Many things about college football change dramatically from season to season. Others – like sportscasters’ advice about what teams will need to do in order to win a big game – seem so repetitive you wonder why people even bother to watch. (You know the drill: Contain the quarterback. Stop the run. Avoid turnovers. Control the clock. Blah, blah, blah.)
It’s a similar story when you hear people cite the advantages of using a 3PL, because most seem to be reading from the same tired script.
Rest assured that you won’t hear any of those platitudes from AFS, especially not while all of us are in the midst of a vicious cycle of bottlenecks and shortages that has made every previous supply chain “game” look like a game of Pop Warner football.
Instead, we’d like to offer several hot-off-the-presses reasons about why there’s never been a smarter time to consider adding a 3PL to your logistics team.
More Big Game Experience
LTL, truckload and parcel carriers all have extensive playbooks. And even though most appear to be remarkably similar, each ultimately has its own distinct windows of opportunity.
No one understands this quite as clearly as well-established 3PLs.
Most of us have dedicated transportation departments that have spent years watching carriers’ “game film,” i.e. drilling down into the particulars of their service records, damage rates, claims activity and freight preferences. Plus, we’ve logged a lot of playing time working collaboratively with carriers on behalf of our clients.
As a result, we’re likely to have a much better bead on what makes each of these carriers tick, including what kinds of cargo and volumes they prefer to carry, what types of deals and concessions they are (and aren’t) willing to make, and what kinds of best practices companies need to pursue (including proper capture of data) in order to become preferred shippers. All of which could come in very handy at times like these when you need carriers’ services far more than they need your business.
Stronger Special Teams
There are a lot of ways to lose a football game. But one of the most frustrating happens when a kicker’s extra point attempt is blocked.
In a similar vein, your company could be temporarily blocked from working with a lot of great carriers simply because you don’t have established relationships – or because the data you’re plugging into your freight RFQs is so incomplete that carriers will decide it’s not worth their time to provide a quote.
An experienced 3PL can help you in both of these regards.
For one thing, many of us have longstanding relationships with a wide universe of carriers, which means we can often get your foot in doors that otherwise might not be open to you right now. For another, we can scrutinize your data points for each shipment and correct any deficiencies so that more carriers will be willing to put their hats in the ring to carry your shipments.
Picking Up The Pricing Blitz
Football is an opportunistic game, which is why a good defense will often blitz against a less talented team.
Carriers are also opportunistic, as you’ve no doubt gathered from their rapidly escalating shipping prices. While some of their increased rates and surcharges were put in place as a response to escalating costs and ongoing shortages, others can be perceived as an attempt to right past wrongs – and to see how many extra charges they can pass off on shippers who are either too busy or too new at the negotiating game to notice.
Thankfully, picking up on unnecessary carrier charges and protecting our clients from them is usually one of a 3PL’s core competencies. In fact, it’s possible that our analytical and negotiating skills could save you anywhere from 5 to 50%.
Regardless of what carriers claim, the first, last and middle miles aren’t a level playing field.
Just as coaches get to choose between who plays and who warms the bench, carriers get to call the shots about which freight they’re going to pick up and where it will go in their delivery queue. That’s why booking your freight and parcels with the help of a well-connected 3PL can really be a game-changer, especially as this season of massive surges and shortages continues to unfold.
Many of us have spent years working extra-hard to get on carriers’ good sides, building credibility and establishing a clear understanding of how to match various clients’ needs with each of their distinct capabilities. As a result, we’ve not only built up a lot of relationship equity, we’ve perfected a lot of best practices that could significantly increase the odds of your freight getting picked up and delivered sooner rather than lingering on a loading dock or at a terminal for hours or days.
A Stronger Offense
Much like a team needs a deep bench of talented players to win a national championship, your company can significantly improve its chances of winning peak season if you have what announcers call a lot of “competitive weapons.”
One such weapon is a highly sophisticated TMS visibility portal. It will provide you with a real-time grasp of which shipments are running on time, which arrived damaged or short, and which have had a significant status change. (Think of it as watching a live game rather than game film). And it will go a long way toward helping you monitor your transportation operations while there’s still time to do something about it.
Can your company purchase and implement a TMS itself? Absolutely. However, many 3PLs like ours already have extremely robust ones, offering your company the opportunity to take advantage of this tool considerably faster and more cost-effectively.
Fewer Delays Of Game
On a final note, let’s talk inventory. Not too long ago, most companies aspired to keep theirs as lean as possible, and JIT was the name of the game.
But today, the combination of COVID-related factory and port closures, transportation shortages, and labor shortages has completely flipped the script – and re-opened discussions about the merits of keeping more safety stock.
Full-service 3PLs can help you a great deal in this regard, not just because we have DCs that can manage your extra inventory but also because some of us are actually willing to purchase and fully manage your goods while they’re in transit – and allow you to defer payment until you actually need them.
As a result, your company can take advantage of the opportunity to revamp its supply chain strategy without having to burden your balance sheet.
There’s plenty more to say about this subject. But rumor has it there are a lot of busy peak season supply chains to support, so we’ll let the clock run down for now. Give us a call at 1 877.242.3383 if you’d like us to elaborate on any of these reasons – or discuss how AFS can help your company do a better job of minimizing your logistics challenges while maximizing your supply chain budget.