The annual 3PL Study, now in its 18th year, indicates that logistics outsourcing continued to grow in 2012 along with deepening shipper/provider relationships, says Shanton Wilcox, principal at Capgemini Consulting, a co-sponsor of the study. Other sponsors are Korn Ferry International and Penske Logistics.
The strengthening of 3PL relationships is a trend that has been observed over the last several years "but now we have data supporting that as services that are more collaborative or value-add are going beyond conversations and actually being implemented," Wilcox says. "We saw an uptick in gain-sharing as well as an increase in terms of the investment that both sides are willing to commit." Partnerships reverted to being heavily transactional during the recession, Wilcox says, "but as companies see some stabilization from an economic perspective, they are looking for more of a partnership with 3PLs."
One of the study's "deep dive" questions was around the use of big data in the supply chain, says Wilcox. Both sides of the 3PL relationship believe there are big opportunities in leveraging big data but they still are trying to figure out how, he says. "They are trying to understand what data they have, and what they don't have, and how they can bring that together to create intelligent decisions, as opposed to having data for the sake of data."
As 3PLs and shippers develop more strategic relationships around areas like order management and other services, additional data will be available, he says. "3PLs really are in a unique position as almost a data hub with the ability to bring perspectives and insights for shipper customers."
Companies need to be investing resources and building infrastructure now to take advantage of these opportunities in the future, Wilcox says. "If a company waits another 12 to 18 months before investing in technology or relationships for compiling those information sets and data flows, they will be two years behind competition. There will be a lot of movement in this area in the coming year."
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