July 2009 | Commentary | Checking In

I Love My 3PL

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Based on the 6,000+ responses to our annual survey of the third-party logistics market, readers really love their 3PLs. Despite the economic downturn in 2008, more companies responding to the survey—from small B-to-C startups to large multinationals, from healthy businesses weathering the maelstrom to names in the news suffering through privation detailed in today's headlines—increased their use of 3PLs. If markets suddenly tank, companies of all sizes and scope might be more willing to pull the trigger on a new 3PL project or expand a current 3PL relationship to find even more efficiencies.

Cutting transport costs is always important, and even more so now, but you wouldn't know it from our survey results. Respondents say 3PL relationships suffer mostly from customer service lapses—23 percent cite failed expectations, 54 percent say service failures. Only seven percent say pricing issues stress relationships. Clearly, pricing takes a back seat to customer service in measuring 3PL excellence.

Here's a survey sampling that reveals how respondents feel about 3PL service:

"Absolutely the best customer service on the planet."—Kris Buth, Dekoron Wire and Cable Inc.

"Best 3PL in the automotive business, period." —Mathieu Cote, BRP

"Always there when I need them, I can always reach someone. The guys I work with—Curtis, Colton, Stephen and Joe—are great."—Denise McCullough, Superior Walls of America

"Their customer service qualities are outstanding."—Kimberly Montgomery, Eaton Corporation

"Motivated employees, effective systems."—S.J., Ford Motor Co.

"Totally seamless in providing exactly what the customer needs: excellent customer service and on-time delivery at fair pricing."—Henry Peloquin, CVS/Caremark

"They have good service on a global basis with reasonable pricing. Their customer service is excellent and they are always on top of events in the global market."—Michael S. Lyons, Palm Inc.

"Great proactive operational excellence and value for the services provided."—Quin Hartman, Bayer HealthCare, LLC

Tactical operational results are fundamental to 3PL value, but so is the strategic vision of experienced logistics providers. Survey respondents say they appreciate 3PLs that are proactive, take the lead in offering suggestions, and help transform the enterprise:

"They are responsive but also proactive in presenting suggestions."—John Haggenjos, Dean Foods

"Lean operations, innovative thinking."—Joe Kory, Navistar

One respondent went so far as to say, "They are critical to our business, as the middleware and manpower they provide is invaluable." And, "they constantly look at the business and formulate strategies and actions that can cut expense."

And look at this amazing admission: "They mask many of the supply chain faults we have in our network, and make it look very different to our customers."

3PL love is blind, I guess.

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