This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.
Third party logistics (3PL) is a thriving segment, with new developments popping up regularly.
It’s important to keep abreast of the changes in the way 3rd party logistics companies and both national and global fulfillment services are doing business, since they can directly affect your bottom line.
Whether you’re a logistics company or simply looking to hire one, watch for these emerging trends this year:
Better robotic fulfillment tools. Amazon went public with its advanced fulfillment robots in November, but their team of 15,000 robotic employees aren’t the only ones in this sector. The Kiva robots are designed to locate and retrieve stock for human packagers to help speed up order fulfillment in Amazon warehouses, but they’re also eliminating error as they do this. Don’t worry, these robotic tools aren’t going to threaten human jobs unless companies using them fail to expand their customer base accordingly.
Lower costs. As robotic tools and advanced fulfillment software make the pick, pack and ship process increasingly efficient, it makes sense that prices are going to drop in response. After all, a robotic tool can save a considerable amount of money right away by speeding up jobs that might take humans many hours to complete — giant warehouses can be difficult to navigate, making automation of pick, pack and ship practically a requirement in today’s competitive market. Besides saving time, automations help reduce error and practically eliminate returns due to improper item picking. 2015 is all about more efficiency and cost-savings.
Internet-based shipping brokers. Although shipping brokers have been around a while, they’ve never been as accessible as they are today. By putting a business directly in touch with their shippers, it allows for direct bidding that, in theory, lowers shipping prices. It’s a great tool for companies that have the manpower and space to do their own storage and packing, but these shipping brokers still have a way to go before they’re really useful for the majority of small business owners. And, of course, many businesses opt for the human touch and for a fulfillment or 3PL company that coordinates the shipping themselves.
No matter where you are in the distribution chain, knowing what’s new in 3rd party logistics (3PL) can give you a competitive edge. By keeping up-to-date with technology and the latest protocols for order management and product distribution, you’ll always be one step ahead. In part two of this blog post, we’ll discuss the global movements that may affect your overseas business.