As data reporting gets more robust and supply chains more agile, it would follow that 3rd party logistics companies and fulfillment service companies would be leading the way to change in related industries.

The rapid growth of 3PL over the last few years isn’t because existing customers are doing exponentially more business, it’s because so many companies, both big and small, are jumping on the 3PL bandwagon to reap the benefits that come with having these experts available for each and every shipment.

Capacity Shortages are No Problem

You might think of your fulfillment company as the place that just mails out your orders and nothing more, but the truth is that these companies have worked hard to revolutionize shipping with the help of their shipping partners. For example, it was only a few years ago that businesses were facing a capacity crisis with too few shippers moving not enough cargo. However, increased communications between 3PLs and shippers have made it so that every available square inch is used efficiently, lessening the burden on transportation and the cost to businesses.

“As the world continues to change faster than ever, our challenge is to change just as fast. Supply chains are only getting more complex, requiring a more collaborative relationship between 3PLs and their customers,” John Wiehoff, CEO for C.H. Robinson, told Supply and Demand Chain Executive in an interview.

Digital Skeleton Keys for Every Door

The use of sophisticated digital documentation for shipments has also helped 3PLs get goods through tough customs and shipper to shipper interchanges. In the past, there was often a maze of paperwork in triplicate involved for any shipment moving between shipping companies or through different countries.

Transcription errors and missing pages could result in days or weeks of delays while the cargo’s destination was sorted. Today’s shippers can breeze their packages back and forth knowing that the responsible 3PL has already sent the digital documentation ahead.

There’s also the transportation management software packages that are in wide use in the industry. For every company that suddenly sells out of an item they need desperately, there’s a 3rd party logistics company working feverishly to redirect shipments so they arrive where they’re most needed. Predictive models can help create an agile supply chain, but it’s still up to the people on the ground to make sure that shipments move as they should.

3rd party logistics companies are doing much to change the industries they touch, and the 3PLs are also changing in response to the needs of their customers. New software, smarter ways to pack partially loaded carriers and easier document transfers will only continue to become more robust in a collaboration to create a smarter supply chain across all sorts of industries.