Supply Chain News: Highlights from the 20th Annual Third-Party Logistics Study

3PL15-1For the 20th consecutive year, Dr. John Langley of Penn State University has led the annual Third Party Logistics Study, released again this year at the CSCMP conference in San Diego last week.

The data, based on survey responses from hundreds of shippers and 3PLs worldwide, doesn’t usually change all that much from year to year, but some overall trends are clearly discernible.

But first, to understand the data, the results in what is titled the 2016 report  come from survey data taken in 2015, but which in many but not all cases is based on responses as to what happened in the 2014 calendar year.Got that?

In addition to the survey data, the report is based on a series of three forum type discussions on key outsourcing issues that were held earlier this year in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Sydney.

Perhaps most noteworthy, the data that last year indicated a drop in the use of outsourcing now seems to likely have been a statistical blip, which SCDigest suggested might be the case in our summary of the previous report. That survey found shippers were outsourcing just 36% of their logistics spend in 2013, sharply down from 44% in 2012 and contrary to the general trend upwards in that share over many years.

Was this a real and surprising trend that shows a pullback in outsorucing? It appears not, with respondents on average this year saying a whopping 50% of logistics spend was outsourced in 2014, likely meaning last year’s number was simply in fact a aberration as often occurs in such survey data.

Along the same lines, 73% of shippers indicate they  are increasing their use of outsourced logistics  services this year, which compares to a figure of
68% reported last year. Somewhat contradictorily, the percent of shippers saying they are decreasing the use of 3PLs and are doing more insourcing also rose to 35% this year, from 26% in last year’s study.

In general, shippers and 3PLs seem to be ever more satisfied with their mutual relationships, and slowly but surely shipper satisfaction with 3PL IT capabilities continues to increase.That said, there are still gaps in the how collaborative and strategic outsourcing relationships really are versus the avowed intentions of both sides.

The report includes the chart below from the report, based on data from Armstrong & Associates. It shows 3PL revenues in North America were up a healthy 5.8% last year versus 2013, and has been averaging 4.3% annual growth since 2006 despite taking a big hit during the financial crisis.

While we don’t have a figure for all of North America to compare, US nominal GDP rose 3.6% in 2014, so 3PL revenues exceeded GDP growth by 2.2 percentage points last year, a trend we had seen for many years through the late 1990s and mid-way through the decade of the 2000s, as the CARG number in the chart would indicate (GDP growth in North America has been below 4.3% since 2006.

 But in 2013, US nominal GDP rose 3.4%, above the 2.9% growth in North American 3PL revenues.

 3PL revenues rose even faster in Europe in 2014, up more than 10% year over year, no doubt reflective of at last some improvement in the Euro economy. 3PL spend was up 5.5% in Asia, well below the 10.2% annual growth rate recently seen, certainly a reflection of the slowing Chinese economy.

 Spend dropped sharply in South America, down 6.7%, as many countries in that region have struggling economies, in part driven by falling commodity prices.

Read more here.

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