The role of third-party logistics companies has shifted dramatically in the past 20-years.
At the turn of the century, 3PLs mainly served as somewhat of an independent freight broker. They mostly catered to larger companies who were looking for better shipping rates, expedited services, or businesses that cannot justify building an in-house logistics department.
Times have changed.
Today’s professional 3PL has grown into full logistics and supply chain support and management organizations. Leading 3PLs like Redwood Logistics have even expanded into warehousing, fulfillment, and TMS implementation services.
In order to stay ahead of a quickly evolving industry, fulfillment and warehousing facilities look to 3PLs for strategies and trends that they can follow, allowing them to stay ahead of the curve, better service customers, and optimize their shipping strategies. And when this happens, more often than not, they become somewhat of 3PL trends.
If this sounds like it may be important to you, here are five global 3PL trends to follow in 2020...
Improved Communication Between Stakeholders
Technology helps to improve many tasks throughout logistics. One of the growing challenges, however, is how to best utilize technological advancements to simplify and streamline the communication process. There are several Warehouse Management Solutions that utilize blockchain technology and electronic data exchanges that not only improve communication but increase transparency in global trade.
Proactive fulfillment centers and 3PLs understand the importance of having the best communication platforms available. They can connect with suppliers, vendors, and most importantly – customers, provide real-time updates on order fulfillment and more.
Mobile App Expansion
3PLs are likewise discovering how their customers, vendors, carriers, and other supply chain partners access data. One of the leading sources of information is the mobile app. Whether it’s connected to Apple or Android devices, tablets, or computers, mobile app development is another 3PL trend rolling into 2020.
Most mobile apps are built on Droid or iOS platforms. With 3PL and fulfillment services, they are packed with customer data and order tracking tools that permit the user to access order information, status, and even make quick updates to orders before they've been shipped.
This power allows 3PLs to better serve customers' evolving flexibility and desires to make changes to orders based on multiple criteria.
Outsourced Delivery Services
The outsourcing of deliveries was a trend that popped up in 2018, as many retailers discovered the power of third-party delivery services. It’s basically an opportunity for eCommerce fulfillment centers to quickly deliver products to customers using independent contractors – similar in many ways to Lyft or Uber Eats.
While several 3PLs and fulfillment centers are expanding their fulfillment and distribution platforms to smaller, regionally focused networks, hiring and building their in-house delivery network takes time and increased capital. To ensure they can deliver to customers quicker, many fulfillment centers are contracting outside consumer-direct delivery services.
The power of AI is showcased through today’s digital space. Whether it is seen via software solutions used in online marketing, forecasting, or transportation management systems powered by AI, smart IT is a growing trend throughout logistics as a whole.
More specifically, it’s really starting to find a home in 3PL fulfillment.
In fact, many proactive fulfillment centers are integrating voice prompts and commands that can access order inquires, inventory, and track shipments. The improvements with speech recognition software are allowing fulfillment center employees to communicate with their WMS to expedite order processing and improve customer service.
Big Data Collection
The final 3PL trend for 2020 we’ll discuss here is the rapid expansion of big data collection solutions. Most fulfillment centers and professional 3PLs use cloud-based technology that provides a safe and quick to access platform to store big data. However, there is another reason for this technology solution – it is what partners are using as well.
Cloud-based solutions are used with carriers, vendors, manufacturers, and more. Information can be stored on secured cloud-based servers and networks and accessed by all authorized parties within the supply chain.
When all logistics partners are on the same page and using similar solutions, information can be collected easier, more efficiently, and accessed with little delay.
3PL trends in 2020 are mainly focused on improving communication, controlling the flow of information, and expediting communication to multiple stakeholders. If you’re looking to integrate any of these solutions into your eCommerce fulfillment services, contact Redwood Logistics to learn more.