3PLs Show Off-the-Chart Growth

3PLs Show Off-the-Chart Growth

What accounts for the explosive growth of the 3PL sector this past year?

The results of our 2022 3PL market surveys—through the Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards voting and Top 100 3PL Providers questionnaires—are striking: 84% of 3PL respondents showed significant growth in gross sales year over year, with 90% reporting profits are up. Nearly 50% showed growth of 20% and some even higher.

Many 3PLs increased headcount and facilities to match that growth. One respondent recently increased headcount from 101 to more than 250; another 3PL grew from $693 million to $1.7 billion in sales.

This year-over-year increase is unprecedented, but it is not the entire story. The growth in the 3PL sector reflects the needs of shippers—both inbound and outbound—who are coping with many new challenges thrown their way. Some are managing disruptions and addressing difficult demands from their customers while luckier companies have to manage and scale their own growth. They both need logistics and supply chain solutions, and more of them.

In addition to serving shippers’ needs, there are other underpinnings of that phenomenal growth. People working in the transport sector stick. Their titles and jobs may change; the companies they work for change, too. They sometimes switch from the shipper side to the provider side and vice-versa, but year after year transport professionals stay in the industry. They like what they do. Who can blame them? They work at jobs where the fruits of their labors are visible and vital.

Some say that solving logistics challenges is addictive, something I’ve heard in the past but hear more frequently now. Solutions are more complex. The stakes are higher for customers. The opportunity to drive customers’ growth during transitional times, like now, is greater. Benefits are large and demonstrable.

What about the future? Deep thinkers foretell of a difficult 2023. If true, logistics providers must take their recent growth returns and invest it now to be ready if it happens. Many are doing that by investing in technology. Good.

But let’s not forget those who stick and invest in workforce headcount where applicable as well as training for interns and new hires all the way up the chain to company leadership. For some that training consists of tweaks to supply chain management theory or demand-driven operations. Upgrading customer service skills and cross-functional training to enhance the inertia of a fully integrated operations team benefit all.

Perhaps those deep thinkers are wrong and 2023 and beyond will be smooth sailing. Whichever way it goes, one thing is certain: Transport pros will stick and continue to partner with their 3PLs to solve ever-evolving challenges.