In today’s increasingly complex world, so many factors can disrupt your global supply chain operations, including natural and human-made disasters. The obviously recent disruptions of coronavirus (Covid-19) make it plain the importance of ensuring supply chain continuity. These disruptions cause loss of productivity, increase customer complaints, and lead to loss of revenue according to Business Continuity Institute’s 2019 Supply Chain Resilience Report. One approach to dealing with disruptions is by building a resilient supply chain. Supply chain resilience is the ability of a supply chain to both resist disruptions and recover operational capability after disruptions occur. Below are ways a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can help you build a resilient supply chain.
Supply Chain Analytics
Your supply chain generates a massive amount of data that can help you uncover patterns, generate insights, and build a resilient supply chain. But making sense of this data can be a complex task if you don’t have the right tools and expertise. Partnering with a 3PL can help you make sense of your supply chain management and enable you to make better data-driven decisions when disruptions occur.
Most 3PLs have advanced supply chain analytics tools with predictive capabilities that can analyze your supply chain data and paint a comprehensive picture of potential disruptions in your supply chain before they happen. For instance, predictive analytics can help you estimate the percent of shipping delays your company will likely experience in a particular business quarter. With this knowledge, you can run “what-if” scenarios, and strategize on how to minimize interruptions.
3PL supply chain analytics platforms also have prescriptive capabilities to help you to find out what should be done in a certain situation and enable you to make data-driven decisions. For instance, if you find out you might have delays in Q2, prescriptive analytics platforms can suggest the shortest and fastest routes your drivers can use to avoid costly delivery delays.
Supply chain analytics isn’t just about having the right applications. It’s about having the right people. 3PLs usually have data scientists or other specialists who analyze and help implement their analytics platforms effectively.
In business, changes in the marketplace can be swift and sudden. Not being prepared for these sudden changes can lead to disruptions in your supply chain. For instance, not anticipating sales spikes due to poor demand forecasting can cause stock-outs, which is a poor customer experience. However, working with a 3PL can help you increase accuracy in forecasting and ensure you have the right amount of stock at any given time while keeping your inventory levels trim.
3PLs have demand forecasting platforms that analyze customer data in real-time and can help you predict how much of a product customers’ will want to purchase in the future. This ensures you have the right amount of stock to meet customer demands.
With demand forecasting platforms, you can also project what products customers from certain locations will require at a given time and move goods to distribution centers that are closer to a customer who is likely to purchase the products. As a result, you can make faster deliveries and improve customer loyalty.
3PLs also offer forecast inventory tools that combine factors such as seasonal trends and historical sales data to project order volumes accurately. Thereby letting you know exactly how many units you need, and ensure your inventory levels are balanced. Before installing demand planning platforms or forecast inventory tools provided by 3PLs, carry out test runs to ensure they work properly and fit your needs.
“Given that our entire logistical and manufacturing supply chain is outsourced, luckily we chose great partners that have been able to comfortably deal with the volume increase. What we’ve seen is that with the higher order volumes we’ve been able to optimize our time spent on customer support—creating new digital assets that has allowed people to receive the care they need.”
To ensure business continuity after disruptions, you need supply chain visibility. Data from Business Continuity Institute’s 2018 Supply Chain Resilience Report states that companies that have business continuity arrangements in place are three times more likely to report greater supply chain visibility. Visibility gives you a holistic view of all the moving parts in your supply chain and allows you to deal with disruptions proactively.
One way a 3PL provider can help you increase visibility is with advanced technologies such as control towers. Control towers leverage real-time data from multiple sources to proactively monitor shipments and can identify potential risks in real-time. This not only allows you to resolve issues quickly but also minimizes downtime.
3PLs also offer solutions that enhance supply chain visibility by connecting people in your supply chain and providing them with the information they need. This transparency makes your supply chain stronger because everyone in your supply chain can more easily collaborate on ways to minimize supply chain disruptions.
3PLs can help integrate scalability into your supply chain and improve your ability to quickly ramp up(or down) your operations in response to variations in demand.
A larger and more established 3PL might be able to provide you with a choice of warehouses in a variety of locations. This is helpful to have as an option during peak seasons, and relieves you from having to invest in permanent space and equipment. If you need to scale down operations, a 3PL may allow you to eliminate unneeded or unwanted space without incurring lapses in service or unexpected charges. 3PLs also have automated warehouse management systems that eliminate manual tasks and can handle high volume orders efficiently.
If you need extra warehouse personnel to handle operations, 3PLs have a scalable workforce of full-time and temporary staff which is economically beneficial if you have any short-term assembly projects.
With consumers demanding faster delivery, a 3PL partner can provide value-added services such as knitting and assembling services at scale to help you meet sudden surges in customer demand and get orders shipped quickly without sacrificing accuracy.
If you’re expanding your business into new markets, working with a 3PL can help you minimize disruptions caused by customs delays. 3PLs offer customs brokerage and trade compliance services to assist you in seamlessly moving your shipments across borders.
“The key thing is, we know DCL is a partner that we can scale with because they have good processes, they have eFactory, and great support from the team there.”
The ability of your supply chain to withstand disruptions or recover from them fast is essential if you want to gain an edge over your competition. By partnering with a 3PL, you can go a long way to mitigating your supply chain risk and building a resilient supply chain that ensures you remain in business no matter what disruption comes your way. This risk management will add resiliency to your supply chain network.
If you are looking for a 3PL partner to work with we would love to hear from you. You can read DCL’s list of services to learn more, or check out the many companies we work with to ensure great logistics support. Send us a note to connect about how we can help your company grow.