Conducted annually since 1996, the Third-Party Logistics Study has expanded from being a purely domestic survey of 3PL customers to a truly global study that aims to understand the perspectives of providers as well as users.
"The 3PL Study is now a full-blown research effort that provides a balanced approach to understanding the global 3PL marketplace," says Langley, supply chain professor at Pennsylvania State University and director of development at Penn State's Supply Chain Center for Research. Langley heads the study, which is sponsored by Penn State, CapGemini Consulting, Korn Ferry International and Penske Logistics.
"Between these four sponsors we have all the bases covered," says Langley. These sponsors are helpful not only in designing and conducting the research but in assessing the results "and helping us determine what it all means in terms of the current status and future of the 3PL sector." The 2013 study will analyze between 2,000 and 3,000 responses from around the world, Langley says.
There are two parts to the survey, Langley explains. The first includes questions that are repeated year over year so that changes can be assessed. These include such matters as types of services or technology applications being used. The second part is a bank of special topic questions. "Each year we sit down with the best advisors we can find to identify specific topics that are leading edge and on the minds of people in the 3PL sector," says Langley. The 2013 special topics include strategic growth, succession planning, preferential sourcing models and big data. "This last topic is something we have been thinking about for a year or so," says Langley. "Big data really is a new term for managing massive amounts of data, but the real key is how to use those massive amounts of data to create understanding and solutions to problems."
Langley draws an analogy with a jet engine, which in its first five minutes of operation generates 30,000 data points. "Think of your business as that jet engine. If you are trying to understand its efficiency and functioning, that's a lot to analyze and this is something that will really affect supply chains in the future."
Langley notes that the 3PL study does not ask respondents to identify themselves. "We are not trying to attach results to individual companies, but we do like to know certain characteristics of respondents, such as the industries in which they serve and where they sit in the organization vis-a-vis the supply chain," he says.
The 2013 3PL Study will be released in October at the annual CSCMP conference in Denver.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, 3pl, global logistics, third party logistics, logistics management, logistics & supply chain, logistics services, supply chain solutions
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