By John Sell, Vice President of Retail and Transportation Operations, MD Logistics
Q: How do non-traditional supply chains differ from traditional supply chains?
A: Traditionally, 3PL providers offered a specialized set of services focused around warehousing, order fulfillment, transportation and supply chain logistics. Today, several factors have driven 3PLs to non-traditional services that spread their influence into supply chains.
Non-traditional supply chain services include various solutions, such as:
- Labeling and barcoding
- Product packaging and packaging postponement
- Point of purchase display kitting
- Reverse packaging
- Customer call centers
- Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) services
Q: How does offering non-traditional services affect the supply chain?
A: Value-added services that fall outside the realm of traditional supply chain solutions can save millions of dollars and create mutually beneficial, collaborative relationships. By adapting to customers’ needs and identifying the solutions, 3PLs can cement their relationships in an extremely competitive marketplace while offering value in the following areas:
Flexibility – Many non-traditional supply chain services evolve from urgent market-driven projects that require immediate solutions. Because of their expertise in logistics and eye toward the bottom line, 3PL providers can integrate these projects into the existing supply chain and grow them into long-term, value-added services.
Scalability – Services are contingent on demands that can either fluctuate or be completely unpredictable, such as a manufacturer’s promotions or recalls. 3PLs can scale and repurpose labor when developing individualized solutions to address the time-sensitive need of an individual project.
Responsiveness – 3PLs provide a ready and available workforce that can be flexed and scaled to meet a customer’s needs in a timely manner. Constant management oversight and collaboration streamlines these non-traditional services and keeps them responsive to changing needs.
Cost-effectiveness – Outsourcing to external vendors that specialize in non-traditional services or handling these projects in-house can result in high labor, equipment and transportation costs. 3PL providers have trained staffs that specialize in non-traditional services, this mitigating mistakes and maximizing cost-effectiveness.
Trust – An existing partnership between a 3PL and its customers is a trusted relationship that can expand to include non-traditional services. Working with a trusted 3PL provider to solve problems and develop solutions is a reliable path, especially in times of urgency.
Resourcefulness – 3PL providers have a flexible infrastructure that allows them to manage labor and handle additional needs, such as specialized equipment or packaging.
Today, 3PLs must be able to handle many projects outside the scope of traditional services. From packaging postponement to customer call centers, these non-traditional services allow the 3PL provider to positively impact various steps in the supply chain. It is also a value-add for customers that are seeking an enriching relationship that can evolve over time.
Source: Inbound Logistics