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THIRD PARTY LOGISTICS FEATURE


TOP 10 PREDICTIONS on the future of 3PL


will be focused around agility through mobility. Mobile devices will be used across the board at all 3PL firms. With the potential for RFID enabled devices to hold data so that the items carry information with them for identification and traceability, customers will be able to order and process anytime, anywhere, 24/7.


4. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION Information previously produced by people will increasingly be automated and system-generated and data will flow out of increasingly sophisticated stock sensors. Inventory will count itself and containers will be able to detect their own contents. GPS technology will allow pallets to report in if they end up in the wrong location, allowing delivery errors to be put right while still in transit.


Smarter technology, 24/7 mobile working and ‘big data’? Simon Fowler, managing director of Advanced Business Solutions predicts what the 3PL industry will look like in 2020


T


he landscape for third party logistics (3PL) has altered significantly in the


past decade and is tipped to experience further growth and change as mobile technologies and ‘smart’ working practices develop. With growth in 3PL markets forecast to be as high as 15% in South America and the Asia Pacific regions, the demand to service these markets in 2020 will generate fierce competition. A greater consumer demand for 24/7 services and reduced costs means efficiency and accuracy will be crucial for the future of the successful 3PL firm. Businesses will remain keen to drive down their own operation and labour costs by outsourcing to 3PLs but success will hinge on firms’ willingness and ability to adopt new technologies.


1. MORE COLLABORATION Logistics companies will rely heavily on technology to collaborate, connect and engage with customers. Electronic data exchange will be critical, not only for


the performance and integrity of the data but the flexibility and speed of change. Vendor managed inventory where the supply chain vendor monitors the buyers inventory and makes periodic resupply decisions will be common in even the smallest 3PL via web-based portals and access to systems.


2. INCREASED VISIBILITY Methods including continuous replenishment and inventory management will be commonplace. A more holistic approach to the entire


supply chain will be typical with more emphasis given to external visibility. Furthermore, collaboration with manufactures will assist with visibility of production schedules with supplier and ensure raw material availability but also with sales channels so that demand is connected with availability.


3. RISE IN MOBILE USE Paper records in warehouses will be a distant memory and everything in 2020


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5. SMARTER TECHNOLOGY Firms will see the benefits of investing in smarter IT and software systems which can deliver rapid ROIs. Software including our warehouse management system (WMS) will drive cost and time saving, increasing efficiencies. Voice picking will be standard in the supply chain process, including stock enquiries. Improved speech recognition software will allow workers to communicate directly with their WMS to improve stock recording, speed up order turn-rounds and shorten staff training periods.


6. DIVERSIFICATION Outsourcing to 3PLs has seen fierce rivalry between businesses and only those which are able to add value to the services they offer with differentiators will survive. Those who make it will have morphed from commodity distribution services to more complex organisations offering online ordering, returns processing, product assembly and kitting, documentation and inventory management. Integrating customers with a broader range of solutions will become a way for 3PL firms to form longer lasting partnerships and become more profitable in the future.


7. BIG DATA Cloud-based technology will be used by the majority of logistics companies as they embrace the new age of Big Data. 3PLs will recognise the need to allow clients access to their own systems to


MATERIALS HANDLING & LOGISTICS | MARCH 2014 9





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