The Rise of the Consultative 3PL

consultative 3PLIt’s no secret that shipper’s needs are changing. Evolving consumer expectations, the impact of tariffs, and new sources of competition are among the many factors driving supply chain complexity. As a result, shippers are looking to their logistics service providers for more support than ever before. In order to meet their customer’s demands, remain competitive, and manage volatility, shippers are seeking personalized solutions, end-to-end visibility, cost controls, often through a single 3PL partner.

Shippers often engage with 3PLs to implement a wide variety of specialized solutions, including managed transportation services, white glove in-store and in-home delivery, final mile delivery, store display/fixture rollouts, pool distribution, enhanced retail compliance, and more.

Some 3PLs have begun to offer consultative logistics services to tackle these challenges. These services are sometimes offered through a “Logistics Solutions” team. These teams are often a hybrid comprised of seasoned logistics experts and individuals with experience and expertise gleaned from large consulting firms, such as McKinsey, Accenture, or Bain & Company.

How do these consultative solutions teams work? What are the benefits of working with a 3PL with built-in consultative teams? In this article, I will seek to answer these questions and provide guidance to help shippers know when it’s time to seek out and engage with a consultative 3PL.

How a Consultative 3PL Team Works

Consultative solutions teams typically conduct a three-phase evaluation of the shipper’s supply chain, beginning with a current state needs analysis, followed by a spend analysis, and concludes with recommended solutions.

The current state needs analysis begins by defining the shipper’s supply chain goals, and then proceeds by mapping the shipper’s end-to-end transportation management process across all physical locations and business units. The consultative team captures all operational transportation execution processes and requirements and collaborates with the shipper to define their expectations and goals.

Through the spend analysis, the consultative team analyzes 6-12 months of the shipper’s transportation data and conducts extensive Q&A with the client in order to gain a granular understanding of freight volumes, seasonality and pricing. Through this analysis, the consultative team identifies immediate and long-term savings opportunities and establishes clear benchmarks against which to measure future success.

Once these analyses are complete, the consultative team formulates recommended solutions, incorporating a clear value proposition, a framework for account management support and governance, and timelines for implementation.


When confronted with unique supply chain challenges, many shippers turn to outside consultants for assistance. These consultants take a deep dive into the shipper’s operation and deliver their recommendations. Once the consultant’s engagement has concluded, however, the shipper is sometimes left with a supply chain plan they may or may not be able to fully implement themselves.

There are several reasons, ranging from a lack of appropriate personnel and other resources to implement the plan, to the feasibility of the plan itself. The advantage of working with a 3PL with a built-in consultant team is that shippers can partner with a single organization to not only assess their supply chain needs, but to then pass the recommendations directly to an implementation team. This approach can mitigate the potential for disconnect between plans and implementation, and the day-to-day operations and account management provided by the 3PL can create a feedback loop to drive continuous improvement.

Signs You Are Ready

Is it time for your organization to consider partnering with a 3PL that offers in-house consultants? Here are a few signs that you could benefit from engaging with a consultative 3PL:

  1. Rapid growth has outpaced the capabilities of your current supply chain.
  2. Poor visibility into your current operations.
  3. Difficulty implementing the plan that your outside consultant developed.
  4. Your current 3PL lacks the ability to provide the solutions you need.
  5. Lack of technology and a continued reliance on manual processes.
  6. Insufficient internal expertise and personnel needed to develop and implement the required supply chain improvements.
  7. An inability to drive consistency across multiple business silos.
  8. The need, but not the means, to reduce costs or control costs.
  9. Frequent disruptions to your supply chain operations.
  10. A desire to engage with a true strategic partner rather than a transactional vendor relationship.

While your challenges as a shipper may be greater than ever, the resources available to you in the 3PL marketplace have evolved to meet your needs. Reach out to a 3PL with a built-in consultative team and set your organization up for success in 2020- and beyond.

As Senior Vice President of Sales and Solutions at GlobalTranz, Ross Spanier leads the enterprise sales organization as well as the design and delivery of innovative and customized supply chain solutions that drive efficiency, cost savings and competitive advantages for current and prospective customers. With over 15 years of experience in the supply chain and logistics industry, Ross has developed and grown sales and operations teams specializing in best-in-class service execution of LTL, TL, expedite, supply chain management, projects & heavy haul, white glove and managed transportation service lines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *