The Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards


3PLs to Watch

What’s the worth of a true partner? Someone you know you can depend on when you’re not sure which way to go. Someone you can count on to help you make things right after they’ve gone wrong. Someone you trust to look out for your best interests.

In business, as in life, such a partner is worth more than words can express. Nonetheless, our readers offered up effusive praise for their third-party logistics service providers.

“When my customers need an emergency order delivered the next day, I tell them, ‘No problem,” reports one shipper. “I can do that because I know all I have to do is call my 3PL, and they will get it done. They make my job a lot easier and keep my customers happy.” Sounds like a match made in heaven.

“My company has used our 3PL for more than 10 years and never had a problem.” That’s an impressive run.

“My 3PL knows the industry inside out and helps position my business for exceptional performance.” Who couldn’t use a boost like that?

Our annual Readers’ Choice Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards give readers a voice to celebrate their service providers, and they have plenty to say. This year, more than 9,500 respondents cast their votes, and 4,664 of them shared their accolades. We heard from the spectrum of supply chain professionals—from office managers to top executives, at mom-and-pop retailers to global corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, ConAgra Foods, Frito-Lay, Pitney Bowes, Toys “R” Us, and Nissan.

Our readers’ diverse logistics experience gives them varied and authoritative perspective on what matters most in a 3PL partnership. Year after year, spectacular service makes the biggest impression on shippers. Seventy-seven percent of this year’s survey respondents rank service as more important than price, and 2,435 readers rate poor customer service as the primary reason 3PL relationships fail.

Prioritizing service doesn’t mean that costs are inconsequential, however. Twenty-three percent of respondents report that cutting transport spend is their biggest challenge, followed by improving customer service (13 percent), expanding to new markets (10 percent), and reducing labor costs (nine percent).

Enlisting a partner to help face such challenges makes it easier to shoulder the burden, and our readers are abundantly grateful to the 3PLs that stand with them through thick and thin. Read on to find out what else they had to say, and help us salute this year’s Top 10 3PLs, as chosen by IL readers.

And the winners are…

1. Ryder

WHY THEY WON: IL readers’ top-rated 3PL inspires declarations such as, “We only use one 3PL—Ryder. It is the only one that meets our needs” and “By far, the best 3PL company around!”

John Williford, Ryder’s president, global supply chain solutions, credits the 3PL’s “deep expertise in key industry groups and our commitment to operational excellence” with helping to meet shippers’ unique challenges and deliver consistent results.

But Ryder isn’t resting on its laurels. “This year, our newly formed Retail/CPG group expanded our capabilities for the flow of goods from Asia, including purchase order management, shipment consolidation in Asia, and deconsolidation in North America,” says Williford.

John Snider, vice president of logistics at hardware retailer Do It Best, lauds the Miami-based 3PL’s eye for cost savings. “Ryder has been a key component of our cost-control efforts,” Snider says. “They are constantly looking at ways to reduce costs and pass on the savings. In one respect, Ryder is just a vendor. But Ryder as a partner is more valuable to us than Ryder as a vendor.”


  • Toyota
  • CVS Caremark
  • General Motors
  • Stonyfield Farm
  • Shell
  • Marco’s Pizza
  • Mazda
  • Southeast Milk
  • Pilot Pen Mexico
  • Procter & Gamble

Case Study: iGPS

Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) required a logistics model to support deployment of more than 175 million pallets across its customer base. It turned to Ryder to help design a network where iGPS customer locations—CPG and retailer warehouses—became pallet pooling centers.

Ryder developed an optimization model that worked with the dynamic iGPS network, while managing complicated inventory levels and rapid growth. Ryder tracks pallets in use daily and identifies available pallets at an iGPS customer warehouse that are ready to be re-deployed. Ryder handles all transportation, inventory management, and reverse logistics services, including managing third-party carriers and handling freight bill payment and audit. This strategic partnership has provided iGPS with a highly flexible, scalable solution that can grow with the company as it explores new territories and industries.

2. C.H. Robinson

WHY THEY WON: C.H. Robinson’s fans repeatedly praise the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based 3PL’s grasp of customer needs. “They exceed the requirement of just moving my cargo—they understand my business,” says one reader.

Another satisfied customer is Republic Plastics, a manufacturer of foam tableware and containers with facilities in Texas, Tennessee, and Arizona. “C.H. Robinson consistently understands and exceeds our expectations,” says Robert Garner, director of transportation, Republic Plastics. “The representatives we work with are proactive and always seek to improve our operations, which is something that other providers just don’t do.”

Throughout the economic downturn, C.H. Robinson helped shippers focus on the importance of operating a competitive supply chain, according to John Wiehoff, CEO and chairman of the board, and the 3PL plans to maintain that focus as circumstances improve. “Our business model of providing high-service, high-quality logistics services continues to have increasing relevance to many customers who want better information and to manage their freight transportation more efficiently,” Wiehoff says.


  • Coke
  • Dole
  •  Frito-Lay
  • Ocean Spray
  • Republic Plastics
  • Subway

CASE STUDY: Ocean Spray

Five years ago, beverage brand Ocean Spray chose a Managed TMS solution from TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., to optimize its transportation network. Ocean Spray’s on-time deliveries, which have a measurable impact on sales, soon jumped from 85 percent to 95 percent.

While Ocean Spray retained control of its carrier relationships, TMC took over routing guide management. Carriers accepted more tendered loads, which kept freight costs in line. With detailed reporting, Ocean Spray could track costs per load delivered, per mile, and per case—information central to budgeting and pricing.

“TMC is intimately aware of what’s going on in our business,” says Wayne Tessin, Ocean Spray’s director of logistics. “They routinely bring us new ideas, and they fit extremely well with our culture.”

3. Menlo Worldwide

WHY THEY WON: Menlo has set out to consistently improve its customers’ supply chain performance while driving down total landed costs. The company has also made strides in the 4PL arena, designing and deploying optimized supply chain networks. “Over the past year, we refined and improved our lean capabilities to help customers drive out waste and inefficiency in their supply chains,” says Menlo President Bob Bianco.

According to IL readers, the San Mateo, Calif.-based 3PL’s efforts are paying off. “Menlo provides full commitment to our global logistics needs,” says one reader. Another remarks, “They are an industry leader, responsive to their customers, innovative in their approach, and committed to delivering quality service.”

Ed Melching, director of global logistics at Warrenville, Ill.-based truck manufacturer Navistar Inc., agrees. “Our business relationship with Menlo is intensely collaborative,” says Melching. “We’ve greatly benefited from the relationship and today we are invested in a new culture, management philosophy, and metrics-based approach to defining success and achieving common goals.”


  • Caterpillar
  • Comcast
  • Dow Chemical
  • Electrolux
  • HP
  • Bobcat
  • Lam Research
  • Nike
  • Triumph
  • Navistar

CASE STUDY: Navistar

In 2008, Navistar’s supply chain operations spanned three siloed business units, creating inefficiencies that did not support its larger business strategy. Following in-depth research and analysis, the company established and rolled out a five-year plan to fundamentally transform its supply chain, elevate its logistics capabilities, and reduce overall logistics spend by 25 percent by 2013.

As its lead logistics provider, Menlo Worldwide Logistics served as the change agent Navistar needed, and began working with Navistar under a unique strategic collaboration model. Today Menlo, Navistar, and its key suppliers have aligned with this vision and strategy, launched 19 projects that have or will yield validated annual cost savings in the millions of dollars, and generated a five-percent reduction in annual logistics costs.

“With the strategic collaboration model and Menlo’s deep expertise in transformative logistics, resources, and best practices, Navistar’s supply chain has become a competitive asset that is continually improving and helping to accelerate our growth strategies,” says Melching.

4. Transplace

WHY THEY WON: “The ‘I Am Transplace’ slogan really rings true of our relationship with the 3PL,” says Joe Tocci, senior vice president, supply chain and consumer sales, Intertape Polymer Group. “Early on, it was apparent that the account team members, all the way down to the line level, considered themselves part of Intertape.”

The Dallas, Texas-based 3PL places high value on customer satisfaction. “We pride ourselves on the ability to not only provide our customers with solutions to fit their specific needs, but also on dedicating ourselves to practice the highest levels of customer service,” says Transplace President and CEO Thomas K. Sanderson. “We hold our annual customer satisfaction survey results in high regard, and the information enables us to grow and improve year after year.”

IL readers celebrate Transplace’s “great management, superior technology, assistance with strategy, and excellence at daily execution,” as well as its “dedication and ability to solve business challenges.”


  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Sunny Delight
  • Anna’s Linens
  • Barbeques Galore
  • RockTenn
  • Walmart
  • DirecTV
  • Pace Industries
  • U.S. Gypsum
  • Microsoft

CASE STUDY: Intertape Polymer Group

Packaging developer and manufacturer Intertape Polymer Group selected Transplace as its strategic logistics provider to help reach two primary supply chain goals: cost control and expertise. Thanks to Transplace’s people, processes, and technology, Intertape experienced immediate positive supply chain results.

Intertape’s cost per pound improved five percent between 2006 and 2008. By 2009, freight performance measurements had improved by 17.5 percent. With Intertape moving more than 300 million pounds per year, these numbers had a significant impact on cost savings and overall efficiency for the manufacturer.

The Transplace dedicated account team ingrained itself in the process and worked to gain the same knowledge as anyone who worked directly for Intertape. Additionally, the team formed strong relationships with Intertape employees by bringing individuals into projects across the board, from all levels of the company.

5. UPS Supply Chain Solutions

WHY THEY WON: Readers who voted for UPS Supply Chain Solutions cited the Atlanta-based 3PL’s “superior customer service and excellence in execution” and “quality product and consistent performance,” praising it as “a one-stop services provider and top value for the money.”

Brad Reagan, chief operating officer for water sports accessory company Monster Tower, appreciates UPS’s dependability and rapid response. “It’s reassuring to know that UPS can move inventory quickly when it’s necessary, which is critical to a successful business relationship,” says Reagan.

Brad Mitchell, UPS vice president, logistics and distribution, credits the 3PL’s loyal following to its range of service offerings. “UPS has strategically become one of only a handful of companies in the world capable of managing all the critical touchpoints of the supply chain process under one brand,” says Mitchell. “We provide both asset and non-asset-based transportation—from small package delivery to air and ocean freight movement on global trade lanes, all of which are supported by visibility tools to manage suppliers, inventory, fulfillment, trade compliance, and reverse logistics.”


  • March Networks
  • Convatec
  • Monster Tower
  • Toshiba
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Kingsdown
  • Monroe Trucks
  • Anne Fontaine

CASE STUDY: March Networks

March Networks, a provider of intelligent IP video solutions, sought to partner with a global logistics provider that could offer end-to-end supply chain visibility, consistent processes, and accountability for its distribution activities.

To support its customers worldwide, March Networks deploys an advance replacement model to exchange defective units in the field; it is supported by a 48-hour time-in-transit requirement.

UPS’ proven track record in reverse logistics and the company’s ability to service 99.9 percent of March Networks’ installed base within 48 hours led March Networks to partner with the 3PL in early 2009.

6. Exel

WHY THEY WON: When it comes to customer service, Exel tops readers’ lists. Typical shipper comments include “excellent, consistent, reliable service from people who care,” “outstanding communication and follow-through, and “truly understands our needs.”

Customer Owens Corning, a Toledo, Ohio-based building materials manufacturer, shares this experience. “Working with Exel feels like working with an internal department rather than another company delivering a service,” says Mike Cramer, director of logistics and customer operations, Owens Corning. “Its personnel communicate to provide insight and become more engaged.”

Service excellence doesn’t happen by accident. “The customer is at the center of everything we do at Exel,” says Mike Gardner, chief development officer. “We use specific processes and tools that allow us to understand and respond to their needs effectively—while retaining an unrelenting focus on operational excellence and core continuous improvement disciplines.”


  • 7-Eleven
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Chrysler
  • Office Depot
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • DuPont
  • GE
  • Kraft

CASE STUDY: Novartis

Novartis, a global pharmaceutical manufacturer with U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, recognized the need for a more flexible, agile supply chain that could support varying and expanded distribution strategies. Collaboratively, Novartis and Exel developed a supply chain repositioning plan without disrupting the continuity of supply to customers.

Novartis relocated its warehouse to a site that offered an ideal combination of size and layout to minimize operations costs, gained immediate distribution flexibility via Exel’s expansive real estate offering, optimized IT processes and systems, and implemented customer-centric initiatives.

“Volume ramped up quickly, while total costs and cost per unit declined sharply. Continuous improvement programs delivered enhanced security and tracking,” says Scott Cubber, Exel’s vice president for the life sciences industry. “And, the flexibility achieved enabled Novartis to maintain its high quality standards and remain focused on its core objective: patient care.”

7 (TIE). BNSF Logistics

WHY THEY WON: Enhancing capabilities to meet shipper demands is the rule at Springdale, Ark.-based BNSF Logistics. “In the past year, we have developed additional skills in large, multi-mode project management and expanded our engineering capabilities to support increased volume in the packaged rail service business,” says Eric Wolfe, vice president and general manager. “We have emphasized further development of small-package transportation and sortation capabilities, and domestic and international air transportation services.”

IL readers praise the 3PL’s “immediate response and quick delivery,” “excellent service and support,” and “good technology and customer interaction.”


  • Amazon
  • JCPenney
  • The Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Mitsubishi Power Systems
  • Morton International
  • Rio Tinto
  • Kohl’s
  • Walmart


BNSF Logistics began working with the U.S. operation of Spanish wind turbine power generator manufacturer Gamesa in 2009. Gamesa Wind USA imported wind generator towers through the Port of Houston, Texas, and sourced other parts from its manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. BNSF Logistics managed the rail and over-the-road transportation of components from the port and manufacturers to support the development of an Illinois wind farm.

BNSF Logistics completed the delivery of 147 wind components to a nine-acre transloading and distribution operation in Illinois. The tower sections were trucked to a transload site, where they were loaded onto railcars. BNSF Logistics’ in-house engineering team created a detailed plan of where each component would be stowed in the distribution operation. As the components arrived, they were transloaded off the railcar and either stowed in the yard or directly loaded onto outbound trucks for delivery to the Illinois wind farm installation field.

7 (TIE). J.B. Hunt

WHY THEY WON: “J.B. Hunt never stops looking for innovative ways to better meet our customers’ demands, particularly as it pertains to technology,” says Shelley Simpson, president, Integrated Capacity Solutions, and executive vice president, J.B. Hunt Transport Services. “During the past year, we have either purchased or developed proprietary technology that provides better shipment tracking and inventory management.”

Readers praise the Lowell, Ark.-based 3PL’s technology leadership. “J.B. Hunt combined innovative ideas and technology with a thorough understanding of my company’s needs, and they tailor services to solve and serve those needs,” says one reader.

“They have helped me remove cost and improve service to my customer base, which is the key to growing and expanding my business,” remarks another.


  • Amazon
  • Coca Cola
  • Federated Stores
  • Frito Lay
  • Standard Register
  • Walmart
  • International Paper
  • Target
  • Petco
  • Scotts

CASE STUDY: Standard Register

Standard Register, a document management services company, had a decentralized supply chain with distributed decision-making across what was primarily a brokered model. Routing, carrier management, and shipment visibility was fragmented with minimal mode or lane optimization and little visibility into carrier performance. Its primary objective in working with J.B. Hunt was two-fold: Improve the economic value related to the service and cost relationship; and better manage its value proposition to the point of delivery through metrics, measurement methodology, and reporting.

J.B. Hunt delivered a customized transportation management platform to consolidate all Standard Register facilities into a centralized supply chain management strategy. By incorporating carrier selection, mode optimization, shipment and carrier tender, cost and shipment visibility, scheduling, and KPI reporting, J.B. Hunt increased on-time performance and significantly reduced transportation spend.

“I have found J.B. Hunt to be a progressive supply chain partner for Standard Register,” says Greg Greve, Standard Register’s vice president, sourcing. “It has actively engaged in our transformation from a traditional printer to a market-focused solutions provider. From operational performance to executive engagement, J.B. Hunt is both a dependable and valued partner.”

8. Landstar

WHY THEY WON: Readers rave about Landstar’s “honesty and integrity,” “execution and responsiveness,” and “commitment to excellence.”

But shippers such as Landstar customer Grupo Antolin, a global automotive supplier based in Spain, especially appreciate the benefits they reap from the Jacksonville, Fla.-based 3PL’s investment in real-time technology.

“Customers are looking for improved methods of getting more accomplished with less staff and capital investment,” says Landstar Chairman, President, and CEO Henry Gerkens. “Logistics companies are using technology solutions to help customers manage their supply chains by coordinating bidding, scheduling, shipping, tracking, invoicing, and reporting.

“Landstar invested in two advanced technology companies—NLM and A3i—to provide customers with two unique Web-based software-as-a-service applications that are designed to meet all their supply chain needs,” Gerkens adds.

CASE STUDY: A Leading Beverage Company

A major North American beverage company having difficulty finding trucks in today‘s marketplace asked Landstar for support in sourcing and managing additional capacity beyond the normal reach of its carrier partners.

Landstar is supporting the company’s logistics network by providing transportation capacity sourcing and procurement tools and related supply chain management, in part through software-as-a-service solutions.

Landstar’s logistics expertise and capabilities, combined with its leading-edge technology solutions, enable shippers to meet their supply chain challenges, particularly in a marketplace where capacity is scarce.

9. Penske Logistics

WHY THEY WON: “Penske Logistics places a relentless focus on the customer experience and value creation,” says Vince Hartnett, president, Penske Logistics. “Relationship and goal alignment are key elements because we work very closely with our customers at all levels to ascertain both their short-term and long-term strategic direction.”

Reader comments support Hartnett’s assertions about Penske’s approach. “They go above and beyond and treat our business like their own,” says one shipper. “Penske Logistics works hard to understand our company’s needs and business model,” says another. A third praises Penske Logistics’ “best-in-class solutions and people.”

Offering shippers the services they need is a priority for the Reading, Pa.-based 3PL. “Penske Logistics took a focused look at each of our product lines to ensure that the services we offer provided the most value,” says Hartnett. “We aligned our business operations with the respective product lines. For example, Penske recently launched a new labor management program designed to streamline warehouse efficiency, and reduce waste and cost within the customer’s supply chain. As a result of this successful implementation, some of our customers have experienced 15- to 25-percent productivity gains in a three- to four-month period.”


  • Goodyear
  • Cardinal Health
  • Merck
  • Ford
  • Sony

CASE STUDY: Cardinal Health

Penske Logistics and global healthcare manufacturer and distributor Cardinal Health have been working together for more than 20 years. Since 2008, Penske Logistics has managed dedicated contract carriage services for Cardinal Health’s medical products distribution business, which serves hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, labs, and physician’s offices. Over the past two years, Cardinal Health outsourced the management of its private fleet to Penske Logistics.

Today, they’re focused on improving outbound distribution network and transportation efficiency, while maintaining a close eye on the critical nature of service required to support healthcare customers. Initial results show fleet utilization has increased, vehicle fuel efficiency has improved, empty miles/backhauls have decreased, and additional synergies have been created with key suppliers.

10 (TIE). TLC

WHY THEY WON: TLC President Pete Westermann credits the company’s team of supply chain operators with being committed to serving clients as if they were the clients’ actual employees. “We have been working hard at our company culture for more than a century and take great pride that our people are our key differentiator,” says Westermann. “What really makes it all work is our people, and how we have them involved in your businesses.”

IL readers’ comments reflect the Holland, Mich.-based 3PL’s efforts to incorporate its associates into the business improvement process. “TLC has a clear focus on clients’ vision and business goals,” notes one shipper. “They are courteous, hard working, and strive for excellence in every aspect of the transportation and warehousing cycle,” remarks another.

The 3PL also garners kudos for its “friendly personnel, quick response times, and on-time deliveries,” “ease of doing business and loyalty,” and “attention to detail and follow-up.”


  • Sara Lee
  • General Mills
  • PepsiCo
  • Kraft Foods
  • Maple Leaf Frozen Bakery
  • Georgia Pacific
  • Dean Foods
  • Kellogg Company
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Johnsonville Sausage

CASE STUDY: Athens Packaging

In 2004, Athens Packaging, one of the nation’s largest food producers, needed help with its underutilized food packaging facility near Athens, Ga. The company turned to TLC and found a proven, strategic partner-buyer with a solid history of high-speed manufacturing and packaging excellence.

TLC assumed operation of this 25-line, multi-format facility and transitioned it into a highly flexible contract packaging facility serving multiple national and regional food manufacturers. Since taking over this facility, TLC has worked closely with Athens Packaging to maximize efficiency and exceed KPIs, and has recently earned the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute’s 2000 Level 3 certification.

10 (TIE). Unyson

WHY THEY WON: “Unyson sets itself apart with our commitment to guaranteed savings and industry-leading technology,” says Donald Maltby, executive vice president of logistics service. “We meet customer demands by customizing our solution to fit their needs, developing proprietary technology to enhance their supply chains, and focusing on continuous improvements.”

These efforts are benefiting Unyson customers such as Chicago-based consumer packaging producer Rexam Plastics. “Unyson provides Rexam Plastics with streamlined processes and increased efficiencies,” says Scott Vrablik, vice president of supply chain, Rexam Plastics. “Unyson also implemented best practices and has established key metrics to improve service levels.”

Readers celebrate Downers Grove, Ill.-based Unyson’s “innovative, cost-saving solutions,” “fast response and follow-through,” “outstanding service and competitive pricing,” and “ability to get any job done.”


  • Big Lots
  • Energizer
  • General Mills
  • Ingersoll Rand
  • Oatey Corporation
  • Owens Corning
  • Rexam Plastics
  • The Home Depot
  • Toys “R” Us
  • WD-40 Company

CASE STUDY: WD-40 Company

WD-40 Company, the San Diego, Calif.-based maker of the toolbox staple, began to revamp its supply chain strategy to drive costs from its network and improve customer service levels. The company hoped to achieve these goals by outsourcing the tactical execution of its strategic transportation program.

Unyson Logistics provided a full transportation solution to manage the various components of WD-40 Company’s network. The 3PL used its TMS to control and optimize shipments through effective carrier/mode/service selection, pool distribution, and consolidation strategies. Unyson’s comprehensive service offering included: Web-based shipment visibility, freight bill payment and audit; continuous improvement management; and performance measurement and reporting. Because Unyson delivered savings without sacrificing service, WD-40 has realized transportation savings of more than 18 percent, with a 20-percent increase in on-time customer delivery.

3PLs to Watch

The following 3PLs garnered a significant number of reader votes. They may not have made the Top 10 this year, but next year—who knows?

  • Access America Transport.
  • Allen Logistics.
  • Alliance Shippers.
  • Echo Global Logistics.
  • England Logistics.
  • Expeditors International.
  • FedEx Supply Chain Services.
  • Kelron Logistics.
  • Schneider Logistics.
  • Sunset Transportation.

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