels.We're also an integrated part of one of the largest supply chain providers in the world delivering end-to-end solutions," says Stan Deans, President.

The Atlanta-based 3PL strives to help shippers tackle their biggest challenges. "Customer challenges vary by industry and region, but a common challenge is the need to do more with less," says Deans."That's where a 3PL like UPS can help, whether it's leveraging existing buildings and technology to expand around the world or dealing with industry regulations and complex Importer of Record issues."

Client Roster:

  • Sprint
  • eSecurtel
  • Philips Healthcare
  • Triumph Motorcycles
  • Carestream
  • Hopkins Golf
  • GN Netcom
  • Pratt & Whitney
  • March Networks
  • K12
  • S1

Case Study: Pratt & Whitney

When Pratt & Whitney opened a new 600,000-square-foot Northeast Logistics Center (NELC), it turned to UPS to improve its warehouse and distribution operations. UPS began providing Pratt & Whitney with warehousing, the assembly of kits of parts to manufacture or repair aircraft engines, customs brokerage expertise, and visibility across its supply chain.

"Having UPS as a third-party logistics supplier enables Pratt & Whitney to focus on its core business operations—the manufacturing, assembly, and testing of aircraft engines," says Earl Exum, vice president of global materials and logistics, Pratt & Whitney.

UPS is certified UTC Supplier Gold and serves Pratt & Whitney at the NELC in New Hampshire, the Georgia distribution center in Atlanta, and facilities in West Palm Beach, Fla., Dallas, and Venlo, the Netherlands.

5. (tie) J.B. Hunt

Why They Won: J.B. Hunt works hard to create exceptional value for its customers.

"Delivering meaningful, measurable value isn't just a goal; it's an integral part of our culture," says Shelley Simpson, Chief Marketing Officer. "We're focused on innovating new solutions for industry inefficiencies and providing single-source, customer-oriented solutions for any transportation challenge."

The Lowell, Ark.-based 3PL's customers agree. "J.B. Hunt has the ability to meet customer needs and handle large volumes. They are a great partner to find out-of-the-box solutions," says one shipper.

J.B. Hunt alerts shippers of changing regulations and discusses the updates to increase awareness and eliminate inefficiency. "Changing regulations can be best addressed when carriers and customers partner," says Simpson. "It's essential that our customers attain a thorough comprehension of all new and upcoming regulation changes, as well as the appropriate methodology to optimize their operations."

Client Roster:

  • Goodyear
  • BJ's Wholesale Club
  • Costco
  • Target
  • Mission Foods
  • ConAgra
  • General Mills
  • Tesla Motors
  • Cornerstone Brands
  • D&W Fine Pack

Case Study: D&W Fine Pack

With 11 locations across the United States, food service and food packaging products provider D&W Fine Pack needed a logistics provider for enhanced visibility and control of its operation.

D&W Fine Pack chose J.B. Hunt Transport to be its single-source logistics partner, consolidating an array of transportation management systems within the J.B. Hunt 360, and partnering with a team of dedicated specialists to optimize their solutions. J.B. Hunt Transport seamlessly integrates the latest logistics technology with D&W Fine Pack's current processes, from dock scheduling to freight tracking to customer service.

6. Kenco

Why They Won: Kenco focuses on long-term business relationships instead of quarter-end results. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based 3PL uses its five operating divisions (logistics, transportation, material handling, real estate, and management services) to leverage fully integrated solutions for customers, and has a proven track record of operational excellence and consistent customer satisfaction. "Kenco is big enough to handle everything we throw at them, but small enough to know we are important to them," says one customer.

Enhancing openness, transparency, and good communication with customers helps Kenco develop relationships based on trust. "Kenco works to develop truly consultative relationships that provide insightful, long-range, customized solutions. We work with our customer to identify pain points and ensure an alignment of vision and values to lay the foundation toward mutually beneficial collaboration," says Chairwoman and CEO Jane Kennedy Greene.

Client Roster:

  • American Standard
  • Bosch
  • Carrier
  • Cummins
  • DuPont
  • Honeywell
  • Keurig Green Mountain Inc.
  • Post Foods
  • Stryker Medical
  • Whirlpool

Case Study: A Pharmaceutical Company

A pharmaceutical customer's growing order volumes and regulatory compliance needs prompted Kenco to re-evaluate the customer's technology solution. After an examination of systems that could support the new profile, Kenco partnered with JDA for a tier-one warehouse management system. The implementation was completed in nine months—achieving full productivity within two weeks. Today, the customer's supply chain operates at a new level of efficiency, and the system provides greater visibility into the inventory and order management process. Kenco manages 30 percent more volume using the same space and workforce, and pick-line replenishment has improved by more than 50 percent.

7. Penske Logistics

Why They Won: Collaboration is one key tool Penske uses to develop solid logistics operations. The Reading, Pa.-based 3PL maintains an ongoing conversation with its customers to create specialized solutions tailored to operations and market demands.

"Today's market-leading companies use their supply chains to drive innovation and competitive advantage. This, in turn, drives demand for logistics providers," says President Marc Althen. "While demand for logistics is increasing, the industry faces a talent shortage and needs more logistics engineers, technology professionals, warehouse workers, and truck drivers to meet the needs of current and evolving freight fulfillment models businesses and consumers rely on for their services."

From sourcing and manufacturing through delivery and return, Penske uses technology and experience to formulate specifically targeted solutions for customers.

Client Roster:

  • Ford
  • BMW
  • GM
  • Wegmans Food Markets
  • Kroger
  • Eastman Chemical
  • Wawa
  • Natura
  • Whirlpool
  • PPG Industries

Case Study: Eastman Chemical

Penske Logistics worked with Eastman Chemical to reduce container cycle times and overall costs, and supply refrigerated capacity in a very tight market. To help Eastman achieve its goals in domestic moves in Tennessee and South Carolina, Penske had Eastman Chemical switch to an all-truck solution, including dedicated contract carriage and inbound freight management from regional ports.It was such a success that Penske was given a Special Recognition Award to commemorate its strong work for Eastman.

"Penske was instrumental in keeping reefer loads covered in critical times," says Julie Byers, Eastman Chemical's procurement manager. "We appreciate their creativity."

8. (tie) Unyson

Why They Won: "Unyson's primary differentiators are accountability and flexibility," says David Marsh, Chief Supply Chain Officer. "Unyson designs and implements its supply chain management solutions based on our clients' individual business requirements and capabilities."

Through collaborative relationships, Unyson and its clients invest the needed resources to gain targeted benefits.

"Unyson is a long-term strategic partner. We rely on their expertise, creativity, and commitment to excellence to develop and drive the execution of innovative supply chain solutions," says Debbie Ryan, vice president of global transportation and logistics at Ascena Retail Group.

Jerry Ellison, senior manager Americas logistics and operations at Pfizer, also relies on its partnership with the St. Louis-based 3PL. "Unyson's partnership, quality of service, and analytical support is truly valued. Their solutions and reporting capabilities are timely and precise."

Client Roster:

  • Big Lots
  • Keurig Green Mountain
  • Global Industrial
  • Harbor Freight Tools
  • Nexeo Solutions
  • Starbucks
  • Toys R Us
  • Lumber Liquidators
  • Walgreens
  • Pfizer

Case Study: Popular Retailer

A well-known retailer was looking for complete less-than-truckload (LTL) inbound supply chain visibility, and innovative methods for consolidating freight in reverse mode optimization.

To help the retailer, Unyson modeled and designed a cross-dock solution to deliver 15 percent or more savings in comparison to their current LTL transportation provider, while offering a shared savings program. Detailed reporting throughout the routing process and shipment lifecycle aided the retailer in managing vendor compliance.

Unyson provided the retailer with the management of pickups from 700+ suppliers throughout North America, and optimization and consolidation of all shipments across the LTL shipment network.

8. (tie) SEKO

Why They Won: Customer Matthew Stark, national sales manageratDippin' Dots, appreciates SEKO's relationship and the service it provides.

"Partnering with SEKO has been extraordinary," says Stark. "It has cut our lead time on deployments to new accounts in half, resulting in a favorable customer experience by being able to set up our customers quickly."

SEKO is always up to help shippers overcome challenges, and customers turn to the 3PL to scale out operations based on existing staff and infrastructure. "We've been successful at providing solutions to shippers because we deploy integrated logistics solutions," says President and CEO William Wascher. "We are an extension of their teams around the world and here at home."

Client Roster:

  • Jaguar/Land Rover
  • Dippin' Dots
  • Escalade Sports
  • Lulu Guinness
  • Beckman Coulter
  • APAC Sale
  • Cath Kidston
  • Instrumentation Laboratory

Case Study: Dippin' Dots

Dippin' Dots recognized nationwide opportunities to improve market penetration by increasing its retail point-of-sale presence. But to make this possible, the company needed to get display deep freezers to market quickly.

To reduce transportation costs, SEKO Logistics helped Dippin' Dots consolidate LTL shipments into FTL regional deliveries to SEKO hub facilities. It configured the MySEKO portal to provide visibility to all asset and supply chain information for Dippin' Dots' logistics personnel, and simplified pricing structures to enable accurate forecasting of costs while also improving overall service and sales.

Dippin' Dots improved its speed-to-market lead time by 50 percent, and is poised to increase its retail sales locations significantly in the first year of the SEKO program. The successes have enabled Dippin' Dots to satisfy more retail outlet requests for displays, and to satisfy more customers.

9. Menlo Logistics

Why They Won: Menlo understands that supply chain needs constantly change. To stay ahead of the curve, the 3PL proposes new ideas and solutions to build value for customers.

"It starts with understanding the customer's needs and priorities, then taking an agnostic approach to engineering a solution," says Menlo Logistics' President Bob Bianco. "The next step is collaborating with the customer and using Lean tools and methods to ensure the solution is implemented properly and is working. It's recombining capabilities, resources, and assets in new ways to solve problems."

Ed Irvine, warehouse manager of MTU America Inc., recognizes the benefits of the San Francisco-based 3PL's innovative strategies. "Menlo Logistics' commitment to Lean principles and continuous improvement has provided increased efficiency and customer satisfaction, while working to drive down operational costs and improve our bottom line."

Client Roster:

  • Amazon
  • BP
  • Dow Chemical
  • Google
  • GM
  • HP
  • MTU America
  • New Era
  • Shell
  • Starbucks

Case Study: Petrochemical Company

A multi-national petrochemical company needed help managing material shipments from vendors. The customer needed to better manage its operations by increasing visibility into material status, transit times, and transportation costs.

The 3PL engineered a transportation management solution that integrated Menlo's Logistics Management System with the customer's materials management system; introduced Menlo Shipment Entry to increase shipment visibility; provided vendors with a single point of contact for shipping instructions; and improved planning capabilities.

The new transportation management system offered improved visibility and cost reductions, with year one transportation savings of $8 million to $10 million. Three to five percent of transportation spend was saved annually.

10. Landstar

Why They Won: Local presence, strong knowledge base, and access to capacity solutions set Landstar apart from other 3PLs. Customers receive a solutions-oriented approach to their transportation challenges through the 3PL's unique operating model.

"Our independent agents handle both sales and operations," says Jim Gattoni, President and CEO. "We have more than 1,000 independent agents dispersed across the United States and Canada with extensive experience in trucking and other freight transportation services."

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based 3PL supports customer needs in a challenging capacity environment.

"Landstar has more than 40,000 approved carriers and 9,000 exclusive-lease truck owner-operators (BCOs) under contract," says Gattoni. "With these tools, our independent agents are able to respond quickly to support customers."

Case Study: A Major OEM

A leading OEM required significant flatbed capacity and more efficient scheduling for transporting frames from supplier to assembly plants.

Landstar reduced OEM costs by leveling the daily shipments and not procuring truck capacity in the spot market; increased service levels with a combination of Landstar BCOs and third-party carriers; and set up a systematic approach for loading trucks that enabled scheduling of based on production forecasts. The 3PL also monitored performance via its mobile app Landstar Connect, which allows load status updates via smartphones.

Within 10 days, Landstar created a new workflow for the frames and their transport. The 3PL now moves approximately 250 loads per day, and saves the OEM a substantial amount of time and money in the process.