New Articles

GO 4PL AND CONQUER: Software Empower 3PLS to Grow by Creating and Managing 4PL Networks


GO 4PL AND CONQUER: Software Empower 3PLS to Grow by Creating and Managing 4PL Networks

Time was when a third-party logistics (3PL) company was looking to build a sophisticated fourth-party logistics network, massive funding had to be raised to pay for the costly software development associated with 4PL models.

That all changed this past July when Extensiv—which delivers omnichannel software solutions for warehouse inventory and order management—unveiled Extensiv Network Manager.

This product allows even 3PLs with limited technical capabilities to build and operate a software-enabled fulfillment network to compete with the likes of Ship Bob and Deliverr. Additionally, unlike home grown software solutions, Extensiv Network Manager is a cloud-based, fully productized and supported product that continues to be developed and enhanced. 

“Extensiv Network Manager leverages the company’s deep experience working with 3PLs and its industry-leading 3PL warehouse operations platform to offer sophisticated fulfillment capabilities while continuing to operate their warehouses using 3PL Warehouse Manager,” explains David Miller, vice president of strategy at Extensiv.

“Consumer expectations are at an all-time high,” he continues. “Inflation has only increased the need to keep shipping costs down, but consumers still expect fast, and often next-day, delivery. Single or even two warehouse fulfillment approaches force brands to choose between paying exorbitant prices for unprofitable expedited shipping or choosing low-cost saver services, which results in painfully slow delivery times.” 

But Extensiv Network Manager helps 3PL providers build and manage networks of geographically distributed partner warehouses, where a brand’s inventory is distributed across and shipped from multiple locations, enabling lower costs and expedited delivery options while retaining customer relationships and reducing risk and capital overhead.  

How? By combining software, services, tools, and relationships that empower any 3PL, even those operating out of a single warehouse, to partner closely with other 3PLs to service brands across multiple geographically distributed warehouses. Unlike current homegrown solutions that 3PLs may have cobbled together, Extensiv Network Manager offers the key capabilities necessary to build and operate a hybrid network, including sophisticated order routing rules as well as complete visibility and control over all orders regardless of which node is shipping them.  

 Early adopters have seen positive results already, with one customer, Rocket Shippers, using Extensiv Network Manager to lower shipping costs while decreasing transit times by intelligently routing orders to the best-fit fulfillment center in their network.  

“The Network Manager team did an amazing job streamlining our order routing rules,” says Matthew Schneider, senior account manager at Rocket Shippers. “Network Manager has made it so much easier to process Seller Fulfilled Prime orders in our network as well as providing inventory visibility across multiple facilities.”  


As a brand’s expectations of their fulfillment partners grow, 3PLs need a low-risk, low-cost option to bring customers distributed inventory and omnichannel fulfillment services while retaining direct relationships with these brands. Space restrictions, start-up costs, risk volatility, and other considerations keep smaller 3PLs from expanding into new facilities, thus limiting their ability to service growing brands and making their offering less competitive. 

 Many brands have tried to build their own multi-3PL fulfillment strategies to offer faster or less expensive delivery. In the modern technology-enabled supply chain, brands require the consistency of service that can only be delivered by operating on a standard technology platform with an identical configuration and shipping strategy across every node. In today’s era of heightened consumer expectations, brands need to efficiently support not just ecommerce deliveries, but omnichannel fulfillment. Extensiv Network Manager helps 3PLs deliver on these rising expectations. 

 Operating a reliable network of partner 3PL warehouses, the technology works together to expand geographic reach, increase service offerings, and improve SLAs while reducing overall operating expenses for themselves and their customers. 3PLs utilize Extensiv Network Manager for: 

  • Complete visibility: Inventory and transaction details are visible across all networked warehouses in a single, dedicated management portal. This eliminates duplicate entry and the confusion of multiple logins and systems. 
  • Order Routing: Logic-based order routing and management tools automatically send orders to the best fulfillment center in the network based upon virtually unlimited business rules; seamless order flows from cart to the 3PL warehouse manager (WMS) and back without duplicate setups or convoluted tagging, with real-time order processing status across all servicing facilities. 
  • Seamless inventory management: a holistic view of inventory levels across network warehouses. Manage inventory throughout your network by seeing real-time levels and alerts. 
  • Simplified setup and maintenance: configurable cloud-based software eliminates complexity and can be set up with minimal time and effort. Add new fulfillment nodes with only a few clicks to start fulfilling across the network.  

To complement Extensiv Network Manager’s software capabilities, Extensiv also launched an array of services to guide 3PLs through the process of setting up a collaborative 4PL network. These services range from needs analysis, collaboration on partner identification based upon geography or service offering, as well as implementation services to initially configure the fulfillment network.   

Extensiv Network Manager builds on the recently launched Extensiv Fulfillment Marketplace, a free resource that empowers 3PLs to identify potential network partners that offer a complementary geographic footprint and/or services. 

To learn more about Extensiv Network Manager, go to, and to find 3PL partners and build your network, visit 

Based in El Segundo and formerly known as 3PL Central, Extensiv is regarded as a visionary technology leader focused on creating the future of omnichannel fulfillment. The company partners with warehouse professionals and entrepreneurial brands to transform their fulfillment operations in the radically changing world of commerce and consumer expectations. More than 25,000 logistics professionals and thousands of brands trust Extensiv every day to drive commerce at the pace that modern consumers expect.



Third-Party Logistics Providers Need Data Analytics to Save Money

Logistics data analytics can provide an invaluable competitive edge to third-party logistics (3PL) providers. 3PLs face a rapidly changing market. Supply chain disruptions and the rapid growth of e-commerce mean they must be ready to adapt if they want to continue providing high-quality services for their customers.

Data analytics allow 3PLs to uncover new insights to improve decision-making and provide cost savings.

How 3PLs Can Leverage Logistics Data Analytics

Today, businesses of all kinds have access to more information than ever — and a range of analytics tools that can extract deep insights from large data sets.

Almost any business can benefit from data analytics, but 3PLs are in a particularly good position to use these tools. These companies can secure a few significant advantages by using them.

1. Improved Risk Management

Modern 3PLs face various risks. The right data makes it easier to take a proactive risk management approach, making better decisions regarding carrier selection, freight tenders and the business partnerships the 3PL will establish.

Better data can also make it easier to identify potential risks and their potential impact. Identifying these threats can make a proactive risk management approach easier to implement and more effective — potentially providing significant cost savings.

Some 3PL tools even utilize advanced technology like AI to improve supply chain resilience and risk management. 3PLs can use them to uncover insights that less advanced analytics technology wouldn’t be able to find — securing a valuable competitive advantage.

2. Lower Transportation Costs

Data collected from the supply chain can make it easier to visualize and manage daily operations. 3PLs can use data dashboards and similar tools to centralize the information they gather and provide it in an easy-to-understand format for managers, supply chain specialists and key decision-makers.

3PL team members can then more easily track key KPIs — like cost per unit, order accuracy and processing time. Analytics tools will also help the 3PL identify relationships between business practices and these KPIs, making it easier to spot operational bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

3. Stronger 3PL-Client Relationships

Data from the supply chain and logistics operations can make it much easier to analyze and respond to changes in the global supply chain market. This information can also make 3PLs a better business partner to their clients. The right shipping and logistics analysis allows a 3PL’s associates to secure a valuable competitive advantage.

One recent study of the 3PL market found that interest in robotics and data analytics is rising fast among shippers. More 3PLs are adopting data analytics technology, and these tools may become critical for strong client relationships. Clients may look elsewhere if a business can’t offer a tool its competition can.

Data Analytics Can Provide Major Cost Savings

Many of the advantages data analytics provide can help 3PLs save time and money. Managing risk reduces the chance that an unforeseen hazard will cost a 3PL significant resources.

Lower transportation costs can reduce one of the biggest expenses for a 3PL — and allow the company to pass cost savings on transportation to its clients.

Better relationships with clients can provide steadier business for a 3PL, potentially decreasing costs associated with marketing and client relationship management.

3PL Data Analytics in Practice

Various 3PL data analytics approaches exist. These data analytics strategies offer benefits throughout an organization by providing workers with better information that can streamline operations or be passed onto business partners and clients.

Supply Chain Visibility and Transparency

Low supply chain visibility can make accurate predictions about availability, shipping times and processing speed much more difficult.

New data-collection and organization tools allow 3PLs to develop a much deeper understanding of how products are moving through the supply chain and how effectively current shipping partners are managing their operations.

Supply chain management tools may also lay the foundation for IoT-powered tracking and transparency. The right Internet of Things (IoT) tracking devices will let 3PLs monitor goods continuously as they move through the supply chain. These devices can provide information about a shipment’s current location, speed and shipping conditions.

This information can make it easier to track goods and predict shipping speed or delivery timing.

IoT supply chain monitoring may be especially valuable for 3PLs that offer cold chain management services. The same IoT device can track a shipment’s current location and temperature. It can immediately alert drivers and managers of an excursion, allowing them to respond quickly to prevent product spoilage.

Data-Driven Resource Planning

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an essential investment for any 3PL. It makes it much easier for managers to effectively understand and react to the business’s current resource planning needs.

Resource planning tools — along with software like warehouse management systems (WMS) and contact management systems (CMS) — can make managing essential business resources much easier.

These systems can also automate many administrative processes, like the generation of customer reports, helping to streamline client communication and business management.

KPI Dashboards and Data Visualizations

New data analytics tools allow 3PLs to centralize and organize information by using data dashboards. For example, KPI dashboards can provide managers and executives with a snapshot of current operations, performance and overall business health.

Strategic inventory dashboards can offer a real-time view of how inventory moves through the supply chain, making it easier to identify possible process issues.

Most logistics data analytics tools marketed to 3PLs offer a great deal of customization, so these tools can be adapted to fit the organization’s needs. They can provide information on different KPIs, prioritizing certain types of data and generating customized reports for clients, business partners or regulators as needed.

Using Logistics Data Analytics to Save Money in a Changing Market

The right analytics tools allow 3PLs to streamline their operations, save money and build stronger client relationships. Data dashboards, supply chain visibility tools, and systems like ERPs or WMSs can make it much easier to manage essential processes, automate work and make more informed decisions.

Early adopters of data analytics will secure a competitive advantage over other 3PLs, making them a more valuable investment for their clients.

air freight

Air Freight Market Update

Many freight forwarders are showing a continued growth trajectory for air freight shipping. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, as shippers are continuing to use different strategies to work around persistent and significant supply chain disruption. To keep high-priority shipments moving, shippers have, at times, been choosing air over ocean in recent years.

However, overall demand for air freight dropped slightly in January this year, which may have shippers wondering – does this mean we may start to see demand and capacity levels regulate? Will air freight no longer be as necessary this year? The short answer is no, not anytime soon. In fact, demand for air freight is forecast to increase this year amidst significant capacity constraints and continued high depend for goods along with the need for inventory replenishment. While demand did drop early 2022, air freight will continue to be a key strategy for shippers.


For Many, A New and Necessary Strategy

A January 2022 C.H. Robinson customer research study confirmed that a significant number of shippers are using new strategies to manage through continued disruption, which has included a shift of more freight from ocean to air. Specifically, 52% leveraged new modes, ports, or trade lanes during the pandemic that they plan to continue using in 2022. And, over a quarter of shippers (28%) say that a top strategy was transporting freight by air that had previously been by ocean.

Interestingly, many have said shifting strategies has been a silver lining to the pandemic, with 44% of shippers reporting that one of the positive outcomes of the past year and a half is that they used new transportation strategies they hadn’t in the past, creating more choices for their business.

We continue to see interest from our customers in charter flights and ocean-to-air conversions, especially for moving high-priority freight such as we did for a customer moving emergency COVID-19 test kits when Omicron surged in January. Additionally, high tech and heavy industries such as automotive have leaned on air freight to help catch up with demand and mitigate high levels of disruption.

An Alternative to Ocean Port Congestion

Continued uncertainty in ocean shipping is likely to continue motivating ocean-to-air conversions. Port congestion is still causing significant delays, with vessels sitting at anchor for days waiting to berth. Global schedule reliability is at its lowest recorded level since 2011.

We’re advising shippers to consider the estimated average delays in vessel schedules (7-30 days depending on the port) and add them to the overall expected transit time to ensure proper planning to meet delivery schedules. In addition, long anchor times outside U.S. ports will cause vessels to be late on their return to Asia.

While the ongoing congestion at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, specifically, has resolved a bit in recent weeks, inventory is still backed up in transit from trans-Pacific routes. Additionally, trans-Pacific routes coming from China will continue to operate at a high level of variability due to stringent COVID-19 protocols, leaving shipments vulnerable to more delays.

In general, to help mitigate these issues, we’re advising shippers to move ocean freight two to three months in advance of normal timelines as opposed to the traditional 4-5 weeks. But, in cases where that isn’t possible, air freight can be a helpful alternative to keep shipments moving.

Latest Air Market Trends

As shippers consider air, it’s important to stay updated on trends that will affect capacity and pricing. While recovery times at airports remain elevated relative to pre-COVID-19 conditions, there are fewer extreme delays. However, throughout March and into Q2, global demand for air freight is expected to creep up and congestion will likely return.

Globally, the return of passenger flights has been slow and inconsistent. Surges in the COVID-19 Omicron variant continue, and markets with stricter policies are putting downward pressure on air capacity. That said, lowering of travel restrictions in some key markets may lead to capacity additions. It’s also important to consider using surface transportation when an outbreak arises, with past unforeseen shutdowns, C.H. Robinson has helped multiple companies shift their freight to another airport via truckload to keep their freight moving.

Tips for Next Steps

Overall, as shippers continue trying to navigate disruption and decide how best to move freight, here are some of the most impactful ways we’re seeing them find success:

-Seek creative solutions – Consider what different modes, trade lanes, or inland transportation strategies can keep shipments moving. It might be something new.

-Use information and technology – Find tools that provide timely market updates, visibility into shipments, and the predictability needed to know when to adjust.

-Closely communicate and collaborate with supply chain partners – Especially in this kind of market, it’s good to have a partner that can provide a range of options from global forwarding to surface transportation to customs and more. Working closely together, you and can better understand challenges coming from all sides be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

To help stay updated on market trends and how they will impact capacity and pricing, check out the monthly updates on our Global Freight Market Insights page.



Inventory management horror stories that clog newsfeeds make one feel that The Grinch is now running supply chain, not Santa. According to market researcher International Data Corp. (IDC), the supply shock that started in China early in 2020, and the demand shock that followed it as large swaths of the global economy shut down, exposed vulnerabilities as well as resiliencies in supply chains around the world. Retailers, the research firm finds, faced supply and demand disruptions, navigating inventory held up in factories, global lockdowns, evolving trade policies and surges related to hoarding behaviors for essential items such as toilet paper. 

IDC’s report on the implication of COVID-19 for the future of the retail notes that retailers were confronted with accelerating e-commerce sales and rising demand for safe shopping, transparency and omnichannel fulfillment. And they faced massive economic shifts resulting from high unemployment and shifting shopping patterns, including the massive losses in shopping resulting not just from changes in everyday habits but also from decreased travel activity.

The crunch showed once again that to meet customer demands and stay competitive in a world where expectations for product availability and delivery speed continue to rise, every link along the supply chain must operate efficiently. From warehouse management to order fulfillment to juggling multiple channels, there are often countless points in a single product’s journey where eliminating errors and delays could mean increasing profit and optimizing the customer experience. 

“While it’s painful for grocery retailers to order products from hundreds of discrete suppliers, it’s also painful for the suppliers to receive orders and payments from hundreds of retailers that are not communicating by digital means,” says Robert Pinkerton, CTO of Vori, a technology platform and digital marketplace for retailers. “They’re sending emails and faxes, calling the order desk, texting sales reps. … the list goes on and on.”

Here are just a few ways businesses can use the right solutions to quickly adapt to changing demand this season: 

Inventory Visibility

One of the fundamental ways to ensure this happens is to improve inventory visibility: the ability to see the status of every SKU across all locations (warehouses, stores, suppliers and third-party providers) in real time. The key to having full inventory visibility is to leverage a supply chain network connecting all stakeholders. 

Having accurate inventory insight isn’t just great for your customers and trading partners; it’s also beneficial for overworked and overstressed teams. Manually tracking inventory is a mundane way to use employee time and detracts from their ability to build better customer and partner relationships. Plus, it can result in out-of-date information that makes decision makers’  jobs more difficult.

Real-Time Information

When both suppliers and retailers have real-time inventory data at their fingertips, they eliminate common time and cost efficiency drains. By integrating and automating inventory information, businesses get a leg up on improving internal processes. That’s because real-time inventory data is immediately actionable and helps to make better decisions, allocate product optimally and streamline transactions with your supply chain partners.  

For e-commerce businesses, knowing their inventory levels makes it possible to sell across multiple channels, while giving customers accurate availability information. Instead of frustrated customers, e-merchants create satisfied ones. 

Better Forecasting

Stockouts are customer loyalty killers and having better inventory visibility helps merchants avoid them. Modern inventory management platforms help by using historical data to better predict how much product is needed where and at what point in your business cycle. Using current data in real-time makes it possible to maintain healthier, more balanced inventory levels in all the places where the goods need to be. 

Full data trove control helps create timely, smarter replenishment strategies and better respond to volatile demand hikes—without devolving into chaos. 

Reduced Costs

Many supply chain players are leveraging powerful technology solutions to better manage order processing, warehouse management and fulfillment. But many others still use separate, siloed solutions that don’t provide enough visibility. Unified commerce solves this problem by bringing omnichannel operations together using integrated technology.

Comprehensive visibility relies upon a central “inventory hub” that acts as the aggregator of inventory information across the extended enterprise–products in the warehouse or in transit to it, at a third-party logistics provider (3PL), in a returns facility and even in the finished goods warehouse of a supplier. 

Ideally, such a hub should also include inventory positions and movement within each retail location. This gives businesses the advantage of up-to-the-minute product availability so that features such as available-to-promise (ATP) can help suppliers allocate products in short supply, providing valuable fulfillment transparency for partners.

Another tool to improve retail partners’ supply chain visibility is called vendor-managed inventory. A modern VMI platform offers insight into stock levels at retail partner locations and establishes automatic reordering thresholds, so products arrive just in time. This keeps warehouses lean on both ends and improves the customer experience with fewer stockouts.

Advanced VMI features leverage your data to an even greater advantage. This is crucial in an environment where customers are choosing products that can be delivered the next day or even the same day.

An integrated e-commerce platform is another way to improve inventory visibility to everyone’s benefit. With online shopping on the rise, it is important to give customers accurate information about what is available. After all, no customer wants the experience of hitting “order,” and then receiving an “oops” email due to out-of-stocks. 

Ideally, the aforementioned “inventory hub” should be working in conjunction with an organization’s e-commerce system so digital buyers always see the correct availability. All of this results in minimizing the chance of an “oops” moment and helps the “order hub” or ERP system determine the most cost-effective location, time and shipping method to get the order filled. 

With an excellent ROI and measurable benefits for all parties involved— retailers, suppliers and customers —leveraging technology to increase your inventory IQ is a smart way to dethrone The Grinch and empower supply chain Santa yet again. 


Haitham Ghadiry has been the vice president of Sales and Marketing at TrueCommerce, Inc. since joining in December 2009. Mr. Ghadiry oversees marketing communications, demand generation, new customer acquisition, install-base account management, professional services’ sales, sales enablement and indirect channel sales.

Prior to joining TrueCommerce, he served as director of Global Sales and Strategic Accounts for Trimble Navigations, Ltd., a publicly traded supplier of advanced location-based solutions, and director of North American Sales at Everest Software, a leading business management software provider. His extensive history of generating superior sales results and leading top performing teams will contribute to further propelling TrueCommerce into the market leadership position. Haitham graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in Tourism and Hotel Management from Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt.


Sales Digitalization Trends in the Logistics Industry

The logistics industry across the globe is entering a new era. The accelerated development of digital technologies, combined with recent pandemic events, is the main catalysts for this change. With an increased demand for mobility and remoteness, digitalization is affecting all transportation segments, including sales processes that were firmly rooted in traditional procedures. As a result, companies worldwide are following sales digitalization trends in the logistics industry. They gather, process, and organize large volumes of information and work on making them easy to understand and use.

Current and future sales digitalization trends in logistics

This emergence of digitalization across various fields is bringing a lot of new players to the market. Once primarily dominated by large businesses, the transportation industry is experiencing a large influx of smaller distribution companies. The rise of modern, dynamic, remote-focused, and customer-oriented companies is now creating high competitiveness, which calls for a range of changes, from marketing to sales procedures, for many. The sales funnels need to go through a complete transformation to improve business operations.

What changes in technologies will have a breakthrough impact on the business now and in the next few years? Here are several sales digitalization trends every logistics company should be aware of:

-Online sales and automated pricings

-Shifting the focus to customer journey

-Automatization of procedures (AI)

-Customer acquisition changes

-Blockchain efficiency

Online sales and automated pricings

More than half of logistics companies are establishing online sales processes. However, not all the steps are touched equally. One example is the ability to provide online quoting and price estimates. Previously, they served more as an approximate estimate based on a specific set of static rules. Followed later by calls or contacts in person for negotiations. But, the ongoing digital sales revolution calls for a more dynamic solution. In general, by considering the type of goods, average delivery time, prioritization of shipments, and overall costs, the sales departments need solutions to provide instant and more precise results.

One way to solve this problem is to use dynamic automated pricing engines. They will collect real-time data by analyzing and combining different resources. Only then will you be able to successfully forecast and derive instant and precise rates. More likely, something similar to the software solutions airline companies are using today.

Shifting the focus to customer journey

The future of sales lies in their ability to focus on the customer journey. So far, it’s been proven multiple times that relationships with customers are what drive the best results. In essence, this requires specific tools like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solutions, which will allow you to better manage current and potential customers and communication with them. You will be able to gather behavioral and other data to help you increase sales through better customer service. In addition, CRM allows you to track and trace a variety of data – everything necessary to identify patterns so you can predict customer preferences. And prevent potential issues in the supply chains. There are also IoT tracking and tracing tools logistic companies can use to monitor shipments on both ends. Allowing such transparency will increase your company’s credibility, improve procedures, and make the transportation process more profitable.

Automatization of the procedures (AI)

Dealing with new technologies on a larger scale is never easy. Many companies experience difficulties when they need to adjust new salespeople to the changes. Fortunately, the training process can be much easier with the help of digital solutions. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) available today, we can automate many previously manual procedures, making the entire training and working system more efficient and less time-consuming. Rather than investing a lot of resources into slow mentor-like coaching, sales can use the capabilities of automation through upgrading their infrastructure and technology.

Another aspect of why AI is much better to focus on lies in these systems’ additional functionality. Features like tracking finances, anomalies, delays, and better delivery planning and predicting will reduce the overall logistical risks.

Customer acquisition changes

Like for many other industries, the logistics salesforce has to follow new arising trends in customer acquisition. This is the use of social media and other alternate networks. You can increase your business operations and provide better customer relations by using these digital platforms for engagement. Previously, social media channels were the mere focus of marketing teams. However, the need and goals of marketing and sales have to align and combine perfectly to give sales a chance to improve their operations. Whether we like it or not, this shift to social network communications is establishing itself as more than just a place of entertainment for customers. Active publishing means more quality leads for your sales in the future.

Blockchain efficiency

In addition, blockchain technology solutions can make your logistics process more effective. And improve your brand image as a whole. By allowing your customers to follow the delivery, you will increase the transparency and credibility of your services. It’s time effective and creates a better customer experience. Everything you will need to acquire more loyal customers.

Adopting all the digital solutions in your sales process doesn’t come without challenges, especially for older, larger, and more established logistics companies. When everything is firmly rooted in traditional approaches, transforming the entire business model is complex. Fortunately, scaling everything across your salesforce is everything but impossible. If you follow the best sales digitalization trends in the logistics industry, you can easily remain competitive in this new industrial revolution that is shaking the transportation world.


Dave Atkinson is currently working with the Best Movers in Florida on providing helpful information and guidelines for researching, improving, and planning the moving business. His writings can be used by both transportation companies and their customers to better understand advanced technologies in logistics processes.


Logistics Providers Have a Higher Calling than Freight’s ‘Middleman’

Since the domestic onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, logistics providers and freight brokers have had to deal with two extremes in the market — and in short succession.

In the initial economic fallout in the first few months of the pandemic, freight volumes sank, and so did per-mile rates. There simply weren’t enough loads to go around for all of us who make a living moving freight, and the slowdown happened so fast, we were all left searching for answers.

At least I know here at Circle Logistics, we weren’t immune to that sudden freight vacuum.

But then as the recovery gained steam, freight volumes hit a warp speed, seemingly making up for lost time last spring and due to consumers spending money on hard goods rather than services or entertainment.

Behind that pendulum swing, logistics providers this year have faced a tall task in keeping up with the demands of their shippers. There’s been a dearth of transportation capacity, and 3PLs have often had to book loads at a loss to make sure we take care of our shippers.

Between freight volumes slamming the brakes in spring of 2020 and then mashing the throttle this year, I’m sure we as an industry will glean many lessons from the trials we’ve weathered.

But there’s a fundamental lesson staring us in the face right now: We have to pivot our industry away from transactional deals and work to create real, trusted relationships with each other.

This involves all of us — shippers, brokers, and carriers. We’re at a precipice in the logistics industry, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to heed the requirements of this new world. That starts with ditching the old ways and forging a path in which mutually beneficial relationships rule, and in which we utilize those relationships to help manage the current crisis and any future events that occur.

For freight brokers and 3PLs, first and foremost, this starts with shedding the label of a freight  industry “middleman.” That might have been true of yesteryear’s freight broker. You know the type — the guy at a desk working a big landline phone with four or five different lines connected into it. But it absolutely cannot be true of a modern logistics provider.

We need to be viewed as a valued, trusted source of market information and trucking capacity by our shipper customers. And we must be viewed as a business partner of our carriers — a sales team working to find loads that fit their lanes and rates, a dispatcher trying to get them backhauls, and someone who they’d turn to for a load over taking a chance on a random broker from a loadboard, even if it pays a little better.

By building these relationships on both sides, you can ward off the situation where shippers try to pit 3PLs and brokers against each other in negotiations. Or the situation where you try to squeeze a carrier for a few pennies a mile on a one-and-done load and then find you need their service a few weeks or months later for a different load.

Will every freight transaction be this way? Of course not. Logistics providers still have to turn to loadboards to find carriers, and carriers will still have to utilize some one-time deals to reposition or simply keep the wheels turning.

Also, shippers’ procurement managers will still mostly be working to find transportation services at the best cost for their company. They still have a boss to answer to, too.

But what I hope has become a stark realization during these turbulent times is that we’re all in this business together, for better or worse. Shippers need their freight hauled. Carriers need loads to move to keep their operations afloat and their bills paid. And freight brokers and 3PLs, more than ever, are the conduit to bridge those two parties’ needs.

In an 18-month span which has seen both ends of the spectrum — carriers unable find loads at sustainable rates and shippers unable to find capacity — the new calling for freight brokers has been laid bare: We must work to build the relationships that keep goods moving and keep the supply chain chugging. Anything less is a step in the wrong direction.



Shippers across the globe are sure to be confronted with new disruptions when navigating international markets–regardless of the shipping method put into place. Gone are the days when minimal compliance efforts are overlooked or passed off as acceptable. In the modern trade arena, compliance and accuracy are everything.

Tack on the pandemic, an ongoing trade war and what seems like a constantly shifting trade landscape, and compliance efforts can seem downright daunting and costly–especially to and from the U.S., according to Ben Bidwell, director of North America Customs and Compliance at C.H. Robinson.

“Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty once said, ‘If you think compliance is expensive, you should try non-compliance.’ When shippers make mistakes, it can become costly and not just in terms of freight delays, but it can lead to seizure of goods and even jail time for those who are involved,” explains Bidwell. 

The C.H. Robinson executive shares that not only do shippers have to be more careful now than ever when trading across borders, but simply understanding the evergreen trade landscape and various barriers is a critical part of successful operations.

“Challenges in today’s trade market include Section 301, punitive tariffs, forced labor concerns and more,” Bidwell says. “But shippers cannot afford to forget about basics such as the U.S. Customs List of Trade Priority Issues, for example. Customs has certainly not lost sight of that list, and the importing community can’t afford to lose sight of it either.”

Different challenges require unique, strategic approaches in management. The constant shifting of these challenges depends primarily on the country in question, the products being shipped and local customs regulations. This is where automation, advanced technology and access to critical information can serve as significant game-changers for your customers and operations.

Trade & Tariffs Insights, a page on the C.H. Robinson website, “brings the latest challenges, changes and more wrapped together for importers and exporters to utilize and understand,” Bidwell says. “This resource helps shippers get the information they need–not only to remain compliant but to also keep them updated on the latest changes and potential changes that could impact their business.”

Staying informed with rock solid information is becoming ever more important, Bidwell notes.

“Visibility, access to your data and data analytics are critical in running a compliant and successful supply chain,” he says. “It equals not only results in compliance, but also duty savings, duty mitigation opportunities and overall awareness.”

C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere platform does exactly that. The data analysis tools (Carrier, Insight and Vision) capture key elements in the importing and exporting process while providing a clear path of data-backed insights and next-step actions. Navisphere leaves the guessing out of the process and enables customers to make informed decisions and cost analysis. Additionally, the different Navisphere tools serve as an extension in predictive data allowing shippers to proactively plan their next move.

“Shippers can go in and see where they are paying the most in duties and taxes by country, by specific commodity, by shipper, etc.; they can see all of that data side-by-side,” Bidwell says. “This feature gives them the opportunity to make informed decisions and assist with weighing, should we look at alternative sourcing options, for example.”

Another trending issue within the importing and exporting landscape is forced labor compliance. Bidwell shares that the penalties for such compliance issues–regardless of whether the importer is aware—are costly and can lead to the ultimate seizure or destruction of the goods in addition to severe civil penalties.

“Anytime you are shipping across borders, it is important to have a compliance program in place and that your company has individuals or a team dedicated to reviewing and maintaining that program,” he adds. “C.H. Robinson has worked with thousands of companies related to this. At the end of the day, our role is to act as an extension of their team, to not only get them up to speed on what they need to be doing from a compliance perspective, but in the long-term acting as a reliable partner to ensure their ongoing compliance.”

Shippers must keep in mind that customs has eyes on their shipments and implementing proactive rather than reactive measures will greatly benefit the business in the long-term. Bidwell advises that to ensure compliance measures are met and maintained, costs are inevitable. It really boils down to when these costs are enforced.

“Compliance is an investment. It may cost more on the front-end but skipping out on that investment could cost you tenfold in the long term. As far as other supporting elements with compliance efforts, I recommend going back to the data analytics and visibility of your own data, because that information can be telling, and it allows you to identify anomalies as they occur.”

Investing in a solid compliance strategy is not just for shippers, it is a critical piece to the entire process, throughout the whole supply chain. With the labor shortage being felt in almost every industry, the logistics sector cannot afford to skip out on the creation and adherence to acceptable compliance efforts. When employees are professionally trained and informed on upcoming changes within the market, your business benefits.

“It’s about getting back to basics and not losing sight of all of the baseline compliance that comes with importing and exporting,” Bidwell says. “It is easy to get lost with all the changes that are happening with trade policy and a very volatile market. Companies must ensure that they do not lose sight of traditional basic compliance, because that stuff hasn’t gone away, and customs certainly hasn’t stopped.”

C.H. Robinson provides solutions for their customers at the local level and across the globe. Ensuring all bases are covered through customs and compliance experts enables the customer to rely on these resource experts to advise on how to ensure their supply chain is compliant. 

To learn more about C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere technology platform or other offerings, please visit


Ben Bidwell is the director of North America customs and compliance at C.H. Robinson. Ben joined C.H. Robinson in 2004 and became a Licensed Customs House Broker in 2007. Throughout his career at C.H. Robinson, he has consulted and resolved a wide range of customs disputes for clients involving classification, country of origin, marking violations, seizures and protests for products ranging from hospitality goods, automobile tires, apparel and textiles, toys and other consumer retail goods.


Solving Manufacturers’ Pain Points with a WMS

Generix Group is a global leader in warehouse and logistics solutions and based on internal research of customers around the globe, the 7 most common pain points that affect the manufacturing industry are:

-Inventory Visibility
-Quality Assurance (QA)
-Risks of miscommunication and disruptions often from incorrect and incomplete data
-Omnichannel Distribution
-Relying on predictive data

When choosing the right WMS for your business you should consider how a WMS will resolve your particle pain point and improve the rest of your warehouse. The right WMS should be both customizable and flexible enough to resolve any pain point in your operation now or in the future. It should also provide your business with the tools and resources to increase efficiency and expand.

Visibility within the warehouse


An essential tool of any WMS is traceability. For inventory, QA, and recalls the ability to locate the item in real-time anywhere within the warehouse whether it is in a location or with a worker is imperative. It’s also important to trace the history of your items. If an item is recalled or on QA hold the complete history of the item should be readily available, so that you can find a solution with as little interruption to the warehouse as possible.

Traceability is also the solution to minimizing incorrect and incomplete data. By tracing inventory through the warehouse in real-time the WMS has many data points that the user can quickly and easily view. This provides a roadmap to quickly locate and fix any error.

Using Predictive analytics


The right WMS should be capable of expanding with your warehouse and growing into new areas. For example, if you are adding a new sales channel such as ecommerce, you will need a WMS capable of managing different vendors and workflows. In addition, a WMS capable of collecting and analyzing predictive data is important for any business relying on consumer demand. In turn, consumer demand drives the industry, any warehouse that can predict the consumer has an advantage over the competition.

Businesses utilizing just-in-time delivery should look for a WMS that has automated full cycle order management, along with the features listed above. Automated order management can greatly reduce any error in order fulfillment by quickly and automatically order items necessary to fulfill any order. Combine this feature with predictive analytics and your WMS can expand your business tremendously.

Natesan Andiyappillai published an article in the International Journal of Computer Applications. According to his research data analytics play a key role in optimizing logistics. He concluded that “Logistics business becomes complex due to globalization and ever-changing market and consumer behavior. And it is critical for the business not only to use the sophisticated IT WMS systems to capture the right data as much as possible but also to analyze the data extensively and optimize the logistics channel accordingly to be competitive in the market.”

As omni-channel driven demands become the norm, with resulting customer satisfaction harder to achieve, supply chain professionals need to leverage advanced WMS technology to keep their operations nimble, efficient, and scaling – especially in these volatile times.

Given Generix Group’s completeness of vision and ability to execute, as recognized once again by the Gartner analyst community, our Solochain WMS is well positioned to help companies needing a modern, flexible, and agile solution that can easily adapt to their changing needs.

We invite you to contact us to learn more.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission. 



Gaps in operations are not biased. Whether you are a warehouse manager navigating scheduling oversights or a fleet manager solving the next best approach to reducing costs, gaps in operations within the global logistics arena are inevitable. The real concern is how the modern-day 3PL provider can successfully mitigate risks while minimizing common gaps before they become a critical problem. 

Until one can jump to the list of solutions ranging from technology applications to hybrid work models, the most common (and possibly least talked about) gaps must be identified. Taking it a step further, 3PL providers should have a solid understanding of the why behind the what. In other words, they should ask themselves: Why are these gaps present within our operations and can they be resolved? Are these gaps common within the industry or are they unique to my company?

“One of the bigger gaps in the industry is the availability of timely and accurate data back to the shippers and to the community,” states Jason Carl, vice president of 4PL Solutions at BridgeNet Solutions. “3PLs are sitting on a wealth of data and information, and the ability to harness that effectively has always been a gap from my perspective. Delivering standardized timely information and data makes all the difference for a shipper in today’s environment.”

Carl has more than 15 years of experience in the logistics arena, ranging from ocean exports to operations. He originally started his career with Evergreen Line before moving on to BDP International for 13 years, managing operations for several multinational clients. He moved to BridgeNet two years ago to head the 4PL product.

BridgeNet Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BDP, provides sourcing, outsource sourcing procurement and managed transportation services focusing primarily on data analytics for more effective supply chain management.

BridgeNet’s cloud-based data solution, Xonar, is the company’s analytics and execution platform based on a foundation of accurate data collection combined with a robust analytics layer. Xonar enables BridgeNet to effectively collect and share critical information from shipper ERP systems, 3PL providers and freight payment companies. Carl cites this solution and the above capabilities as a game-changer for the company among competitors.

“Oftentimes what you find is that providers offering these solutions could be largely just software as a service or a technology company,” he explains. “At BridgeNet, we extend both the technology and the execution components to our customers, ensuring they can rely on an excellent integration hub paired with customizable technology based on the customer’s needs. We also offer a network of control tower operations based in Asia, Europe and the Americas to oversee that and to orchestrate the flow of information that’s moving through Xonar on a day-to-day basis.”

To be successful at identifying and eliminating common gaps in processes, the provider must consider the quality of the information coming in and going out. It is critical the provider understands where this information could be compromised–or even worse, completely missed. 

“3PLs need to understand the why,” Carl says. “Not just at the strategic level but also down to the desk level. It enables better decision-making on a day-to-day basis that really benefits shippers in ways that are often overlooked. The quality of the data can be a game-changer for planning processes and for decision-making overall. There is an increased recognition of that at least in the conversations I’m having.”

Beyond closing gaps in operations and day-to-day processes, Carl emphasizes the importance of looking at the big picture rather than just the result, citing innovative technology as a distraction for what is really going on layers deep within a data solution. 

“If the underlying data is not high quality, not standardized, not tightly controlled, then it’s not going to yield the results that providers want to achieve from that piece of technology. The value of that underlying information cannot be discounted. Before you go on the tech journey, providers should focus on the information that is going to fuel operations. This is where 4PLs can step in.”

As for the role of the 4PL provider, they are part of the bigger picture of where your data is coming from and what it all means. Data translation is equally as important as data collection. If a provider cannot identify the value from the data, the role of analytics becomes a moot point. That’s why Carl emphasizes the need to look and think outside of the box for solutions that are not only more cost-effective but add significant value to client needs. 

“4PLs can act as a translator or the intermediary to help provide data-driven insights to shippers by standardizing information from a multitude of 3PLs and then translate shipper’s needs and strategies for actionable change from the 3PL,” he says. “This bridge between the two entities can be a great help but it is not always the right fit for every shipper or for every supply chain. There are many situations where, now more than ever, a 4PL provider can provide a lot of value and support for 3PL operations and processes.”

Whether it is a pandemic or random disruption (think Suez Canal), the conversation of eliminating gaps in operations would be incomplete without addressing how the logistics industry has shifted looking back at the last year and a half. Buzzwords such as “agile” and “adaptable” might very well be accurate, but in what ways are 3PL providers being challenged to maximize their position in a competitive market? Carl points to letting go of the past as many companies still utilize lessons learned to affirm the success of the future.

“Gone are the days where the 3PL can rest on proverbial laurels and be complacent based on past success and relationships,” he warns. “The past 18 months have proven this. The existing network that 3PLs may have been operating for a customer for many years may no longer be sufficient in 2021. The needs are going to change, and it’s important that 3PLs are responding effectively to compete and be good partners for the shipping community.”


Jason Carl is vice president of 4PL Solutions at BridgeNet, a BDP International company, where he oversees the development, performance and operations of the 4PL product and global control tower teams. He has more than 15 years’ experience helping customers improve and optimize complex supply chains through technology and process optimization. Carl holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and an MBA in Strategy from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He can be reached at


Here’s How to Turn the Trials of Commodity Shortages into Positives for your 3PL

As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a global shortage of a small, yet vital component in so many of the goods we use and buy today — so-called semiconductor chips. These tiny processors are used by manufacturers to produce everything from cars and Class 8 trucks to TVs, laptops, smartphones, medical devices, and even appliances like refrigerators and toasters.

These types of commodity shortages have become a defining factor of the post-COVID economic recovery and the 2021 economy as a whole.

Remember the gasoline shortage after the recent Colonial Pipeline shutdown? How about the lingering chicken wing shortage, as bars and restaurants re-open and try to stock up? Builders have been reporting lumber shortages for months, and prices on 2×4 studs and sheets of plywood have hit all-time highs. The list goes on: diapers, chlorine, furniture, toilet paper (in the early days of the pandemic). And, obviously, a “shortage” of hirees, which our industry is all too familiar with, in its persistent shortage of available truck drivers.


While most of our relationships with shippers remained hearty over the past year, our Michigan-based operation relied heavily on the automakers, both inbound loads of parts for new vehicles and, of course, trailers loaded with finished cars outbound for dealers.

But amidst the microprocessor shortage, new car production, at times, came to a complete standstill as the need for semiconductor chips blocked American automakers like GM, Dodge, and Ford from building new vehicles. With those production stops, our Michigan operation, likewise, came to a standstill; leaving our trucks parked and our staff searching for answers.

Unfortunately, the outlook for that business returning is cloudy, at best. One analyst might say chip capacity will return to normal by the end of the year. Others say this drags on until 2024.

Trying to plan around this uncertainty has been a challenge. But there are a couple key lessons that can be taken from all of this:

First, logistics providers need to diversify. If you rely on one steady stream of business either at large or for one branch of your operation, you’re a sitting duck. A shortage that popped up seemingly overnight derailed that segment of our business and left us suddenly searching for answers. We had been so busy managing our automotive business here in Michigan, we didn’t take the time and effort to find new customers and forge new relationships. In the end, that lapse caught up with us.

Secondly, remember to treat negative events as opportunities to learn and grow, and possibly emerge from them better and stronger than you were before.

When it became clear the auto production setbacks would be long-term, I encouraged our team not to simply sit around and wait for things to change. Instead, we gathered team members and taught them new skills — ones they could use in their own careers and ones that could benefit the company, too.

For example, we looped in members of our team who weren’t hired to do sales, such as those in dispatch and other back-office functions, and we taught them the basics of making sales calls and reaching out to potential new customers. They were all on board to do it.

We flipped around roles and tried to think outside the box. We had dispatchers finding industries and businesses that wouldn’t be impacted by the semiconductor shortage and then making cold calls to try to drum up new lines of business.

If it worked, fantastic — we made something out of nothing. If not, at least we tried, and our employees had opportunities to continue working and to learn new skills.

Ultimately, that could be the biggest takeaway: When things are turned upside down and the world suddenly changes, go back to the basics. Start at the beginning again and figure out how to find business.

These are lessons that can apply broadly across the third-party logistics landscape and ones I would encourage shippers, brokers, and carriers to make sure they heed, too. Do what you can to diversify your lines of business, because you never know when they might suddenly be toppled. And never underestimate your team’s ability to pivot and learn new skills, as that could be the key to pushing through when you find yourself in a rut.

What are the lessons you’ve learned over the past 15 months in your logistics operation? I’d love to hear about them, to learn from your experience, and to share your insights with our team, too:


Ryan Kramar is a Vice President of Operations at Circle LogisticsFounded in Fort Wayne in 2011, Circle is one of the fastest-growing transportation companies in the nation, servicing over $250 million in freight spend. Circle combines the dedication of a privately owned asset-based 3PL with the coverage of a public large-scale provider to create a superior modern freight experience. Circle is committed to delivering on three core promises to our customers: No Fail Service, Personalized Communication, and Innovative Solutions, and provides coverage across all modes of transportation in the continental United States and Mexico, including Dry Van, Flatbed, Reefer, LTL, Expedite, Oversize and Air.

For more information, please visit