So the year ahead, 2015:
Preparation is an exercise that businesses should undergo at this time of year. However third-party logistics (3PLs) providers in particular have the unique challenge of constantly improving upon how they work with shippers, and in the face of the rate changes coming in January, finding new ways to reduce freight costs to keep pricing down for customers. It is more crucial than ever for 3PLs to incorporate information technology (IT) to help conquer these challenges, and relieve the pressures related to costs, time, quality of service and profitability.
To save money, collaborate better with shippers, and gain competitive advantage. Autofulfil suggests the top five actions that 3PLs can undertake as they prepare their Strategic 2015 business plans:
1.) Automation of Processes and Data
Many 3PLs continue to rely on costly manpower despite advances in technology. To re-input information for each shipment is time consuming. By integrating an automated system connected to customers and trade partners, like carriers and agents information can be entered once and automatically updated and passed on to the next party. This not only saves time but avoids errors.
Also, critical shipment documentation, like invoices, packing lists and manifests, can be accurately system-generated and stored electronically with much greater visibility. Lean efficiency gains and cost savings are made by automating data transfers between systems whether it’s for order management, the creation of export documentation or filing of customs declarations.
2.) Shave Operations Time with Shippers/Agents
Responding to your customers’ rapidly changing requirements, speed is of the essence. The speed at which 3PLs can set up new customers and/or alter arrangements for existing customers represents the key difference between winning and losing a contract. Transportation and inventory management software can enable 3PLs to operate faster, better and with greater agility.
3PLs should explore a cloud-based platform so processes can be configured to meet business needs without the need for expert IT resources or expensive hardware investment. This improved agility also opens up additional revenue streams.
3.) Prioritize Trade Compliance
Given that shippers place more emphasis on compliance, many do not have the right resources or time to focus on the ever-changing compliance landscape. This presents an opportunity for 3PLs to provide continuous education for employees and in doing so enforce strong compliance ethos within their organization. In turn, 3PLs can offer customs compliance as an added-value service offering for customers and create a new revenue opportunities for the business in the process.
3PLs can ensure shipments are screened against the denied list, or acquiring and tracking all appropriate export licenses. Providing trade compliance services for your client enhances revenues and profitability for all stakeholders.
4.) Improve Shipping Visibility
Shippers are demanding so better visibility from 3PLs is more and more evident. Reliable shipment visibility is essential to keep goods on schedule, control costs, satisfy customers while protecting margins. Although it may sound like a daunting task, 3PLs can integrate a hosted transportation software that provides end-to-end shipping visibility. This can actually save money by reducing errors and ultimately drive a competitive advantage against 3PLs that can’t deliver visibility.
5.) Integrate Automated Alerts
In business alerts are a key defender against supply chain factors outside your control. As goods move through the value chain, clients look for a snapshot of critical milestones in the supply chain; automated alerts notify each party when a service-level agreements or major milestone is at risk.
Also, alerts allow 3PLs and their clients to manage shipments by exception while demanding greater efficiencies. Supply chain execution software vendors offer an array of options for alerts. Simple notifications of an occurrence or more sophisticated options for work-flow activities are some of the possibilities.
As global volatility, spiraling fuel costs and aggressive competition unfolds, planning ahead for 2015 is not a simple task, we agree. That said it is critical that 3PLs take a hard look at operations in order to determine areas for cost reduction, productivity improvement and efficiency, in addition to opportunities for new service offerings and revenue stream creation.
There’s a huge opportunity for 3PLs to also save money, better collaborate with agents and clients, and ultimately, gain a competitive advantage with the right mix of IT versus lean synchronization balance.
In a dynamic and complex business like Autofulfil technology is crucial to maintaining efficient, flexible operations.
Get in touch to see what Autofulfil can do for your business email@example.com