As another year starts it’s a good time not to just reflect on what has taken place over the last year but understand, anticipate, and get excited about what a new year holds. For businesses, it is always a good time to take stock and see what direction to chart. For industries as a whole, there is a combination of both competition but also options for collaborating and discussing new technologies, ways of working and forming ties to create win-win situations. 3PLs are no different and there are a number of directions and trends that they could take over the course of 2019.
Of course, one of the most important points not for just 3PLs but across businesses is the use and implementation of technology. Here, there are numerous options, which are already being tried and tested and regularly used while others still are being explored.
Probably one of the most used tech terms today is automation. However, though its use within 3PLs is already being witnessed it appears that more businesses will take a closer and harder look at automation implementation. This doesn’t mean staff layoffs in the face of machines; rather it involves a better way of working to reduce human errors, save time and, essentially, free-up space for humans to be involved in work that matters and delivers value.
Big Data & Analytics
Another buzzword over the last few years, the idea of extracting relevant customer data easily and quickly in order to gain valuable insights is still something most companies are trying to figure out how to do. Given their importance, big data and analytics are poised to receive greater attention in 2019.
As 3PLs thrive on services across the value chain, today’s customers are looking to get the same professional experience across all touch points, channels and platforms. They want consistency and would like to know that their providers clearly understand their needs and requirements, wherever they are.
For internal sales and marketing teams, ensuring analytics can help plot, understand and enable customers to follow them is something most companies are yearning for. In fact, most 3PLs that do not invest at least part of their budgets into analytics will surely feel like they are being left behind.
Sustainability is a subject, which is gain more ground every day and customers are now clearly looking at buying-in to companies that are more sustainable, do more for the environment and take their responsibilities towards the planet much more seriously. This could be through energy-saving products or devices, CSR initiatives, or reducing carbon footprints. 3PLs will look more closely and take serious steps towards sustainable practices in the face of customers whose minds are on saving the planet.
Partnerships & Collaboration
2019 will witness an increase in 3PLs taking on newer partners for specific tasks. This could be within technology through smart systems integration, mobile apps developers or even companies for internal IT restructuring through cloud implementation. Further, as there will also be a push towards increased cyber security, partnerships will be formed to create a specific space to encourage greater IT security across supply chains, logistics and distribution. This will also be coupled with more sharing of information through real-time feeds, device-driven information via the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as through predictive analytics.
Supply Chain Integration
To deliver the best results, all players across the value chain need to be in sync. 2019 will witness more integration through data sharing, insight-driven strategies and possibly, a greater shift towards blockchain technology, to encourage visibility, transparency and accountability by all parties involved. Thus, the greater good purpose is poised to be served and taken into account, especially within an industry that involves such a large number of players at any given time.
An obvious but overlooked concept, which many players don’t always get right, last-mile delivery looks set to become a game-changer for many providers within the new year. Focusing on customers through added efforts, value and taking the extra step will be key in customer retention, loyalty and satisfaction. In many cases, last mile service could make or break companies.
2019, in many cases, could be a big year for 3PL providers. Many companies are looking to revamp their IT infrastructure and embark, continue or fructify their digital transformation journeys. The points above are factors, which could support this path and, for many such players, could even change their entire business structure.