Readers’ Choice: Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards 2016

Readers’ Choice: Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards 2016

The global supply chain is ever changing. International trade deals, wars, embargoes, company failures, start-ups, and increasing regulations don’t even begin to complete the list of things shippers have to stay on top of. Many companies just don’t have the specialized knowledge in house to successfully manage complex logistics operations.


3PLs to Watch
In Their Own Words: A Sampling of Reader Comments
About the Survey Respondents

That’s where the third-party logistics (3PL) provider comes in. 3PLs bring more to the table than just knowledge. They bring the right people, years of experience, technology solutions, and the global connections necessary to keep your shipments moving quickly and efficiently. Larger companies might have some of these skills on staff, but the difference is that logistics is what 3PLs do. They aren’t out developing a new product line, or planning the next big ad campaign. Their sole focus is on moving your goods through the supply chain.

So if your supply chain suffers from frequent interruptions, or you’re paying too much to ship your product, or you simply feel overwhelmed, a 3PL might be just what you need. Savvy supply chain managers look for several characteristics when they choose a logistics partner.

Every leading 3PL is reliable. “Unyson’s customer service is top notch. If a problem arises, I can always count on their employees to come up with a quick and effective solution,” says C.A., a logistics coordinator.

They always put your needs before their own. “J.B. Hunt has always gone above and beyond to make sure my needs are met,” says shipping clerk D.D.

They understand what it means to be partners. “Kenco understands what partnership means in a way far above and beyond the other current and potential logistics service providers that I work with,” says global carrier manager M.B.

They handle the worries so you don’t have to. One buyer, S.C., says: “C.H. Robinson finds us great deals on shipping and makes shipping freight easy and worry free for us.”

By handling part or all of their transportation and logistics operations, 3PLs help companies deal with a complicated, nerve-racking part of their business. When they know their supply chain is in safe hands, they’re free to concentrate on other areas, such as customer service, production, and product development. Each year, Inbound Logistics’ annual Readers’ Choice Top 10 3PL Excellence survey gives those shippers a chance to give back to the providers that have taken on so much of the load.

More than 13,000 voters completed the 2016 survey to show their logistics partners just how much they are appreciated. From procurement to transportation management, manufacturing to retailer, shippers from all parts of the supply chain across 55 different countries chimed in to express their gratitude, including many from brands you’ll recognize: Abercrombie & Fitch; Sunny Delight Beverage Co.; Petco; American Heart Association; Pfizer; Orkin Pest Control; Monster Energy Drink; Ocean Spray Cranberries; Bed, Bath, and Beyond; Blue Buffalo; and Campbell Soups. Every one of those companies spends millions on transportation and logistics services each year (see About the Survey Respondents and Vote of Thanks on the following pages for more background on this year’s voters).

With such a varied sample of industries and job titles providing input, our annual survey offers a widely varied analysis of today’s global supply chain. For example, shippers want providers that communicate — but do it politely. “Echo is my go-to company because they stay in constant communication, and are always friendly,” says G.S., an account executive.

But overall, shippers want service — 78 percent of survey respondents rate service as more important than cost, an 8-percent increase over 2015’s data. Additionally, 39 percent rate poor customer service as the reason 3PL partnerships fail.

Year after year, the IL 3PL survey reveals the importance of great customer service to shippers. The best partnerships are not always the cheapest, but they are the ones that get the job done every time. V.T., a vice president of supply chain, says: “Transplace provides high-quality service that delivers outstanding results for our business.”

1. C.H. Robinson

Why They Won: C.H. Robinson has a reputation for being responsive and providing proactive solutions. “We serve a broad spectrum of customers and each has their unique challenges,” says John Wiehoff, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. “But the common denominator is that they are all looking for smart ideas and real results. We are proud to be a part of that strategy.”

C.H. Robinson says its employees are its biggest advantage. “Every day, our more than 13,000 employees around the world work hard to build positive relationships with customers, contract carriers, suppliers, and growers,” says Wiehoff. “Our employees’ dedication is unmatched, and they take great pride in helping every customer’s supply chain become a competitive advantage.”

Customers also recognize the employees’ hard work. “C.H. Robinson makes our lives easier because of the tireless efforts its employees put forth every day,” says one. “They are extremely knowledgeable and can work through any situation we give them.” Another customer adds, “The way they treat and respect their employees is evident in the way the employees treat customers.”

Client Roster:

  • Microsoft
  • Lowe’s
  • Dollar General
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Brose North America

Case Study: Brynwood Partners/High Ridge Brands

To minimize disruption to consumers, Brynwood Partners, a market buyout fund, and its portfolio company, High Ridge Brands, needed a dynamic 3PL. “Within six months, we scaled from 450,000 cases shipped to more than 1.2 million each month,” says Scott Kirk, COO/CFO at High Ridge Brands.

C.H. Robinson architected the supply chain and negotiated contracts with warehouses and carriers; managed the implementation of all electronic communication; and built processes for both inbound and outbound transportation.

“Thanks to C.H. Robinson, we established a robust and scalable supply chain,” notes Kirk.

2. Echo

Why They Won: “Our number-one priority at Echo is helping our clients simplify and streamline their transportation management processes, which we call taking the ‘complicated’ out of transportation management,” says Douglas R. Waggoner, chairman and CEO. “We do that through our proprietary technology platform, the expertise of our dedicated teams, and our significant buying power with more than 30,000 carrier partners.”

Echo provides the technology, capacity, and expertise that many middle-market organizations need so they can focus on their core business.

Chris Hawkes, regional manager at Action Gypsum Supply, agrees that the 3PL’s technology platform is a differentiator: “Echo is a great company to work with. They’re progressive, data oriented, and ahead of the pack with technology. Echo wants you to be successful.”

Another customer says, “Echo is my go-to company. They stay in communication, work quickly to fix issues, and are always friendly.”

Client Roster:

  • Action Gypsum Supply
  • Archway
  • Cholula Hot Sauce
  • Culligan Int’l. Company
  • Greenheck
  • Monster Beverage

Case Study: Action Gypsum Supply

Action Gypsum Supply, an independent distributor of building materials, received inbound product directly from the manufacturer, which rolled shipping fees into the product’s price. The distributor turned to Echo to increase visibility into its inbound logistics, decrease shipping costs, and gain a competitive advantage.

Echo produced significant results in the first year. Using a dedicated team of logistics experts and long-standing carrier relationships, Echo reduced Action Gypsum Supply’s shipping costs by 12.9 percent, which was a 1.3-percent reduction in total cost of goods sold.

“Beyond bottom-line savings was a benefit we’ve seen from working with Echo,” says Hawkes. “Also, their ability to analyze data and deliver reporting provides additional insight.”

3. Transplace

Why They Won: Customers rely on the Frisco, Texas-based 3PL’s high-quality and innovative services.

IL readers praise the 3PL for its Lean Six Sigma methodologies, and say Transplace excels at delivering value, competency, and friendly service.

“After an extensive RFP process, we selected Transplace because of its comprehensive offering of managed transportation services and logistics technology, along with a strong alignment between our customer bases,” says Michael Wasson, vice president of supply chain and operations at Tosca.

Nearly all manufacturers, retailers, and distributors are under pressure to reduce costs while also improving service to their customers. “Striking the right balance between taking advantage of low trucking rates and valuing the commitment and high service level of incumbent carriers is a challenge,” says CEO Tom Sanderson. “Capacity will tighten again. Through our procurement process and carrier management expertise, we help shippers find the right balance.”

Client Roster:

  • BorgWarner
  • Brenntag
  • Campbell Soup
  • Del Monte
  • Nestlé Waters
  • Novolex
  • U.S. Gypsum
  • AutoZone
  • BASF

Case Study: Novolex

Novolex, a North American leader in packaging choice and sustainability, turned to Transplace for its transportation management services and technology to help reduce transportation costs and improve service levels.

Transplace supported Novolex’s business growth through integrating multiple new plant locations across several different business units that were added in 2015, while leveraging rate and cost reductions across all business units.

“Transplace engaged dedicated resources to deliver excellent quality, service, and price for our acquired companies, as well as for our legacy businesses,” says Derek Gowdy, chief procurement officer, Novolex.

4. UPS Supply Chain Solutions

Why They Won: UPS helps both large multi-national and smaller manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. To compete globally, businesses rely on UPS to streamline sourcing, maintain lean inventories, and accelerate inventory velocity.

“Customer challenges vary by industry and region, but a common challenge is the need to do more with less,” says President Stan 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.”

In 2015, UPS continued to invest in its global logistics network by adding two million square feet of warehouse space in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. “UPS now manages 7 million square feet of dedicated healthcare distribution space in 51 multi-client facilities around the globe,” says Deans.

Case Study: Monster Moto

Monster Moto needed to move the assembly of its minibikes and go-carts to the United States from China. But supply chain complexities and transportation costs associated with reshoring threatened to derail the effort.

UPS’s Customer Solutions Team stepped in and heat-mapped Monster Moto’s current U.S. sales patterns to determine whether the company needed additional distribution centers in the country. The analysis made it clear that, for now, a single distribution point was the best solution. But the exercise also helped the company see where future centers should be sited, years ahead of time.

With insights and solutions, UPS helped Monster Moto understand—and reduce—its freight costs and armed the company with sales data it used to expand its U.S. distribution network. Monster Moto then built a U.S. plant in Ruston, La. “It’s a very big deal for us,” says Ronny Walker, Ruston’s mayor. “This is the first company we’ve recruited in 30 years.”

5. Penske Logistics

Why They Won: Penske goes above and beyond to satisfy customers. The Reading, Pa.-based 3PL is committed to meeting the most complex requirements of customers and brings industry knowledge, advanced systems, and technical prowess to design and implement advanced supply chain solutions.

“We continue to see strong demand for 3PL services as leading grocers, retailers, and manufacturers respond to increasingly complicated shipping and distribution models to meet consumer needs,” says President Marc Althen. “As a result, shippers now require greater supply chain transparency via technology with their 3PLs. As a 3PL, our supply chain solutions scale quickly and we have the in-house expertise to run and use these systems, which allows our customers to focus on their core businesses.”

Client Roster:

  • Ford
  • BMW
  • Lowe’s
  • Wegmans Food Markets
  • Kroger
  • Shinola
  • Wawa
  • Novelis
  • Whirlpool
  • PPG Industries

Case Study: Knoll

Knoll Inc. gave Penske Logistics its Operational Excellence Award to acknowledge the company’s achievements in improving cost, quality, and serivce across Knoll’s supply chain. “Knoll is proud of helping clients create inspired modern interiors with partners like Penske that contribute to our composing integrated products and services that naturally work together,” says Susan Bender, director of logistics, Knoll.

Penske received the award for consistent, sustained achievement of key performance metrics.

6. (tie) Ryder

Why They Won: From dedicated transportation to cross-docking and value-added logistics solutions, the Miami-based 3PL has a lot to offer customers to help improve supply chain operations.

Ryan Hanson, senior director of domestic transportation at Target, says the company’s former process was getting the job done without consistency and visibility. After extensive discussions, Target turned to Ryder for help to improve the system. “Moving to a new way of doing things was much more than simply flipping a switch,” says Hanson. “It’s a whole new way of doing things for every vendor, every carrier, every merchant, and distribution centers.”

For Rene M. Diaz, president and CEO of Diaz Foods, Ryder is a partner he can count on: “When you do the numbers, you can see Ryder covers everything that is important to you. Ryder is always there for you in every challenge you face.”

“Our customers face many challenges that are changing the way businesses operate and deliver products,” says President Steve Sensing. “Ryder addresses challenges through innovative, flexible services that enable customers to meet new demands.”

Client Roster:

  • Cisco
  • Chrysler Mexico
  • Fram
  • Pilot Pen
  • Whirlpool
  • Target
  • Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
  • Diaz Foods

Case Study: Fram

Being the number-one oil filter brand in America, Fram knows having waste in your engine leads to poor performance. And Ryder knows having waste in your supply chain can also lead to poor performance. By collaborating with Ryder, Fram was able to filter out waste from its supply chain, leading to more efficient processes and cost savings. The results include a 100-percent productivity increase, 99.8-percent pick accuracy, and a seven-figure reduction in annual distribution costs.

6. (tie) SEKO

Why They Won: IL readers commend the 3PL for its dependability, customer service, and meeting unique transportation needs. “SEKO offers creative solutions and is always competitive,” says one shipper.

Avic Gonzalez, transportation manager at Beckman Coulter, agrees: “SEKO has the best execution and customer service of all my supply chain providers.”

Customers turn to the Chicago-based 3PL for integrated logistics solutions. “We have differentiated ourselves and been successful with the development of our industry-specific solutions,” says President and CEO William Wascher. “We’ve also further developed and invested in our standalone SaaS applications that have allowed us to deliver results and provide value in customers’ supply chains.”

Client Roster:

  • Beckman Coulter
  • Cath Kidston
  • Dippin’ Dots
  • Escalade Sports
  • Jaguar/Land Rover
  • Lulu Guinness
  • MySale Group
  • Sphere3D Corp.

Case Study: Sphere 3D Corp.

Sphere 3D Corp. delivers virtualization technology and data management products that enable workload-optimized solutions. The company was expanding rapidly and needed a logistics partner that could offer a consolidated global service to replace two company-owned warehousing facilities in the United States and Germany, and a current fulfillment provider in Hong Kong.

SEKO provided a solution that included logistics support for shipment of finished goods from manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, China, and Germany to SEKO multi-user warehouses in California and Amsterdam, and then out to end customers and distributors around the world. As well as reducing logistics and warehousing costs, and giving Sphere 3D the global visibility it needed, SEKO’s distribution model is helping the business manage spikes of activity month to month—especially at quarter end.

7. (tie) Kenco

Why They Won: Kenco focuses on long-term business relationships and provides customized solutions.

“The challenges our customers have always faced—increased competition, rising cost of service, evolving technology, and expanding channels—are still there, but the pressure to keep up with it has exploded,” says Chairwoman and CEO Jane Kennedy Greene. “3PLs need to enhance openness, transparency, and communication with customers by developing relationships based on trust.”

Shippers say Kenco goes above and beyond. “Kenco has been our 3PL for over seven years and always provides dependable service,” says one customer. “They are dedicated to covering all of our transportation needs.”

Client Roster:

  • American Standard
  • Bosch
  • Carrier
  • Cummins
  • DuPont
  • Honeywell
  • Post Foods
  • Whirlpool

Case Study: Healthcare Manufacturer

A healthcare manufacturer and long-term warehousing client of Kenco needed to reduce transportation costs, improve shipment service levels, and increase communication between stakeholders. Growth and acquisition resulted in the need for new lanes and transportation services.

Kenco reviewed the customer’s freight contracts, generated a list of potential providers, and managed a formal RFP. Kenco analyzed the rate structures to match lane/pricing strengths, and negotiated competitive pricing. Preferred providers were ranked and routing guides were developed to manage transportation. After Kenco implemented its solution, transportation costs decreased by more than 15 percent, service levels improved, and customer chargebacks were minimized.

7. (tie) XPO Logistics

Why They Won: “We are expanding our high-value, high-velocity contract logistics solutions in fast-growing e-commerce sectors including last-mile services and omni-channel fulfillment,” says Ashfaque Chowdhury, president, supply chain, Americas and Asia Pacific. “Major ongoing investments in our proprietary technology address customer demands for operational excellence, reduced costs, and continuous improvement.”

Customers praise the 3PL for its supply chain innovations. “As our lead supply chain provider for outbound logistics, XPO has been integral to driving improvements that directly benefit our customers,” says Linda Parcher, chief supply chain officer, Diebold Inc. “The XPO team’s focus on process innovation cut costs and shortened lead times.”

Client Roster:

  • Boeing
  • Diebold
  • Disney
  • Emerson
  • HP
  • Logitech
  • Siemens
  • Trinity Health
  • Verizon

Case Study: Entertainment & Multimedia Client

XPO invested resources and capital to implement an operational solution to support omni-channel retail distribution for a global leader in entertainment and multimedia. The 3PL’s solution included a suite of value-added services and integration with the company’s systems and freight forwarding partners. XPO implemented the solution in time for the holiday season volume surge.

After the seasonal surge, XPO fielded a cross-functional team to further refine the solution. XPO looked at existing stocking methods and determined that forward stocking locations would allow higher-volume stores to maintain stock of high-demand product. XPO identified an opportunity to consolidate the client’s legacy direct-to-consumer operation into the retail fulfillment operation to provide inventory carrying cost savings and increase operational flexibility.

8. J.B. Hunt

Why They Won: Delivering value is a vital part of J.B. Hunt’s culture. And the 3PL’s customers can count on its customized solutions to add value to their operations.

“We are problem-solvers and solution-finders who not only meet our customers’ transportation challenges, but also strive to exceed their expectations,” says Chief Marketing Officer Shelley Simpson.

For Doug Watne, director of North American transportation at General Mills, J.B. Hunt has demonstrated the willingness to explore new ideas and solutions with the company. “The level of collaboration and transparency is best in class,” says Watne. “J.B. Hunt brings key high-level decision-makers to meetings, which not only speeds decision-making and results, but also displays their commitment to the partnership. We are proud of our relationship and excited about the total value they bring to our organization.”

Client Roster:

  • Goodyear
  • Mondelez Global
  • Costco
  • United Natural Foods
  • Home Depot
  • General Mills

Case Study: General Mills

General Mills wanted to create greater operational efficiencies and more cost-savings opportunities within its supply chain by increasing visibility and collaboration. J.B. Hunt and General Mills entered into a collaborative partnership—a first for General Mills in the transportation supplier space. The partnership establishes a “singular company” mindset between the companies. It promotes open communication and information sharing that leads to improved service with more creative solutions for General Mills.

9. Landstar

Why They Won: Through the 3PL’s unique operating model, Landstar combines agents, technology, and access to capacity to provide shippers with a solutions-oriented approach to their transportation challenges.

Landstar is investing in innovative technology initiatives to benefit customers. “In the future, technology solutions that provide a one-stop, customizable interface for customers of all sizes will become more prevalent. Technology is evolving to enable supply chain participants to be interconnected on increasingly powerful platforms,” says Jim Gattoni, president and CEO. “Shippers will expect seamless solutions that provide real-time access to available capacity, pricing, shipment tracking, payment processing, and KPI data.”

Case Study: Automotive Manufacturer

A leading automotive manufacturer required a new transportation solution for the frames for its top-selling vehicle. Within 10 days of receiving the project, Landstar and three independent Landstar agencies collaborated to develop a new logistics plan to transport more than 1,000 frames per day by flatbed truckload.

The logistics plan included an increase in pick-up efficiencies based on production forecasts; increase in service levels through a combination of Landstar owner-operators and third-party carriers to handle both anticipated plant production as well as unexpected changes in supplier output levels; reduction in customer dependence on spot market pricing by negotiating fixed rates with truck capacity providers; increase in shipment visibility; and improved communications.

Landstar created a more efficient and flexible workflow that provided the customer with more truck capacity, less rate volatility, and greater shipment visibility, while saving the customer a substantial amount of time and money.

10. Unyson

Why They Won: Unyson provides innovative and customized solutions that continually help customers find savings.

“Unyson is the only 3PL that offers guaranteed savings, dedicated account management, and continuous improvements as a core part of our service offering,” says EVP Brian Alexander. “We pride ourselves in coming up with creative solutions that encompass our customers’ needs rather than trying to fit them into a boxed solution.”

Unyson protects its customers from changes that affect the industry by providing capacity solutions, innovative network enhancements, and technology upgrades. Combined, these help cut costs and provide better service even in the face of adversity in the market.

“I sleep well at night knowing that Unyson watches our freight,” says Eric Scott, president, Western Container.

Client Roster:

  • WD-40
  • Western Container
  • Toys R Us
  • Family Dollar
  • Pfizer
  • Big Lots
  • Ascena
  • MAAX Bath

Case Study: MAAX Bath

MAAX Bath, a manufacturer of bathroom products including bathtubs, showers, and shower doors, wanted a comprehensive transportation solution that was customized to its network needs and business requirements. MAAX selected Unyson to provide a solution that includes a dedicated team with complete oversight, best-in-class technology, and carrier management with secured capacity.

Unyson modeled and analyzed the manufacturer’s historical shipments and developed advanced load plans that incorporate anywhere from two to 15 stop loads to increase consolidations, enhance savings, and reduce carbon emissions. MAAX has benefited from the Unyson solutions without compromising service levels or damage-free shipments. Unyson is providing a full outsource solution for MAAX Bath by managing approximately 62,000 annual shipments.

3PLs to Watch

These 3PLs did not receive enough votes to place on this year’s Top 10 list, but they have a large following among our readers.

  • BlueGrace Logistics
  • DHL/Exel
  • FW Warehousing
  • OHL
  • TQL
  • Unishippers
  • Schneider Logistics
  • FedEx
  • Pilot
  • R2 Logistics
  • Werner
  • Veritiv


In Their Own Words: A Sampling of Reader Comments

“C.H. Robinson makes our lives easier because of the tireless efforts its employees put forth every day. They are extremely knowledgeable and can work through any situation that we give them.””
— K.G., Production Planner

“We have used many 3PLs and Echo has been the only true partner working to drive down our costs and determine solutions for our supply chain.”
— P.R., Logistics Manager

“SEKO Logistics does what they say they are going to do for the price they said they would do it for. No surprises. They always offer creative solutions and are always competitive. There is no close second.  I would recommend this company to anyone and everyone.”
—  F.R., President

“Penske provides outstanding service, good systems, and attention to the details that matter.”
— G.E., Sales and Marketing Manager

“Ryder understands the importance of collaborative planning and has an excellent rapport with the transportation providers.”
—  R.D., Director of Logistics

“XPO provides continued excellence, process improvement, and is constantly adding value-added services and IT technology to service customers and build a long-standing partnership to service all of their logistics needs.”
— B.W., Project Manager


About the Survey Respondents

Corporate Management 30%
Logistics/Distribution 37%
Supply Chain/Purchasing/Supply Management 15%
Transportation/Traffic Management 10%
Operations 7%
Manufacturing 35%
Retail/Wholesale 45%
Services or Government 20%
More than $50 Million 21%
$10-$49 Million 35%
$1-$10 Million 26%
Less than $1 Million 18%
Motor Freight (TL/LTL) 75%
Small Package Delivery, Expedited, Express 66%
Warehousing & DC Services 66%
3PL, Contract Logistics 64%
Rail, Rail Intermodal 49%
Air Freight 48%
Supply Chain Technology, Software/Systems 48%
International Shipping, Freight Forwarding 46%
Ocean, Ocean Intermodal 35%
Materials Handling Systems, Equipment, Forklifts 35%
Site, Port, or Facility Selection 30%
Transportation Equipment 23%
Fleet Operations, Dedicated Contract Carriage 22%
Packaging/Labeling Systems 6%

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