Today, third-party logistics (3PL) providers are asked to do more than simply move goods from point A to point B. We are aware of the financial, technological, environmental, tactical and strategic well-being of our clients in addition to the soundness of their supply chains. More so, we are in the business of finding and executing SOLUTIONS.
In the past, businesses were not generally as focused on their supply chain networks, and logistics costs were seen as a necessary evil- a cost of doing business. Large inventories were seen as assets, expedited air shipping was a viable solution to bad planning, and complex data management systems were too expensive, clunky and unsophisticated to provide real value. Oh how times have changed…
Major shifts in business have propelled third-party logistics providers into arguably the most critical of the key strategic relationships a business must maintain. Globalization of the world’s trade markets has made supply chain execution a must. Financial and cultural shifts, along with development of new and powerful markets in Asia, South America and other previously unrefined regions has opened up demand across the globe. Businesses have had to adapt to this in order to survive and capitalize. The rapid acceleration of technology has made business communication seamless, allowing us to source and ship goods to and from almost anywhere in the world with efficiency. Throw in one of the worst recessionary periods of the past few hundred years, and businesses have had to shift the way they manage the financial resources of their companies.
The Opportunity: Logistics providing Solutions
SOLUTIONS STEERS THE SHIP | as business continues to evolve, so must logistics providers. The art of the 3PL provider is to provide solutions to clients’ often complex business problems, to relieve their “pain”.
A large company came to us several years ago with a glaring pain in one of their divisions. They had a high value, specialized product that needed to be shipped around the world. As new opportunities opened up, they needed to be able to adapt and move into new markets. The client needed a provider to integrate seamlessly into their Purchase Order Management system, as well as tie into their contract manufacturers to provide an automated and efficient order processing flow. Due to the value and criticality of the product, they needed a provider to manage and execute every shipment with a level of attention that quite frankly some of the larger guys out there were not willing to provide. The result for the client was a fully integrated, custom order management process, with a level of personal service over the top. They were connected to vendor and client in an efficient and time-saving way that directly drove down overhead while also improving transit times and accuracy. International compliance and border crossing functions are also taken care of within the process. The real solution for the client is removing pain by outsourcing the supply chain function altogether, and allowing an expert to manage it. They in turn can focus on their business, their product and most importantly their customers.
Third-party logistics providers must look to integrate with our clients and provide information that allows them to make business decisions. Online tracking is not enough, real solutions are found when a client is connected upstream to suppliers, and downstream to their own clients- and even further on to their clients’ clients.
WE MUST KNOW THE PATH | We must maintain an understanding of regulatory changes in the world. As politics and culture shape regions, 3PL providers must constantly understand how these changes affect the trade climate. It is our duty to understand the intricacies involved in getting products into and out of regions of the world where trade regulations can make it difficult to operate.
Recently, we handled some goods inbound to Vienna, Austria. They moved on a less-than-container (LCL) ocean basis along with several other shippers’ goods. An error with the In-Transit (IT) Bond caused the container to miss a required exam in Hamburg Germany, while the freight arrived in Vienna at a bonded warehouse without the proper documentation. Critical equipment needed for the client’s overseas project was hung up and at the mercy of two separate foreign Customs entities. Through diligence, continued communication with overseas agents and Customs authorities and close attention to the client’s needs- the shipment was cleared and made available to the client many weeks ahead of the original estimate.
3PL AS A TRUE PARTNER | A logistics provider must help maintain the financial resources of our clients. It is a core responsibility to streamline supply chains by saving both time and money. Creativity comes from industry knowledge, technical capability, and a willingness to find solutions for customers.
Creativity is looking for alternative methods to accomplish expedited shipping at more economical prices. There are many ways to move cargo domestically and internationally. Knowing the absolute requirements and being able to creatively think through solution options sets good 3PL providers apart from the rest. We believe that protecting clients’ assets as if they were our own is our responsibility.
Continually looking for better ways to move goods in required timeframes is a challenge we thrive in. Developing carrier bases, and developing service level options for clients is like a big puzzle that we continuously refine and build upon. Through this, we are able to best utilize our ground, ocean and air partners to make time critical shipments happen while not always requiring clients to bite the expedited freight cost bullet. Through creative planning, strong partner networks, powerful InfoTech capabilities and some old fashioned customer service; logistics providers can be a critical ally to companies of all sizes.
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