Readers’ Choice: Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards 2017
What makes a third-party logistics (3PL) provider a blockbuster partner? We asked readers to vote for the 3PL partners they deem most award-worthy, and they revealed the hallmarks of a standout performance: reliability, flexibility, and ability to execute.
With the global supply chain sometimes too action-packed for even the most seasoned supply chain practitioners, readers are looking for experience and expertise.
Indeed, the 3PL role is multi-layered. With plot twists in 2016 encompassing bankruptcies and trade agreement exits, 3PLs need to deliver a masterful performance. The most laudable providers offer years of experience, technology solutions, and the global connections necessary to keep supply chains moving quickly and efficiently.
Sure, larger companies might have some of these skills in-house, but the difference is that logistics is what 3PLs do. They aren’t developing a new product line, or launching the next big ad campaign. Their sole focus is on moving your goods efficiently and cost-effectively through a seamless end-to-end supply chain.
By handling a part or all of a company’s transportation and logistics operations, 3PLs help companies deal with one of the most complicated parts of their business. When they know their supply chain is in competent hands, shippers are free to concentrate on other areas that add value such as customer service, production, and product development.
On the Ballot
Each year, Inbound Logistics’ annual Readers’ Choice Top 10 3PL Excellence survey gives shippers a chance to give back to the providers that have taken on so much of the load. More than 10,000 voters filled out the 2017 survey to show their logistics costars just how much they are appreciated.
From procurement to transportation management, manufacturer to retailer, shippers from all parts of the supply chain across 55 different countries chimed in to give accolades, including many from brands you’ll recognize, such as Amazon, Blue Apron, Boeing, Campbell Soup, Clorox Company, Disney, General Mills, General Motors, Hershey Company, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Pepperidge Farm, Pepsi, Sam’s Club, and Taco Bell.
Those companies spend millions on transportation and logistics services each year from logistics providers like those being honored here. (See About the Survey Respondents and Vote of Thanks on the following pages for more background on this year’s voters.)
With such a wide-ranging sample of industries and job titles giving input, Inbound Logistics’ annual survey offers a widely varied analysis of today’s global supply chain.
Overall, shippers want service—75 percent of survey respondents rate service as more important than price. Meanwhile, only 25 percent say price is the ticket.
Year after year, the IL 3PL survey reveals the pivotal role great customer service plays. The best 3PL partnerships are not always the cheapest, but they are the ones that get the job done every time.
1. Echo Global Logistics
WHY THEY WON: Echo is a true multimodal provider, able to offer clients expertise and capacity in not just truckload and LTL but also partial truckload, intermodal, expedited, final mile, heavy haul, temperature-controlled shipping, and other specialized services.
“Our proprietary technology, developed in-house to meet the needs of shippers, offers an edge in the transportation industry,” says Doug Waggoner, chairman and CEO. “It provides visibility, capacity, analytics, and overall a simpler, faster way of procuring transportation.”
At Echo, service and technology combine to create a leading 3PL. “Our employees value communication and exceptional service, and their focus on simplifying transportation management allows our clients to focus on what they do best,” says Waggoner.
Customers commend the 3PL’s dedicated and professional employees, speed, and responsiveness. “Echo makes my job easier, saves me time, and is reliable,” says one customer.
Ray Kernagis, vice president of supply chain at Johnstone Supply, agrees. “Echo goes beyond short-term cost savings. It’s their customer service and long-term partnership that are the key aspects of collaboration,” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of benefits including speed of service, strategic intent, collaboration, and ease of coordination. Partnership is the long-term driver of our relationship.”
- Action Gypsum Supply
- Cholula Hot Sauce
- Culligan International Company
- Johnstone Supply
- Monster Beverage
2. C.H. Robinson
WHY THEY WON: C.H. Robinson’s global network of supply chain experts is continuously identified as the 3PL’s biggest advantage. “As the marketplace continues to become more demanding, customers and contract carriers have more 3PL options than ever,” says CEO John Wiehoff. “Our global footprint and technology ecosystem remain critical to our success, but our main asset is our people—they are core to the great work we do for our customers and suppliers, and they are the primary reason those who voted for us did.”
Regardless of the size or nature of a customer’s business, C.H. Robinson knows each company needs unique solutions to manage supply chain complexity. “C.H. Robinson brings innovation to our customers and contract carriers to help them differentiate and improve their businesses,” says Wiehoff. “We are committed to offering new opportunities, ideas, and technology options to help them build sophisticated supply chains that best suit their individual goals.”
Customers praise the company’s customer service and on-time delivery. “C.H. Robinson treats my company with great respect. I can always rely on them for everything we need and they are always happy to help,” says one customer. “They are accurate and never seem to make a mistake. They go above and beyond any other third-party logistics company.”
- Dollar General
- Brose North America
WHY THEY WON: Transplace helps meet customer challenges with its talent and strong technology-enabled business process management skills.
“Customers are facing tough challenges today. Service demands from our customers’ customers are increasing—in precision of service measurement, in performance targets, and in the consequences of service failures,” says CEO Tom Sanderson. “At the same time, there is no relief on the cost pressures
our customers face, whether in transportation and inventory, or staffing. It takes talent and strong technology-enabled business process management skills to meet these challenges.”
Customers say Transplace’s customer service and technology set the 3PL apart. “Transplace invests in their people and technology to help make us a premium company,” says one customer.
“Our partnership with Transplace allows us to further our dedication to investing in the future by focusing on relationships and improving efficiency,” says Gianmichele Alivia, vice president of logistics and supply chain, Prysmian Group. “Transplace brings extensive experience, a large shipper and carrier network, and robust logistics technology that allow us to gain greater control over our transportation operations.”
- Baker Hughes
- Borg Warner
- Campbell Soup
- Prysmian Group
4. SEKO Logistics
WHY THEY WON: SEKO provides complete supply chain solutions, and specializes in transportation, logistics, forwarding, and warehousing. Offering innovative and customizable IT solutions, SEKO offers customers a seamless flow of information and supply chain visibility.
Customers applaud the 3PL for on-time deliveries, customer service, and reliability. “SEKO has handled an enormous amount of tradeshow freight for us, meeting deadlines and being
the most cost-effective option,” says
Another customer agrees. “SEKO provides excellent customer service. It is unmatched by any other company I have used. Our needs are perfectly handled and we are provided great rates.”
Logistics solutions are lean and efficient, with the main goal of improving customer satisfaction and keeping business running at peak performance.
“We had many difficulties with our supplier getting a product made. SEKO really made the difference by tracking late into the night and early in the morning,” says John Reeder, Transact Technologies. “SEKO’s responsiveness saved this order. It also enabled us to grow this product line by being able to meet customer requirements well inside of lead time. When I need performance in logistics, I turn first to SEKO.”
- Cath Kidston
- Dippin’ Dots
- Lulu Guinness
- Peak Scientific
- Sphere 3D Corp.
- Transact Technologies
5. UPS Supply Chain Solutions
WHY THEY WON: UPS Supply Chain Solutions is uniquely positioned to assist both large multi-nationals and small manufacturers, distributors, or retailers. To compete globally, these businesses rely on UPS as a third-party logistics provider to streamline sourcing, maintain lean inventories, accelerate inventory velocity, and kit or assemble to respond to customer demand.
UPS configures its order management and fulfillment, critical parts replenishment, post-sales warranty repair, and return services for efficient scale and growth opportunity according to industry sector needs.
Customers say UPS ranks at the top for them due to its fast, accurate, and reliable service. “UPS is an industry leader,” says one customer. “They provide the best customer service, lowest costs and fastest transit times.”
“UPS has helped us grow,” another customer says. “They offer products and services we need and consistent and reliable service.”
WHY THEY WON: Unyson differentiates itself by providing a guaranteed solution. “To provide optimal value to our customers’ supply chain, it is essential we drive solutions that are aligned with our customers and guarantee cost savings while elevating on-time performance,” says EVP Brian Alexander. “These are the cornerstones of a healthy supply chain. Guaranteeing them gives our customers confidence in our partnership from day one.”
The two main challenges Unyson’s customers face today are optimizing their transportation network and balancing service to increasingly demanding end customers. “Unyson’s Continuous Improvement Engineers proactively address these challenges and work closely with our operating teams to implement solutions,” says Alexander. “Unyson leverages our strength to take cost out of our customers’ supply chains while delivering strong service and providing global network visibility.”
Customers say the 3PL’s service, consistency, and on-time delivery set them apart. “Over the years of working with Unyson, we have evolved from a supplier and customer relationship to being partners,” says Barbara K. Philibert, president and chief operating officer, Oatey.
“The accessibility, reliability, and work ethic of the Unyson team is unsurpassed as they strive each day to meet and exceed the needs of Oatey and our customers,” she adds.
- Western Container
- Toys R Us
- Family Dollar
- Big Lots
- MAAX Bath
WHY THEY WON: Kenco has a proven track record of operational excellence, continuous improvement, and consistent customer satisfaction, demonstrated by its long-term customer relationships.
“As a privately owned company, Kenco focuses on long-term business relationships instead of quarter-end results, and is Women’s Business Enterprise National Council certiï¬ed to meet customers’ supplier diversity goals,” says Denis Reilly, president and CEO.
Questions around strategy and technology adoption for the quickly digitizing supply chain have added a new layer to many conversations Kenco has with customers.
“3PLs need to enhance openness, transparency, and good communication with customers by developing relationships based on trust. Kenco works to develop truly consultative relationships that provide insightful, long-range, customized solutions,” says Reilly. “We work with customers to identify pain points and ensure an alignment of vision and values to lay the foundation toward mutually beneficial collaboration.”
“What we like about Kenco is that they are big enough to handle our business and everything we throw at them, but small enough that we are important to them,” says Whirlpool’s director of supply chain operations.
- General Mills
- Post Foods
- Reckitt Benckiser
8. J.B. Hunt Transport Services (TIE)
WHY THEY WON: To ensure top service, J.B. Hunt continually reinvests in innovation, advancing the ability to provide personalized, reliable services.
“Today’s supply chain customers are adapting to the growing expectations of their consumers. J.B. Hunt customers expect full visibility, shorter delivery windows, and a seamless customer experience,” says Shelley Simpson, executive vice president, chief
commercial officer, and president of highway services. “They need actionable, real-time data and reliable capacity
from a company they can trust to get the job done.”
Bob Peterson, director of logistics with Farmer Brothers, selected J.B. Hunt as its logistics partner to provide best-in-class on-time delivery service to its 115 branch locations and six distribution centers.
“The challenges of replacing our private fleet and restructuring the entire supply chain network were monumental,” says Peterson. “High-level J.B. Hunt employees were actively involved in the development of sales and operations planning, and were available for each phase of the
plan. Being able to deal directly with
those decision-makers in their organization enabled us to have a very successful transition.”
- United Natural Foods
- Home Depot
- Farmer Brothers
8. Penske Logistics (TIE)
WHY THEY WON: Customers turn to Penske for logistics services because the 3PL provides subject-matter expertise to optimize every level of the supply chain. Penske logistics experts bring unique operational experience from a wide variety of industries including automotive, food, and beverage to help meet challenges throughout the supply chain.
Every day, Penske finds new and improved ways to coordinate all aspects of supply chain service. “Our customers are under pressure to reduce costs, and we collaborate with them in innovative ways to navigate this uneven economy,” says Marc Althen, president. “Our major investments in technology have given our customers an edge in the marketplace. Our decades of experience, across a number of verticals, have served as a guiding post to streamlining their supply chains.”
Penske’s leadership teams work with customers to ensure responsiveness and flexibility. The 3PL has the tactical and strategic skill sets to deliver both site-specific and corporate-level solutions. Whether entering an emerging market or maximizing existing assets, their supply chain planning solutions help meet customers’ business goals.
9. FedEx Supply Chain
WHY THEY WON: FedEx Supply Chain has the experience and skill to help companies succeed when faced with even the most complex logistics challenges. The 3PL provides objective insight into logistics processes, helping customers identify which changes to make—and which to avoid. Whether it’s an established business or a rapidly growing company, FedEx Supply Chain provides solutions designed to scale with the business over time.
“FedEx Supply Chain worked with us to find the best solution for our needs and enabled us to scale, which we wouldn’t have been able to do alone,” says Luke Geddie, CEO of Skinny & Co.
FedEx’s experts identify opportunities in the supply chain and work to develop best-in-class solutions to achieve profitable growth.
“Our company prides itself on creating a meaningful connection with our customers,” says Deepa Gandhi, founder and chief operating officer, Dagne Dover. “We are excited to work with a 3PL that understands this and helps us create those connections.”
10. Werner Logistics (TIE)
WHY THEY WON: The talent, technology, and culture at Werner Logistics separate the 3PL from others. “We hire talented associates, empower them to be innovators, and have a culture that recognizes associates for their success,” says Derek Leathers, president and CEO. “Throughout this past year, Werner Logistics has focused on using our talent and technology to lead the industry in customer and carrier experience.”
Werner Logistics’ investment in technology gives customers access to capacity when they need it, and the 3PL remains committed to finding the best solution for customers. “The challenges our customers face remain focused on managing cost, creating visibility to their shipments, and navigating regulatory and market changes,” says Leathers.
After significant flooding in August 2016, The Home Depot in Denham Springs, Louisana, called Werner to help move product from the store quickly and efficiently.
“Werner did a fantastic job of being a great partner and stepping up to help us,” says Al Kent, director of transportation operations. “The leadership team, on-site support, and professional drivers provided effort and dedication to our store and our community in our time of need.”
10. XPO Logistics (TIE)
WHY THEY WON: XPO takes a vested partnership approach to their customer relationships.
“We are willing to invest significant resources and capital to create mutually beneficial solutions,” says Ashfaque Chowdhury, president, supply chain—Americas and Asia Pacific. “In this era of rapid innovation, we continue to focus on technology and automation to meet demand and overcome labor shortages.”
The 3PL’s commitment is tangible: it invested $425 million on IT in 2016 and constantly pilots cutting-edge solutions.
“We’ve also invested significant resources in developing customized programs that deliver continous measured cost savings and efficiency improvements for customers,” says Chowdhury.
XPO’s experience can help companies reach their end goals quickly and efficiently. “Companies leverage XPO’s scale, innovation, and expertise, as well as our global footprint,” says Chowdhury. “We work with thousands of customers—including many blue chip companies—to optimize their supply chains and prepare them for market evolutions.”
Customers commend the 3PL for going above and beyond. “We are currently engaged with XPO Logistics in a major global initiative,” says Brad Morris, vice president of global logistics and fulfillment for Nu Skin. “They have proven to be a customer-centric organization, willing to do whatever it takes to meet our needs and expectations.”
- Nu Skin
TOP 10 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.
- Saddle Creek
- Sunset Transportation
About the Survey Respondents
Corporate Management 30%
Supply Chain/Purchasing/Supply Management 16%
Transportation/Traffic Management 10%
Services or Government 20%
ANNUAL TRANSPORT/LOGISTICS SPEND
More than $50 Million 21%
$10-$49 Million 36%
$1-$10 Million 26%
Less than $1 Million 18%
In Their Own Words: A Sampling of Reader Comments
“C.H. Robinson always meets our demands and those of our customers, rven with last-minute changes.”— C.E., shipping coordinator
“Werner has the best people in the industry with a rich family tradition of exceeding expectations with a vast array of service offerings.”
— K.T., director of logistics
“Kenco is an excellent supply chain partner. It’s very customer-focused and patient.”—J.T., associate director, customer fulfillment
“Unyson cares about its customers and partners. It has fast and reliable service with reasonable pricing.”—C.H., manager, cargo claims
“Echo provides exceptional customer service and close to real-time tracking information.”—K.L., director of supply chain
“SEKO is like a breath of fresh air. I know I can trust them with all my shipments. I know I won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to check emails when SEKO is in charge.”—C.M., lead logistics specialist
What Is More Important?
WHAT IS THE #1 REASON 3PL RELATIONSHIPS FAIL?*
Failed Expectations 43%
More Competitive Options 8%
Loss of Control 5%
Cultural Dissimilarities 4%
*Note: Some respondents selected multiple answers.
Source: IL Top 10 3PL survey