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choose a freight shipping company

How To Choose a Freight Company That’s Right For You

The global economy and the entire modern world heavily relies on freight shipping on a daily basis. Everything we eat, wear, use, and work with gets to us through cargo shipping services. A spike in e-commerce growth demands efficient and reliable freight shipping, and it is important to choose a freight shipping company that matches your needs.

Companies all over the world need their products and supplies moved every single day. Just in the U.S. alone, there are almost 6 trillion ton-miles of freight moved annually. There are various options for how businesses manage their transportation. Some of them have in-built logistics departments and run transportation on their own. However, this can be costly, complicated, and lack efficiency. That’s why more and more companies outsource their logistics operations or even their entire supply chain to freight shipping companies. choose a freight shipping company

Once you’ve decided to use professional services for your business transportation needs, the next step is to choose a freight shipping company. Obviously, you want the provider to be experienced, skilled, and match your needs at a fair price. The shipping provider plays a large role in your supply chain, so before setting a partnership with any company, try to research the market and consider a few important traits.

How to choose a freight shipping company?

Industry Experience

Transportation and logistics are complicated industries, saturated with severe competition. If a company has survived on the market and established itself, there is a good chance they are trustworthy and reliable. Pay attention to how many years of experience a logistics provider has. Additionally, look at their expertise field and specialization. The company’s specialty could be what you’ve been searching for!

Freight Services

Essentially, services are what you will need from the freight shipping company in the first place. Clearly define which services you are looking for. Once you’ve determined your needs, look at the shipping providers with expertise in a certain field and service. What companies do they work with? How exactly can they help you? How do they distinguish themselves from competitors? Keep in mind all of these questions during your research.

Carrier Network

It doesn’t matter if you ship cross-country or globally, you want skilled carriers and access to capacity. A wide network of reputable carriers is definitely a ‘must-have’ in a good freight shipping company. Depending on the provider’s primary field, the ratio of carriers can vary. If you ship oversized loads, you would probably benefit from a broad network of flatbed carriers.

Customer Service

Ultimately, when you’ve decided with a few viable options, it’s time to do the final check: customer service. A good company cares about prospects and customers and will help you with your questions. In order to define whether the chosen provider will deliver you a positive customer experience, look at its communication. Whether you’re asking for a freight quote or general consultancy, the reliable shipping company will help you and respond on-time.

Bottom Line

To sum it up, choosing a freight shipping company is an important decision. Therefore, you need to do decent research before making a final choice. Knowing exactly what you need and following the above tips will help you pick a reliable logistics partner.

Freight Shipping with PLS

PLS Logistics Services is one of the country’s leading logistics management services providers. We provide outsourced logistics solutions as well as freight brokerage services. PLS’ transportation network has more than 150,000 trucks represented by 45,000 active carrier partners.

Contact us now with any questions you have!

3 Main Reasons To Outsource Your Transportation Management

Transportation is a large part of many businesses and occupies a significant piece of their supply chains. Managing such an impactful branch as transportation is complicated, and trusting business to handle your supply chain can be very stressful. To resolve logistics challenges, you can outsource your transportation management.

However, trying to keep all processes organized becomes almost impossible. Especially, when you operate a large company with a complex supply chain. Many businesses think they will save money by running an in-house logistics department, but in most cases, it can be much more stressful than outsourcing. Creating and maintenance of the entire department, investing in a transportation management system is certainly a huge expense and can be a huge burden.

While you may doubt whether outsourcing will benefit you, assigning non-core transportation management is a common practice for both large and small businesses.

Why outsource your transportation management?outsource your transportation management

  • Reduce costs, save time. Firstly, a 3PL simplifies the processes and makes your supply chain consistent, solid and unified. A good third-party logistics provider obtains a wide network of qualified carriers who they work with for years. This ensures you will get lower rates and faster transit times. The company also thinks about ways to optimize your shipments in the most cost-efficient way.
  • Streamlined transportation processes. Integrated systems and technology lets 3PL’s provide complete visibility into loads and freight management. You will get regular reporting and analysis to keep track of your transportation management.
  • No need to buy technology. A reputable 3PL is armed with tech tools such as a robust transportation management system (TMS), tracking tools, etc. While managing all of the transportation processes on your own, you would spend a big part of your budget on a TMS. Using a 3PL you can have management and reporting all in one system with all the needed features.

Ultimately, working with a 3PL can be beneficial both for your budget and operational efficiency. When you outsource your transportation management, it lets you access an enormous network of freight carriers, technology and reports, and all while focusing on your core business.

Learn more about our Outsourced Transportation Management services or contact us now with any questions you have!

How Oil and Gas Companies Can Benefit from 3PL

Unlike any other industry, oil and gas supply chains are incredibly complex. Supplying every operation with heavy equipment, rigs, pipes, and hazardous materials requires extreme organization and strategy. Transporting such materials in such large volume demands using multiple modes, high capacity, special vehicles, and strict regulatory compliance. Therefore, there are many benefits of using a 3PL for oil and gas companies.

outsourcing oil and gas

So, oil and gas supply chains cannot survive any delays, disruptions or poor management. Every mistake and missed deadline can cost a company thousands of dollars. the mismanagement of such global processes can cause worldwide issues because the entire world is highly dependent on energy supplies.

Read How to Optimize Your Oil and Gas Supply Chain

Handling logistics for oil and gas companies by yourself is an expensive and inefficient approach, which often lacks visibility. Since transportation is a large branch of the energy business, it requires tons of time, efforts and enormous responsibility. Just one rig site may involve equipment from 80 different carriers. Also, most of the drilling sites are located in inaccessible areas, it’s hard to imagine the volume of responsibility and costs involved in the process.

That’s why many companies apply customized shipping solutions to their supply chains by outsourcing logistics operations to third-party logistics providers, or 3PLs. Outsourcing offers many benefits to energy companies:

Customized solutions

Finding the right transportation mode and providing necessary equipment is crucial for on-time delivery. 3PLs partner with a wide range of experienced carriers and have a variety of options to offer for your shipping needs. Flatbed trucking, casing and tubing deliveries, rig site delivery, combining transportation modes, warehousing, freight management, and hotshot services – all of these options fall under 3PLs expertise.

Read Do I Need Logistics Help for Mining, Oil & Gas Operations?

Safety

Unlike many other industries, safety is a top priority for the oil and gas sector due to its specific nature. Cutting costs on safety compliance is unacceptable, and 3PLs consider this factor while managing your supply chain. Logistics experts will provide assistance with regulatory compliance and ensure the transportation runs smoothly.

Technology and visibility

Due to its complexity and time-sensitivity, oil and gas logistics operations require increased visibility. Multiple processes mean lots of data that needs to be stored and systematized efficiently. 3PLs leverage advanced transportation management systems (TMS), which give complete visibility into the supply chain and reports at all times.

Read Transportation Management in the Oil & Gas Industry

When choosing a 3PL for oil and gas logistics solutions, consider the experience they have in your sector. While technology and a variety of carriers are important, understanding the specifics of oil and gas industry challenges is a key feature to look for.

Learn more about Oil and Gas shipping services! 

5 Reasons a Small Business Can Benefit From a 3PL

In the age of Amazon, the only thing that is growing faster than the e-commerce sector is customers’ demands. Once a shipment is scheduled or an item is purchased, the customer is constantly looking for updates on the shipment, no matter if it’s an individual shipper or a large corporation. There is no surprise that companies who provide the fastest and cheapest shipping have a significant advantage over competitors. New technologies are taking over the world, and the world wants you to be as fast and convenient as possible. Companies should consider the services of a 3PL for small business needs.

Customer satisfaction is the main priority for most businesses. Quality and shipment speed is crucial to the customer’s experience and worrying about customer service while managing a whole supply chain is not an easy thing to do. And the cherry on top of it all is, you can’t really maintain everything at the highest level all by yourself.small business front

This is the point where third-party logistics services come in to help save you from a bundle of unwanted work. 3PLs act as the middleman service that takes on all the processes of shipping. They provide all the infrastructure, systems, data and equipment you need to have successful shipments. Building a strong relationship with your 3PL is crucial to a successful supply chain. In a nutshell, you focus on your core specialization while a 3PL provider takes care of your logistics until the last part of the delivery.

Here are the main reasons why using a 3PL for small businesses is beneficial:

It saves you time

If you are a small business owner, you have probably spent a lot of time setting up your businesses shipping to find the right carriers, keep track of all of the paperwork, and handle the freight. This can be very stressful and time consuming for business owners. Outsourcing your company’s logistics can give you more time to focus on your business.

It can save you money

Brokers can provide you with the lowest prices to help save your business money on shipments. Moreover, you just pay for the space and time that you use. For example, less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping allows you to share the truck with other users, but to pay only for space your freight takes up inside of the truck.

It helps ensure customer service

Maintaining the supply chain requires a lot of attention to details. This can cause distractions and may not always bring your customers the positive experience they want to have. When using a 3PL for small business, the provider arranges the cooperation with qualified drivers and carriers, who go through regular reviews, to help ensure your shipments are handled with care and are properly taken care of. Picking the right provider is a good investment for your business.

It provides you with resources

At a first glance, the transportation and shipping process may look like moving an object from A to B. In reality, it’s a complex chain of operations that demand lots of special bulky and pricey equipment. Third-party logistics services save the situation and bring all the needed equipment to complete every single order, no matter how big it is.

It gives you a network

Constantly communicating with all the people involved in the supply chain may be overwhelming. Brokers already have a developed network of professional suppliers and will choose the most relevant to match your requirements.

Ultimately, using a 3PL for small business logistics needs can be beneficial in many ways from cost savings to significant improvements in the entire supply chain flow.

If you are considering outsourcing your logistics, read more about the first steps in outsourcing your businesses transportation management.

How to Build a Strong Relationship with Your 3PL

relationship with 3plMore and more companies of all sizes are turning to 3PLs for help with their transportation management. Supply chains are becoming more complex, and securing capacity has become a challenge. 3PLs bring their expertise and solid resources to help shippers improve their logistics operations, while also driving cost savings, and generally make shippers’ day-to-day transportation challenges easier. It is important to set up a strong relationship with 3PL.

Here are some tips on how to build a good relationship with 3PL:

Know what you need

Establish what is important for your company and what you are looking to achieve through this partnership. Make sure to outline your key objectives and requirements to your 3PL before you continue growing your relationship. This will help set the tone and your expectations which will solidify the foundation for a successful partnership.

Measure the performance

It doesn’t end with outlining the objectives which set the general direction you want to go. Once you are clear on the general requirements, it’s time to get to details. Establish a set of KPIs and evaluation metrics which are in line with your general objectives and communicate them to your 3PL. This will help you monitor and evaluate your 3PL’s performance and contribute to achieving bigger objectives.

Know your 3PL team

Any partnership and relationship are solely about people. Get to know your 3PL representatives not only professionally, but personally, too. The better you know each other, the easier it will be to work together and be efficient. At the end of the day, you will be working together every day. Having occasional face-to-face meetings to discuss their performance and review objectives is highly recommended as well.

A 3PL is a powerful tool in managing your supply chain effectively both, time- and money wise. There’s nothing quite like a stable long-term partnership with a 3PL who knows what you need before you even say it.

Learn more about our Outsourced Transportation Management services!

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Choosing the Right 3PL for 2018

With all the discussion about capacity and high rates in the transportation industry, the task of finding a new 3PL to move your product is not any easier. 2018, the time of record diesel prices, higher than normal truck rates and a pretty tight capacity. You may have looked into a new provider recently but were faced with the daunting question of WHO? Well, look no further, as well have a thought out list of what to look for when choosing a 3PL that works for you.

Technology

iStock-690054690.jpg

Using a 3PL that has access to the latest technology is wise. That means that they are committed to efficiency. The right technology can lower your costs, cut your use time, and increase your productivity. Moder- day 3PLs use a transportation management system (TMS) that can provide many benefits for the 3PL, the carrier, and the shipper. The most up to date systems are beginning to roll out newly advanced tracking to allow further transparency when moving a load. Their technology is yours to use, which can also help you plan shipments at your convenience allowing a system that can provide the user with all the data they need before, during, and after a shipment.

Flexible

A strong 3PL understands your needs and tailor to your requirements because not every shipment is the same. Those that utilize a one-price-fits-all concept should be avoided at all costs, they won’t be as effective or cost friendly. Your chosen 3PL will have the ability to adjust at a moment’s notice should something arise that interferes with the plan that they tailored to you. It’s also great to have 3PL that can adapt to your expansion and grow as you grow. Having the right resources is important if they plan to adapt to your growth…

Communication

Communication is the key to success in any industry, but more so for the transportation industry where everything is constantly in motion. A 3PL should be ready to create a strong relationship with you if they want to succeed. Having a clear understanding of each other’s needs and goals is important. Once there is a mutual understanding, it becomes easier for a 3PL to tailor to your needs. Communication also involves the use of clearly defined metrics that you (as the customer), have the ability to view in a simple and easy to read format. Metrics will help you to understand how your operations are doing, and what you can do (or your 3PL can do) to make improvements. Your 3PL will be able to communicate with you whenever something arises, whether it’s good or bad, in a fast and responsive manner.

Transportation

You are looking for a 3PL so they can organize a shipment (or shipments) right? That should be what they are good at if they are in this industry. Some may say they are but may lack the experience to back it up. Find one that has a good history of experience, they will make sure your shipment goes to the right location in the right timeframe. The right 3PL will do this at a cost that is effective for your budget and help to maintain those low costs during changes in the industry when we view spikes (such as the industry currently). It’s also wise to understand the carriers they use and if they are reliable. Having a 3PL with access to a multitude of carriers creates more options for you for price, reliability, and geographical coverage. The larger their network is, the better they can assist your growth.

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4 Reasons To Use A 3PL In Times Of Capacity Crisis

It’s not a secret that we are all currently operating in the conditions of the record-breaking capacity crunch. The crisis has been caused by several factors which we have previously discussed in our post, even more so with the ELD mandate finally going into effect on December 18th. This fact adds up to the reasons to use a 3PL in the tight capacity time.

reasons to use a 3plPredictably, capacity tightened further during the last week of December. Yes, there were fewer trucks out there due to holidays, but same goes for loads.

We witnessed the load-to-truck ratio increase significantly compared to the same time last year, vividly illustrating current market conditions.

According to recent DAT data, dry van load-to-truck ratio hit the highest monthly average ever recorded by DAT of 9 dry van loads per truck (139% higher than in December 2016). The flatbed ratio increased by 77% compared to the same time last year hitting 35.6 loads per truck, while reefer ratio of 14.1 loads per truck was 73% higher than that of December 2016.

Undoubtedly, this affects both, shippers and 3PL’s. However, a 3PL may have better capabilities of navigating in the tight market.

What are the reasons to use a 3PL in the capacity crisis?

Carrier Relationships

A well-established 3PL will have years of thoughtfully developed and nurtured carrier relationships. Strong relationships are crucial for stability and better rates, and you will be able to benefit from them.

Buying power

Hand-in-hand with the above, a 3PL has volume across various transportation modes, which gives them leverage in negotiating with new carrier contacts and developing mutually beneficial relationships. This helps them constantly expand their network and move your freight easier.

Expertise

3PL’s work with various customers and come across various, often uncommon, situations. They might be able to offer an alternative, more efficient and cost-effective, solutions for your freight based on their previous experience.

Support

It wouldn’t be called “crisis” if it was pleasant! At the end of the day, a 3PL is there to make your life easier. Their priority is to provide value-driven transportation solutions for their customers and make their supply chain operations a little less stressful.

We are already in 2018, and the forecast remains the same: the crisis is not expected to pass before the end of the year. The best way to survive is to use all the tools at your disposal and maximize your efficiency.

Learn more about our Outsourced Transportation Management services! 

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Busting The Myths About Non-Asset Based 3PLs

We understand why it might often be assumed that an asset-based carrier has more advantages than a 3PL. Quite often, shippers don’t feel comfortable working with non-asset based 3PLs and end up limiting, and thus hurting, their supply chain.

There are a few common myths surrounding the never-ending Asset Based VS Non-Asset Based 3PLs battle. It’s time to look at these misconceptions and destroy the myths.

Myth #1: 3PL is a middle-man, thus, their service will be more expensive.

You remove an extra tier and save money. It seems straight-forward, right?
non-asset based 3PLs

Well, this is actually not true! 3PL’s can offer better rates due to their extensive carrier base and volume. 3PLs take full advantage of discounted backhaul rates and use their volume to negotiate the best rates. In addition, a non-asset based 3PL will always negotiate in the customer’s best interest as they are not putting your freight on their own trucks.

Myth #2: It’s harder for a 3PL to provide stable capacity for your freight

They never have a truck right there in the yard which they can send to pick up your load immediately.

They don’t, but an asset-based carrier might not have a free truck sitting there waiting for the load, either. As already mentioned above, a 3PL has constant access to an extensive carrier base and has much better chances of finding a qualified available carrier to receive your shipment.

3PLs are constantly building strong relationships with carriers to be able to provide stable capacity for their customers even in the times of a capacity crunch.

Myth #3: It’s harder to rectify issues with non-asset based 3PLs

It will take longer, and it will be much harder to resolve issues/claims when you have to go through an extra company between you and a carrier.

You might think so, but the successful resolution and customer satisfaction is a 3PL’s first priority, and they will fight for you on your behalf. Instead of going directly after a carrier (who will tend to be more interested in defending their own interests), you will have a 3PL claims department working in your best interest to get the claim taken care of.

Overall, a 3PL will always be on your side – It’s literally their job to minimize potential issues and make the process as smooth as possible for you.

Have any of the above been holding you back from partnering up with non-asset based 3PLs? Maybe this will help you tackle your fears and open new supply chain opportunities for your business.

Don’t put unnecessary limits on your supply chain. Looking for a 3PL to help you handle your transportation needs? We are here to help!

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Traits of a Successful 3PL

We have previously covered a couple of useful tips for pre-screening your options and choosing the perfect Freight Broker – today, we’re going to dig a little deeper! Ideally, a relationship between a shipper and their 3PL should be a long-term stable alliance striving on mutual respect, support and understanding. The whole idea of partnering up with a successful 3PL is about working with someone you can truly rely on.

So, what are the characteristics of successful 3PL?

successful 3PLPerformance Monitoring & Improvement

Yes, quality can and should be measured. All successful companies constantly monitor their performance using a variety of metrics and KPI’s. Monitoring KPI’s such as on-time delivery, cost, billing accuracy, etc. are a must for a good 3PL. This data should be regularly analyzed and applied to ensure continuous improvement in each aspect.

Established Processes & Agility

Creativity is always a great bonus, but a successful 3PL cannot let its operations run freestyle. 3PL efficiency heavily relies on a set of established and proven processes – and so does its success. These processes are clearly defined; communicated to the employees and clients, and followed. At the same time, the logistics industry is constantly changing and evolving. A good 3PL is agile, adapts to the changes and constantly improves its processes.

People

Let’s state the obvious – it’s all about the right people. We all want to work with knowledgeable people who are happy to do what they are doing. Look for companies which value their employees and take their talent acquisition, development & retention strategy seriously. Think about the most successful companies – they invest in in-depth training programs, coaching and growing people, thus creating knowledgeable, valuable and loyal employees who are willing to help the company succeed.

Values

Matching value is a cornerstone of any successful 3PL relationship. Successful 3PL knows their core values and stick to them. Know what you are looking for and don’t compromise your own values. What is essential for a successful partnership? Integrity, accountability, flexibility… Company culture goes along with values – not only on paper but clearly seen in everything they do.

A stable long-term partnership with the right 3PL can be highly beneficial for any business – it’s very important to choose the right one!

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Whose WMS To Use When Outsourcing to a 3PL?

An efficient warehouse management system (WMS) is an invaluable part of a company’s distribution strategy. As omnichannel fulfillment becomes increasingly more popular and complex, WMS systems are too. Companies need to be able to plan and optimize orders quickly and accurately.

However, most companies will struggle with the decision of using their own WMS or using that of their logistics provider.

In an ideal world, the company would manage all of its information within a single WMS platform to increase efficiency and visibility. This could happen with their own WMS or the 3PL’s.

Companies may choose to stay with their own system for the sake of integration and cost controls. Jim Stephens, chief information officer at Port Logistics Group, says “[companies] may not want to invest the time and IT resources to integrate with a new WMS, or fear that they will lose control of how the system is updated and upgraded over time.”

A good 3PL will recognize the importance of this decision. It’ll work with clients no matter which WMS they choose to use. Of course, there are pros and cons to both avenues.

Using the Company’s Own WMS wms

When a customer decides to retain its own WMS, the 3PL must provide a trained staff with the expertise to accurately execute operations. The team should be skilled enough to act as if they were an extension of the customer’s supply chain network.

Although utilizing the customer’s own system optimizes their visibility and increases consistency within the supply chain, it has its drawbacks for the 3PL when the customer experiences dramatic spikes in volume, as it makes it more difficult for the 3PL to quickly move staff to and from accounts to deal with the abrupt change.

Companies also choose to use their own WMS to ensure data and operations uniformity when working with multiple warehouses and logistics services partners. Some supply chain professionals attest that there is a loss of control when they utilize the 3PL’s system.

Using the 3PL’s WMS

A logistics provider increases its ability to move labor around on the customers’ behalf when it uses its own WMS across all customers and facilities.

Change is a constant in many industry verticals, and keeping up with the changes entails system modifications that can be costly. When the 3PL uses its own WMS, it eats that cost. The customer would have to foot the bill if they chose to stick with their own system.

Every customer is different, so 3PL’s must be, and have become, skilled in integrating data from all of their customers into one system – their own.

When it’s all said and done, there are three major advantages to relying on the system of the logistics provider. They include faster implementations, relief from the burden of updating the WMS. Also, it means more flexibility in changing locations in the future.

But, these advantages are contingent upon the skill of the provider’s IT staff. Without an IT department that possesses the competence to integrate quickly and adequately, these benefits are immediately negated.

Bottom line?

The decision of which WMS to use is not one that should be taken lightly. The pros and cons of both avenues are undeniable. However, the most important issues need to be identified and addressed upon the initial contemplation of a business relationship. Only then will the relationship be beneficial to both the logistics provider and the customer.

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