July 2015 | Commentary | Checking In

Turning Back the Pages: 20 Years of Top 100 3PLs

Tags: 3PL, Supply Chain Management, E-commerce, Logistics, Technology , Third-Party Logistics, Logistics Solutions Providers

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Where were you in 1996? Working your way up the transportation ladder? Starting a career in the logistics field? On the outside looking in? Still in high school? Grade school?

Every once in a while it's fun to throw it back—#tbt—to an earlier time and reflect on where we come from, where we've been, cause and effect. This is especially relevant in our industry, where the pace of change is swift and abrupt.

While many companies today are fixated on 2020 roadmaps that align objectives, set goals, and guide growth, perfect vision is hard to come by. That's why retrospection is sometimes equally important. In order to move forward you have to understand and remember where you've been. That's the impetus that drives benchmarking and continuous improvement efforts—hallmarks of today's supply chain.

Similarly, this issue turns back the pages. It marks Inbound Logistics' 20th-annual Top 100 3PL issue. Way back in 1996, we initiated a recognition program to celebrate third-party logistics (3PL) providers that were pioneering thought leadership and action in an emerging supply chain industry. That first year, we started with 50 logistics service providers, segmented by function: truck-based, brokerage, forwarding, warehousing, air express, ocean, and dedicated contract carriage. By 1997, the list grew to 100—where it remains today. Those segmentations have long since disappeared.

When you consider the rapid evolution of supply chain management over the past two decades, the 3PL sector has been a featured piece in an increasingly pixelated mosaic. That's why it's worth noting that it has been 20 years. Logistics and supply chain outsourcing isn't a gimmick. Nor is it countercyclical. In good times and bad, supply chain management is enduring.

So is our Top 100 3PL issue.

In The Evolution of Third-Party Logistics, we take a look at how the 3PL sector and outsourcing engagements have evolved from 1996 to 2015. You can read about how New Era Cap Co. and Fiat Chrysler partnered with their logistics service providers to help manage change and growth within their respective organizations over the past decade plus.

Every year, we provide original market research about changing outsourcing dynamics and trends. Our 10th-annual 3PL Perspectives report shares insight from both 3PLs and shippers that documents how e-commerce, omni-channel, globalization, and technology are challenging traditional rules of engagement.

Our Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards, as voted on by shippers, celebrates third-party service providers that walk the walk.

Finally, capping this issue is the 20th edition of our