Third-party logistics CEOs identify top supply chain industry trends in survey

Key findings from the 17th annual Survey of Third-Party Logistics Providers were recently presented at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Global Conference by survey author Dr Robert Lieb, professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University, and Joe Gallick, senior vice-president of sales for Penske Logistics.

The findings, sponsored by Penske Logistics, analyze responses from 31 third-party logistics company chief executive officers across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific whose companies were responsible for generating approximately $37 billion in revenue in 2009.

The global economy continued to pose a challenge in 2009, with 48% of companies surveyed failing to meet revenue growth projections, while 80% of them still managed to be profitable. Pressure on 3PLs to share risk with their clients increased in 2009, with 28 of the 31 CEOs reporting that their companies now have performance-based contracts with many of their clients. Only five of the companies were involved in significant merger or acquisition activity in the year.

Eighty-seven percent of CEOs noted that some of their manufacturing customers have begun to move toward near-shoring options in the past year, a trend that is expected to trickle down to 3PLs in the years to come. Labor numbers imply an upturn for 3PLs, with 87% of the companies beginning to rebuild their workforces in 2009. CEOs revealed that green practices are still a major priority in the 3PL market, and 80% of the companies surveyed now have formal sustainability groups within their companies.

Further insights into this year’s research findings include:

Improved Revenue Projections

The CEOs in all three regions were considerably more bullish about future revenue growth prospects of not only their companies, but also the regional 3PL industry, than they were in 2009.

•One-year company revenue growth projections were 10.4% for North America (6.9% in 2009), 7.2% for Europe (-3.3% in 2009), and 22.5% of APAC (12.9% in 2009). The average three-year company growth projections were 10.6% for North America (11.8% in 2009), 8.3% for Europe (8.7% in 2009), and 19.5% for APAC (16.7% in 2009).

•One-year regional 3PL industry revenue growth projections averaged 7.3% for North America (3.5% in 2009), 4.8% for Europe (-1.4% in 2009), and 15.4% for APAC (10.7% in 2009). The average three-year regional 3PL industry growth projections were 7.8% for North America (7.9% in 2009), 5.4% for Europe (4.9% in 2009), and 12.9% for APAC (11.7% in 2009).

•Twenty-five of the 31 CEOs surveyed reported their companies were profitable during 2010, with three reporting they broke even, and three reporting their companies were unprofitable.

Reorganization of 3PL Industry

•Only five of the 31 companies were involved in significant mergers or acquisitions during 2009, and the CEOs generally believe that revenue growth through acquisitions will be very modest over the next three years. A continued restructuring of the industry through mergers or acquisitions and failures ranked first in changes expected to occur in their markets over the next three years.

•Fifteen CEOs indicated long-term strategy changes within their companies as a result of the recession, and 11 said long-term prospects in the regional 3PL industries have changed as a result of the recession.

•Twenty-seven of the 31 CEOs noted that some of their manufacturing customers have begun to move toward “near-shoring” options during the past year.

More Vigilant Business Practices

•Eighteen of the CEOs reported that their companies had put new risk management programs in place during the past year. Increased pressure to share risks with customers is a major factor in the industry.

•Twenty-nine of the 31 companies have business continuity plans at the corporate level and 20 have them at the regional level.

•Twenty-eight of the 31 CEOs reported that their companies have performance-based contracts with many of their clients.

•Twenty-four of the companies sell logistics services to the supply chain partners of their existing customers. Moving forward, 3PLs are expected to place greater emphasis on “qualifying” customers.

Commitment to Sustainability

In the aftermath of the recession, these companies are still heavily committed to environmental sustainability issues.

•Fourteen of the 31 companies began new green initiatives during the year.

•Eighteen of the companies expanded existing sustainability programs.

•Twenty-five of the companies now have formal sustainability groups within their companies.

•Twelve of the 31 CEOs believe that their sustainability capabilities differentiate them from their competitors.

Opportunities and Issues

•In terms of industry opportunities, CEOs in all three regions ranked the overall growth of the market for outsourcing services as the most important opportunity.

•Ranking second and third, respectively, in North America were opportunities related to potential differentiation based upon the companies’ environmental sustainability capabilities and opportunities related to expansion of service offerings.

•In terms of problems facing the industry, a shortage of managerial and operational talent was ranked one or two in all three regions.

•Among the other important problems mentioned were price compression and procurement’s growing role in the North American survey, the slow economic recovery and decreasing margins in Europe, and managing increased costs and dealing with “unrealistic competition.”

Visit http://tinyurl.com/Lieb2010 for access to the full Executive Summary.

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