The 2018 3PL Study

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The 2018 22nd Annual Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Study examines the global outsourced marketplace and leading trends for shippers and 3PLs in the logistics industry.

This year’s study shows the continuation of two trends: the importance of the relationship between Shippers and 3PLs as well as the importance of adapting to ever-changing technologies, including blockchain and automation. The study shows a large increase in the percentage of shippers seeking information technology (IT) services from 3PLs, with 27 percent indicating outsourcing of IT services in the 2018 study compared to 17 percent in the previous year. However, the percentage of shippers indicating satisfaction dropped slightly this year from 65 percent to 56 percent, potentially due to higher expectations among shippers, as technology has improved or because shippers are seeking enhanced analytical capabilities to help drive more effective supply chain decisions.

The special topics in this year’s report are Blockchain, Automation/Digitization, the Logistics Talent Revolution required for Shippers and 3PLs to drive technology advancements and finally Risk/Resilience in the Shipper/3PL relationship.


This is the first time that the 3PL study investigates blockchain. Results show that while 30 percent of 3PLs and 16 percent of shippers see blockchain as a potential application, they have yet to engage with the technology. The study describes anticipated benefits including improved supply chain visibility and potential challenges participants will face in implementing blockchain.

Automation/Digitization in Transportation

The study describes some of the exciting potential with on-road automation (e.g., Driverless Vehicles). It also describes many ways in which automation is already providing returns across the supply chain through digitalized load matching and warehouse robotics.

Logistics Talent Revolution

Technology is reframing the demands on the workforce, particularly within the supply chain where automation, digitization and data collection capabilities are growing rapidly. Supply chain leaders and logistics executives play an even more critical roles as companies work to build more efficient and technologically advanced supply chains.

Risk/Resilience in Shipper-3PL Relationships

Throughout all of these technological advances, the relationship between 3PLs and Shippers remains an important challenge. 79 percent of 3PLs and 64 percent of shippers said they have been involved in projects where the ability to execute quickly was directly impacted by lack of complete, accurate and consistent information.