Peter Drucker wrote in his book “Managing in the Next Society” that “the biggest challenge for the large company and especially for the multinational may be its social legitimacy – its values, its mission, its vision. Everything else can be outsourced.” This idea, coupled with the state of the global economy, has led many organizations to scrutinize their supply chains and consider outsourcing logistical operations to third-party logistics (3PLs) providers when it makes sense.

This trend of outsourcing is expected to continue, benefiting the growing and evolving 3PL industry. However, the way business is conducted will need to change as 3PLs face increasing demands from their customers. Gartner’s Supply Chain Symposium 2023 in Barcelona highlighted several trends that 3PL organizations should focus on, including:

  • Net Zero initiatives
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  • Robotics
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
  • Circular Economy practices
  • Business Continuity strategies
  • Sustainability and Transparency measures
Author Brad Revell with Blue Yonder colleague James Ward at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium in Barcelona

Let’s explore the perspective of Blue Yonder’s 3PL customers. They are no longer satisfied with merely understanding the basics of these trends. They want to know why (or why not) they should consider implementing them in their specific environments and with their customers. Supply chain directors and specialists are striving to grasp the significance of these trends and extract actionable insights from them. It is no longer sufficient to have supply chain visibility or AI capabilities alone; the key is to utilize these tools efficiently and optimize supply chain operations in an integrated manner.

While 3PLs excel at efficient execution and operational capabilities, they must also differentiate themselves in a highly competitive and turn-key environment. The future calls for a focus on innovation and differentiation. 3PLs need to expand the boundaries of their “secret sauce” and integrate further into their customers’ businesses by offering additional services. For instance, they can incorporate order management (OMS) and planning as part of their business integration strategy.

Sustainability and transparency are also critical factors for 3PLs. Customers expect more than just traditional service levels; they want their 3PL partners to align with their sustainability goals and adopt transparent practices. Collaborative planning and circular economy principles are gaining importance in the outsourcing process.

Many of these trends align with the areas in which Blue Yonder assists its customers in bringing their goals to fruition. For example, we provide software capabilities to 65% of Tier 1 3PL organizations. These capabilities focus on transportation, warehouse, and yard management, enabling us to efficiently handle inbound, outbound, and inventory operations on behalf of our 3PL customers. Our goal is to manage their operations effectively and optimize their operational margins by leveraging labor management, task automation, and robotics. We continue to drive further optimization within our 3PL community as they evolve and innovate.

Outsourcing logistical operations to 3PLs has become an increasingly popular trend as companies seek to concentrate on their core competencies while leveraging the expertise of specialized logistics providers. As the 3PL industry continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial for these organizations to pay attention to emerging trends such as net zero initiatives, AI, robotics, DEI, circular economy practices, business continuity strategies, sustainability, and transparency.

Learn more about Blue Yonder’s industry-leading autonomous and predictive end-to-end logistics solution here. Luminate Logistics helps organizations recognize problems before they happen, get machine-learning-based recommendations for action, and minimize risk while capitalizing on opportunities.