Relationships are the key to making today’s complex supply chains work, and the 2016 20th Annual Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Study shows the continued collaborative and positive relationships between shippers and third-party logistics providers that have been developing since the study began.

This year’s survey suggests 3PLs and their customers are becoming more proficient at what they do, individually as well as together, which is improving the quality of their relationships. Both parties—93% of 3PL users and 94% of 3PL providers—reported that their relationships are successful and that their work is yielding positive results.

To help document changes within the supply chain, the 20th Annual Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Study examines the global supply marketplace across a range of topics, including how shippers and 3PLs are aligning relationships, the 3PL competitive landscape and workforce innovating and agility. 

For relationships between 3PLs and their customers and for partnerships between 3PLs and shippers to be successful, all parties are expected to invest in the relationships. To achieve great efficiencies and effectiveness in their relationships, 3PLs and shippers must be well-aligned in their plans and actions.

This year’s report shows that the ways in which shippers and 3PLs work together is changing as competition within the logistics industry ramps up. To differentiate themselves, 3PLs are working to provide sustained value, innovative solutions and information to facilitate data-driven decisions. As the logistics landscape continues to respond to more freight, capacity and regulatory issues, and increasingly demanding customers and consumers, the industry is more focused than ever on innovation.

That innovation is carrying over into how 3PLs and shippers are addressing the unprecedented labor shortage the industry is facing. More than half of shippers—52%— feel they can rely on their 3PLs to address the labor shortage’s affect on their business, and 3PL providers will need to re-think their strategy for attracting and retaining employees in order to meet their customers’ needs.

The study, which is based on responses from shippers and logistics service providers in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and other regions, also looks at supply chain risk management and new competition within the industry. It is produced by Capgemini Consulting, the global strategy and transformation consulting brand of the Capgemini Group, Penn State University, the executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International and Penske Logistics, a global logistics and supply chain management provider.

Over the span of 20 years, the study has documented the evolution of 3PLs, which are shifting, in many instances, from tactical service providers to collaborative partners delivering a comprehensive suite of integrated logistics services. Additionally, providers have become more proficient at the provision of 3PL services, and customers have become better buyers and users of 3PL services.  The study includes four streams of research: surveys, desk research, focus interviews and intensive, one-day facilitated shipper workshops.