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Jan.12, 2015

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128 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE JANUARY 12.2015 2015 ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK LOGISTICS P rogrammed robots. Three-dimensional printing. Fingerless keyboards. Chal- lenged by the need to make their companies ever more cost-effective and competitive, third-party logistics companies are compelled to assess ever lon- ger — and often more confusing — lists of new technology options. The health of their businesses increasingly depends on how well they leverage the accelerating flows of information collected by their stakeholders — manufacturers, retailers, warehouses, trucking fleets, and other businesses communicating through the Cloud. How can 3PLs get their heads around the dizzying wealth of upcoming new technologies? "The best companies recognize that you have to give your people the best tools to do the job," said Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, the Allis, Wisconsin-based 3PL consult- ing and market research firm. "For 3PLs, that tends to be a host of different solutions." Given their broad spectrum of business responsibilities, this means running solu- tions that range from customer relationship management tools to transportation and warehouse management systems, busi- ness intelligence and reporting tools, data warehousing to manage customer data, and customer portals to access the information. Large 3PLs already have "a suite of sys- tems that they utilize in terms of their daily operations, depending on what kind of mar- ket they are playing in," Armstrong said. In one way or another, these tools help 3PLs eliminate waste from their operations and share the right kinds of information with their partners, customers and other stakeholders. "You want your customers to also be able to access data and have report- ing capabilities that differentiate you from other 3PLs," Armstrong said. "It's about making sure that your internal customers — your employees — have some best-of-breed solutions to do their jobs, and that your external customers have leading solutions to help them better manage their business." "All companies are under pressure to manage their supply chain complexity and reduce supply chain costs," said Bryan Ball, vice president and group director for sup- ply chain and retail operations at Aberdeen Group. "Leveraging 3PLs to manage this balancing act has shown clear performance advantages." B Y A LA N M. F I E L D SETTING THE PACE IN THE TECHNOLOGY RACE 3PLs have a full menu of new tools to choose from to take waste out of the supply chain

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