In today's complex, fast-changing environment, having an agile logistics provider is vital to meeting cold chain demands. Many food shippers may be considering a change in this evolving market, but those changes are time-consuming and costly. So, how can manufacturers be confident in choosing a logistics solution that is right for them? Before a shipper hands over a book of business to a 3PL, let's consider what you could expect.
There is a difference between providing a service and being a partner. Service providers are often spectators to a customer's objectives and goals. Execution alone won't provide the growth opportunity that food shippers are looking to achieve. A 3PL with a collaborative approach will participate at a level of strategy and development to accelerate growth towards your goals.
When selecting a logistics provider, ask, "What is your approach to working alongside your customers, and what are some tangible illustrations of your strategy?"
A GOOD RATE IS NOT THE SAME AS A GREAT VALUE
Many food shippers rely heavily on shopping freight rates and weekly quotes. It is tedious work and creates vulnerability in overall costs. Getting a shipment from A to B is a short-term transaction. Building a 3PL relationship is a long-term commitment that leads to greater value. It's the difference between saving $100 on a shipment or saving 10% on total freight spend.
When shopping rates, ask, "Are we aware of our total costs and the implications to our bottom line by using a distribution list versus developing a single partner?"
USING DATA TO STRATEGIZE
An experienced 3PL will begin by reviewing your entire order history. By looking at both shipments you handled, and orders picked up by your customers, they can better understand your business. This big-picture info is analyzed and can inform opportunities to streamline and maximize freight capacity. The provider you are looking for will then create an action plan tailored to your specific needs. An overall plan, with achievable timelines built-in, is essential to reducing total freight spend.
During your selection process, are potential partners requesting historical data to analyze and propose a plan? If so, ask, "How do you analyze data, and how does it benefit our goals as a company?"
SETTING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Food companies can significantly benefit from logistics structure and consistency. A dynamic 3PL can help eliminate surprises and establish an in-depth system of operating guidelines that everyone agrees to upfront. Although it may seem contrary, these standards help increase flexibility. For example, communicating overlooked transportation details are critical to a shipper’s success, like:
- Requirements for tender and order change cutoffs;
- When the provider schedules pick-up and delivery appointments;
- How products will be tracked and traced, and;
- Specific receiver requirements.
While onboarding a new 3PL, ask, "How will you meet our expectations to ensure a consistent and predictable process?"
RESPONDING TO CHANGES
A knowledgeable 3PL will be ready to respond to changes when they arise. Make sure your 3PL has an established, reliable network and the capacity to assist you in building a more efficient supply chain. Having trusted carrier relationships helps to ensure your shipments are on time, intact with no surprises. In addition, the best 3PLs will constantly be developing their network. Ensure not only a secure network but that the provider is developing solutions and investing in resources.
When vetting potential partners, ask, "How do you develop your network, and who are the underlying service providers that you depend on and are currently developing?"
ANALYZING TO IMPROVE
Technology can help you do more than track and trace. Analyzing data by routes or customers allows for continuous improvement of the entire supply chain. A 3PL company that can provide robust reporting can help determine what is working and make adjustments.
When demoing a 3PL’s technology, ask yourself, "What are the user experience requirements, and does this product meet our TMS needs as a company?"
To navigate the complexity of today's cold chain, food shippers want to have the support of a resourceful, dependable, innovative team. Manufacturers can feel confident they are choosing the right solution in considering these six expectations. Moving from a transaction-based relationship to a partnership boils down to making a change. The best 3PL companies will help make it easy.
Karl is the Vice President of Trademark Transportation and the fifth generation of logistics businessmen in his family. Growing up at Trademark, Karl has had exposure to various aspects of the industry from working on the dock to designing transportation solutions. For a large part of his career, Karl has worked in the non-profit sector with an emphasis on community development. Working in over 30 different countries he has worked on projects related to housing, agriculture, and microenterprise. This passion has carried into his role at Trademark, being driven by the social impact of both the logistics and food industries.