Current State of the Market

In the 2014 18th Annual Third Party Logistics Study, survey results showed the continuing, positive overall nature of shipper-3PL relationships. Both parties view them as being successful, and shippers are seeing positive results again this year: an average logistics cost reduction of 11%, average inventory cost reduction of 6%, and an average fixed logistics cost reduction of 23%.

current-state-of-the-3pl-marketShippers agree that 3PLs provide new and innovative ways to improve logistics effectiveness, and that they are sufficiently agile and flexible to accommodate future business needs and challenges. Despite ongoing churn in shipper-3PL relationships, in general shippers are increasing their use of outsourced logistics services, and shippers and 3PLs are now about equally satisfied (70% and 69%, respectively) with the openness, transparency and good communication in their relationships.

As suggested in last year’s report, however, several ongoing factors are impacting progress toward the advanced end of the maturity model for shipper-3PL relationships. While gainsharing and collaboration with other companies, even competitors, to achieve logistics cost and service improvements would seem to be markers for advanced relationships, it seems these approaches are more preferred in certain shipper-3PL relationships, and less in others. There are some encouraging results that suggest a slight increase this year in outsourcing of strategic, customer-facing, and IT-intensive logistics activities. However, the continuing economic uncertainties in the global marketplace may continue to dampen significant growth and innovation in the 3PL sector.

Signs indicate that the “IT Gap” — the difference between the percentage of 3PL users indicating that IT capabilities are a necessary element of 3PL expertise (98% in the current study), and the percentage of the same users who agree that they are satisfied with 3PL IT capabilities (55%) — is stabilizing to some degree. But our research also finds that 3PL IT capabilities are becoming increasingly important to shippers, and that the shipper satisfaction ratings are also increasing.