Five Key Benefits That 3PLs Offer Chemical Shippers

April 28th, 2010 - by kenv

Chemical shippers contract 3PLs to gain additional resources, technology and assets unavailable in their own logistic departments to optimize and automate supply chain operations.  More than vendors who merely provide certain contract services, 3PLs should serve as long-term partners in helping customers effectively manage their supply chain processes.  Here are five key benefits that chemical shippers should derive from their business relationship with a 3PL:

1. Ongoing cost reduction/containment strategies

Going beyond the terms of a contract to manage specific freight activities on a monthly or cost-per-transaction basis, 3PLs should proactively present cost management ideas as part of their services.  After becoming familiar with customer operations, 3PLs should be able to identify areas in the supply chain where costs can be contained.  Ideas can range from optimizing weight per shipment through load consolidation, spot bidding on more cost effective carrier lanes or even initiating a freight reduction project to reduce inbound transportation costs.

2.Access to best-in-class transportation management technology

Incorporating the latest transportation management technology to optimize supply chain operations was typically not an option for small- to mid-size shippers who could not afford the upfront investment or ongoing maintenance.  3PLs now offer best-in-class transportation management technology that does not require large investments in hardware, software or even additional personnel.  On demand transportation management systems can be connected to customers’ existing ERP systems in as little as 6 months.  Customers should seek additional capabilities such as online RFQ tools and global order tracking.  Most recently, ChemLogix began offering its customers an iPhone® application as part of its TMS capabilities that gives users mobile access to shipment data on iPhones.

3. Ensure Orderly Review Process

Rather than wait for problems to arise, a 3PL should lead a periodic review of supply chain processes with appropriate personnel to discuss new transportation solutions, specific cost reduction ideas, service levels, and any issues that the client may have with current operations. By reviewing data pertinent to different supply chain elements such as on-time deliveries, costs, customer service issues, etc., the 3PL can discuss which objectives have been met, if there are any problem areas and set new goals for the next operating period.

4. On-line Visibility to Freight Activity

In addition to automating many processes, a 3PL should give customers online, real-time visibility to supply chain operations including freight, invoices, routing guides, carrier service records and more. With visibility to in-transit data, shippers can determine at any point during the supply chain process if shipments will be delivered on time and when to notify plants and customers of impending deliveries and shipments.  Should shipments be late, automatic email alerts can sent to customer service reps so that they can proactively make arrangements with their own customers.

5. Support in Boardroom Discusses

Getting the funds from executives to implement and/or expand transportation services and systems sometimes takes the assistance of 3PLs who can provide detailed explanations of the long-term benefits of specific supply chain strategies.  Experienced in providing transportation solutions to customers in the same industry but with varying scenarios, 3PLs can readily provide informed answers to the questions posed by executives and give examples of the successes and pitfalls associated with certain actions.  3PLs, essentially, become a part of the logistics team when presenting ideas and updates to the board room.

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