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Third-Party Logistics Study 2013 on the Logistics Outsourcing Trends was released.  I would be focusing on some of the elements outsourcing-1of the findings to add my perspective to Logistics outsourcing. Outsourcing is a magical word that pretends to address many complex issues of reaching the product to the end user.  The reason I am using the word pretends due to mixed responses received from the end users known as shippers over a period of time.

In spite of financial downturn, the global revenue of 3PL operators is growing and in my opinion the downturn could also be one of the reasons.  In these difficult days, shippers would aim for cost savings and look for a partner to share risk and avoid capital deployment. And this action could trigger outsourcing. However, organisations that have successfully developed and implemented effective supply chain risk mitigation plans often apply new thinking to traditional risk mitigation strategies. About 65% shippers have indicated that they are increasing their use of 3PL services than returning to insourcing (22%) some 3PL services. Nearly three in five (58%) shippers are reducing or consolidating the number of 3PLs they use.

According to Armstrong & Associates 2012 study the global revenues of 3PL operators have risen by 13.7%.  The gains are mostly recorded in Asia Pacific Region (21.2%) and followed by North America (7.2%).  Whereas regions such as Latin America recorded impressive growth of (43.6%) but on a low revenue level and this indicates increasing trends of outsourcing in Latin America and Other Regions.

When we take a critical look at the logistics spend by the shippers.  Predominantly, the logistics spend is heavy on transactional activities such as Transportation and to an extent on warehousing operations.  The outsourced logistics spend is consistent around 30 to 40% except in in NA.  The logistics expenditure as a percentage to sales revenue seems to be reasonably consistent across all the regions around 10 to 15%.

Outsourcing 1

When we look at the return or benefits to the shippers again the focus is on economic factors.  The cost savings was around 15%, Inventory Cost Reduction around 8% and Asset deployment reduction at 26%.  Not to forget a modest productivity improvement in the form of 7% improvements in order fill rate and 5% improvement in order accuracy.  Again the focus is very much on transactional outsourcing.

Supply Chain Innovation

Innovation could be defined as creation of improved product, process, technology or human resources (improved skills) that could eventually deliver gains to the consumer.  Supply Chain is a work in progress in my opinion.  Continuous improvements in the areas of process, technology and people (skills) are delivering the supply chain innovation.  Apart from the three I have mentioned, the new improvement area is outsourcing.  However, it was noticed that innovation is becoming a challenging as the global economy is becoming volatile and 3PLs becoming more conservative and whereas the shippers becoming more aggressive.  The key to the innovation through outsourcing is collaboration.  The relationship between the shipper and the 3PL should be transparent and behave as true stakeholders in the business.  Lack of openness could kill the relationship and thus innovation.

According to 2013 Third Party Logistics Study, “the openness of some shippers to more innovative 3PL-shipper arrangements appears to be declining somewhat; “gain-sharing” between 3PLs and shippers is down and interest in collaborating with other companies, even competitors, to achieve logistics cost and service improvements has also declined slightly since last year”.

What drives innovation in an outsourced environment?  As mentioned earlier, Relationship and Trust plays a big role, People who create innovative ideas and deliver them, Technology which enables innovation, certainly collaboration between the shipper and 3PL, transparency and effective communication and last but not least is the financial incentives.

Outsourcing 2

The above study concluded that, “Shippers and 3PLs can facilitate supply chain innovation by leveraging organizational drivers such as fostering collaboration through structure, relationship governance, and embedding innovation into the organizations as well as technology focused drivers: advanced IT and mobile solutions, data and analytics, and social media.”

What calls for innovation?

Volatile economy, Increasing Competition, Uncertain Demand due to product proliferation and Supply Chain Disruptions are the main reasons organisations looking for continuous improvements in order to survive in the business and excel.  If we review the above mentioned factors some of them are controllable and some are not.  Economy behaviour cannot be influenced; Competition will continue to grow due to increasing globalisation; and Product proliferation is driving the product mix challenges resulting in uncertain demand to some extent.  Whereas, supply chain disruptions could be avoided if we plan well and innovate.  According above mentioned study, Spirit AEROSYSTEMS, Kansas saved millions of dollars inventory and avoided injury to workforce due to F3 tornado hitting their facility (2012) due to proactive thinking and that is nothing but some sort of innovation.

What is driving the Supply Chain Disruptions?

Supply chain complexity and “interconnectedness” to address the globalisation is increasing rapidly at a time when the risk of disruption caused by extremes such as geophysical disasters, increasing terrorism attacks is mounting. The above study reveals that natural disasters the top reason followed by Commodity Volatility, Labour availability, Energy prices and supply of raw material at the required time.  No doubt, Transportation infrastructure plays a vital role in disruption by not making a product available at the right time.  Governing rules in countries like India and China making the supply chain vulnerable. The political system is also causing disruptions and Terrorism and Piracy is low on agenda but high on complexity.

Human Resource could cause multiple problems that could result in supply chain disruptions.  The first one on top of my head is the skills shortage.  According to the world economic forum study on Outlook on the Logistics & Supply Chain Industry 2012, Logistics companies and trade associations around the world are reporting problems in obtaining enough qualified staff. Over the past year, studies done in India, Korea, China and the United Kingdom have confirmed that there is a skill shortage in logistics.  The other side of the coin is the disgruntled human resources could cause phenomenal financial damage to the supply chain and the business. On November 27, 2012, approximately 800 clerical workers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports went on strike.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem as though a clerical strike should have a significant impact on port operations, but the 10,000 unionized dockworkers who also work there refused to cross their picket lines.  And thus the largest port operation in the United States, representing approximately 40% of the value of imports brought into the U.S., ground to a halt.  The economic cost of the strike was estimated at $1 Billion per day.

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Risk Mitigation

We should be able to mitigate every risk if we understand the problem and source that is causing the problem. In order to avoid any supply chain risk it is very essential to have visibility to your supply chain.  According to a report roughly 30% of manufacturers still lack Tier 1 visibility, while over 70% lack Tier 2 or Tier 3 visibility.  According to Aberdeen Group 2011 Supply Chain Visibility Report, best-in-class companies are likely to have online visibility into supply chain disruptions.  Further, the same report revealed some of the actions taken by the supply chain leaders due to visibility includes, Streamlined Processes for Easier Monitoring, Usability & Efficiency (66%); Integrated Supply Chain Transactions & Costs into their Operations (60%); Took Steps to Improve the Timeliness & Accuracy of Supplier Data Exchanges (46%); and Have Increased B2B Connectivity & Visibility into Supply-side Processes (31%).

outsourcing 4

Collaborative partnership such as outsourcing is another step towards supply chain risk mitigation.  It pays to invest on training and development of human resources.  In my opinion it is a worthy investment as long as one could retain the workforce to reap the benefits of the skills upgrading.  In order to address risks arising out of suppliers, supplier scorecard and collaboration goes a long way addressing quality and velocity disruptions to supply chain.  As mentioned earlier, one should understand the end to end supply chain and that is possible through business process mapping and developing standard work to address process related uncertainties.

Summary:

Outsourcing 5

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Dwindling global economy is a big cause of concern for 3PL industry.  I remember a saying, “When the going gets tough, tough get going.”  How relevant it is for today’s situation?  Well, what I am trying to say is that we need effective human resources to tackle complex issues resulting due to melting global economy.  Unfortunately, Supply Chaintalent shortage is almost threatening  the existence of Logistics Industry.  We did hear about Inventory shortages, it is strange to learn about Supply Chain talent shortage.  My objective of this article is to review 3PL business trends, impact of global economy and how Supply Chain Talent shortage will have impact on Industry.

The global markets for 3PL (Third Party Logistics) services registered a growth rate of 6.8% in 2010 compared to 2009, according to Armstrong Associates. Asia Pacific region is only second to Europe in the areas of supply chain outsourcing 3PL revenues.  The below pie graph indicates that Asia Pacific region contributes 29% of the global revenue.  Asia Pacific registered a growth rate of 15% compared to 2009.

Logistics Spend:

On an average the logistics spend as percentage to sales revenue is estimated to be 12%.  Whereas US, Europe and Asia Pacific are at 11%, Latin America stands at 14%.  This only indicates that Asia Pacific market is mature in offering 3PL services to their clients while Latin America is still emerging as a 3PL market.  The general perception is that only Transportation activities are outsourced.  To certain extent that is true.  In Asia Pacific Region, 61% of the total logistics spend is directed towards transportation and 42% is incurred on Warehouse and other value added services.  The global average stands at 56% on transportation and 39% towards warehousing and other activities.

It would be interesting to note that only 42% of the logistics spend is outsourced globally and in Asia Pacific it stands at 47% which is highest compared to US and Europe.  This indicates that Asia Pacific can be considered as matured 3PL market.

Factors Fuelling the Growth:

  1. Pressure on Corporates to cut costs;
  2. Low Cost Country Sourcing;
  3. Off-Shoring and outsourced manufacturing arrangements;
  4. Focus on Core Competencies;
  5. Ability to expand rapidly and establish business in local markets;
  6. Complex global supply chains.

Global Volatile Economic Trend impacting SC Outsourcing:

According to one report global growth is likely to slow down and is expected to be approximately 3% per year on an average.  Interestingly this slowdown is attributed to emerging markets slowdown and any recovery in advanced economies will be offset by the emerging markets sluggish growth.  The projected negative growth of emerging markets in 2012 could be mainly due to slowing global trade.  This is not going to be a good sign for Asia Pacific markets and in particular for 3PL industry.  It is anticipated that the emerging economies will grow around 3.3% during 2017-2025 which is greater than 50% reduction compared to 2011 growth recorded by these economies.

What are the activities outsourced today?

According to CAPGEMINI 2012 Survey, the below are the variety of services outsourced to 3PL Service providers globally.

Domestic Transportation 83%; Warehousing 81%; International Transportation 70%; Inventory Management 66%; Order Management and Fulfilment 65%; Customer Service 64%; Transportation Planning and Management 63%; Cross-Docking 62%; Product Labelling, Packaging, Assembly, Kitting 62%; Freight Forwarding 58%; Customs Brokerage 50%; Reverse Logistics (Defective, Repair, Return) 56%; Information Technology (IT) Services 51%; Supply Chain Consultancy Services Provided by 3PLs 51%; LLP (Lead Logistics Provider)/4PL Services 42%; Service Parts Logistics 38%; Freight Bill Auditing and Payment 34%; Sustainability/Green Supply Chain-Related Services 31%; Fleet Management 26%.

What is disheartening to note is that 24% of the respondents to the survey floated by CAPGEMINI indicated that they would be insourcing the logistics activity.  Some of the reasons given for insourcing include cost reductions not realized, some believe that logistics is a very important function and their core competency and not willing to outsource.  Diminishing service levels also could encourage the outsourcing community to think towards insourcing.

What is bothering Logistics Industry?

Logistics industry includes the Corporations (known as shippers) and also 3PL Service Providers.  Generally, we hear about product shortages in the market place due to improper planning, gaps in business process, due to long lead times and raw material shortages.  We are experiencing the TALENT shortage recently.

“ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE SUPPLY CHAIN TALENT CRISIS?”  This is not the title for my next blog article, this is the white paper published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.  This article identifies the key skills that are missing in Supply Chain talent today.

It is believed that Supply Chain practitioners need a combination of “hard” and “soft” skills to effectively manage in an unpredictable commercial environment. The above article reveals that “Supply chain analytical skills are necessary and important but not sufficient; sufficiency comes with these other skills.” The “other” skills he refers to fall into the “soft” category, which includes thinking creatively and appreciating the big picture.  “Not getting bogged down in the numbers,” is how another supply chain leader describes the blend of skills he looks for. Managers must be able to use not only the analytical tools at their disposal, but also the qualitative output, he explains. This is an important observation in a profession that relies heavily on quantitative analysis.

I strongly believe that in today’s challenging supply chain world, the talent should also focus on managing situations and shortages.  Inventory Shortages in today’s world is a certainty and every Corporation in the world goes through the phase of material shortages at some point of time.  Supply Chain Managers are expected to manage the situations and fulfil empty promise, and that could be reason 64% of the Garner research survey respondents indicated that problem solving skill as the most important.  This applies to 3PL as well.  The shippers (outsourcing companies) expect the 3PLs to solve their problems and problems are resolved by humans and that talent seems to be in short supply.

CAPGEMINI 2012 survey indicated that organization success largely depends upon, “ability to Execute and Drive Operational Efficiency and Improvements” as the third most important driver for organizational success.  This was agreed by both Shippers and 3PL operators equally.  Factors that could affect retaining the talented staff include:

  1. Talent Development;
  2. Succession Planning;
  3. Effective Retention Strategy;
  4. Team Environment (Office Politics plays a vital role in people leaving jobs);
  5. Effective talent review process;
  6. Performance linked rewards.

The above survey reveals that the right people and leadership in place is the number one driver of their companies’ success in the next five years. But the supply chain industry is experiencing supply chain talent shortages.

Even though many shippers and 3PLs share the same concern of talent management and retention is their biggest worry, nothing is being done to save the precious asset of the organization.  According to Australian Human resources institute only 37% of Organizations have plans to attack the employee retention problems whereas the rest have no plan in place and press panic buttons when key employees gives the notice.   Organizations may have to embrace the activities of the talent cycle (source: CAPGEMINI 2012 Survey) have the ability to ensure a continuous supply of experienced, well-rounded logistics talent.

Source: CAPGEMINI 2012 3PL Study.

3PL industry needs talented people to manage today’s crisis world and deliver seamless solutions to the complex supply chain problems.  The outsourcing activity will see tremendous growth when out of the box solutions are offered to the Corporations who are looking for help and solutions in managing their supply chains.

 

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The growth rate of major economies such as US, Europe and Japan were less than 1% during 2009.  Naturally the impact of this financial uncertainty will have impact on the contract logistics as well.  Contract logistics which was growing around 10.0% during 2005 to 2006 period reported early setbacks in 2009 with a 1% growth rate fall and further 4% plummet by 2008 and ultimately 8.2% negative growth by 2009.  This is a disaster and this is one way of understanding the impact of economic recession on contract logistics.

Outsourcing penetration rate:

The outsourcing penetration rate was growing marginally in spite of financial recession. In my opinion the real growth of logistics outsourcing should reflect in the penetration rate.  As long as penetration rate is more or less static, the logistics outsourcing world-wide is not growing.

 

 

When we review by regional performance, Western Europe recorded highest penetration rate of 30% followed by USA 20.7%. China presents the greatest opportunity for contract logistics with a lowest penetration rate of 2.7%.

Market Share:

The global contract logistics market is still fragmented in spite of several years of consolidation.  DHL leads the pack with 8.4% followed by CEVA at 2.3% and the third position was taken by KUEHNE+NAGEL based on top-line revenues.

Interestingly if we evaluate the performance of these companies based on their margins, CEVA stands first at 5.7% followed by KUEHNE+NAGEL at 1.7% and DHL ended with negative (-)1.66% margins.  Other notable performers included, UPS SCS at 3.98%; DSV at 3.39%; and Ryder at 3.13%.

Margins of almost all players showed negative growth whereas KUEHNE+NAGEL shown a 16.4% growth in the margins and Con-way – Menlo logistics has improved from negative margin of 1.56% to 2.13% in spite of financial recession in 2009.  Whereas the market leader DHL improved the margins it’s position by reducing the losses from -6.7% to -1.66%.

Contract Logistics Market by Region:

Three dominant regions contribute 93.3% global share of contract logistics.  Western Europe contributes 37.2%, Asia Pacific 28.3% and closely followed by North America at 27.8%.  One would be surprised to know that Japan contributes 38.8% to the Asia Pacific market and followed by China at 24.2% and South Korea at 9.2%.  This could soon change with phenomenal growth anticipated in China, India and South Korea by 2013.

The negative growth seen in Contract Logistics less felt in Asia Pacific at 6.5% and whereas Western Europe recorded 9.5% and North America was closely behind WE at 9.4% negative growth.

Looking into Future CAGR (2009-2013):

Future for contract logistics seems to be promising with an impressive projected growth of 9.5% globally.  The promising regions/countries include Central & Eastern Europe with an impressive CAGR of 18.7% is followed by Mexico 13.1%  and China is expected to grow by 20.6% and India at 15.2%.

Top 3 Leading Logistics Service Providers by Region:

Asia Pacific list is topped by Hitachi Transport followed by Sankyu Inc. and Mitsubishi Logistics Corporation.

Europe top three services providers based on their top line revenues include, DHL Supply Chain, Wincanton, and CEVA.

North America top three service providers included DHL Supply Chain, Penske Logistics and UPS SCS.

Focus: Asia Pacific

Review of top five economies in Asia reveals that contract logistics market size growth in the next four years will be propelled by China, India, South Korea, Australia and Japan.

The Contract Logistics CAGR (2009-2013) of Asia Pacific Countries:

The future looking promising, contract logistics is here to stay. This means job creation, make economies to expand, and infuse flexibility to business and make them to focus on core competencies. Let me  close with a compelling quotation, “If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.”

Data Source: Transport Intelligence Ltd.

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Tom Peter once said, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”. It is a common practice to outsource logistics and supply chain activities.  One would be surprised to know that some organizations strongly believe in insourcing logistics activities.  The recent study by CAPGEMINI (2010) revealed few interesting facts on insourcing.

  1. On an average of 24% of outsourcing companies indicated that they would be returning to insourcing some of their logistics activities, and 36% of 3PL respondents observe that some of their customers are insourcing certain logistics activities.
  2. “Transportation is most Outsourced”.
  3. The percentages of 3PL users outsourcing individual logistics activities (versus overall outsourcing) tend to be higher in Europe and Asia Pacific than in North America or Latin America.
  4. The gap between expectation and satisfaction with regard to 3PL IT capability is widening (54%).

The outsourcing survey conducted by CILTUK revealed that logistics service providers (3PLs) are seen as:

  • “A necessary evil“
  • “They are only in it to make money these days”
  • “Deliver poorer service for disputed financial advantage”.

Further, the same report revealed that 52% of the respondents indicated that the length of the contract reduced.  Outsourcing community is aggressive and they do not mince words in sending out a strong message to 3PLs, “don’t sell me what YOU want, show me what I NEED”.  In 2009 UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, has decided to take some of its distribution operations in-house. The move follows a company review of supply chain strategy.

What prompts them to Insource?

The CAPGEMINI 2010 outsourcing review listed 12 different reasons for insourcing.  And they include:

  1. Logistics is a core competency at our firm – 19%;
  2. Cost reductions would not be experienced – 15%;
  3. Control over the outsourced function(s) would diminish – 14%;
  4. Logistics too important to consider outsourcing – 13%;
  5. Service level commitments would not be realized – 11%;
  6. We have more logistics expertise than most 3PL providers – 10%
  7. Corporate philosophy excludes the use of outsourced logistics providers – 9%
  8. Too difficult to integrate our IT systems with the 3PL’s systems – 8%
  9. Global capabilities of 3PLs need improvement – 6%
  10. Issues relating to security of shipments – 5%
  11. We previously outsourced logistics, and chose not to continue – 5%
  12. Inability of 3PL providers to form meaningful and trusting relationships – 3%

Now let us review top 5 reasons individually and understand whether they are true or system failure is causing outsourcing to fail.

1.Logistics is a core competency at our firm:  What is core competency? Core competencies are the key skills, characteristics and assets that any organisation brings to the marketplace. These competencies, on an organisational level, are a synergistic blending of the core competencies that people in the organisation individually bring to work every day.

If we go by the above definition, Logistics is the core competency of any 3PL company because managing logistics activities is their core business. Interestingly, one of the main objectives of outsourcing is to focus on core competency.  Modern globalized companies are described as “intellectual holding companies” because they focus so strongly on their core technologies while they purchase other services from companies that excel at delivering them. Thus, their entire operations function at a high level, yet they do not have to maintain high cost infrastructure. They get world-class capabilities without the risks involved in developing them.  With rapid globalization, it would be next to impossible to compete in a global platform without strategic alliances.  In my opinion, this reason is a myth.

2. Cost reductions would not be experienced: This could be true to some extent.  In my opinion shippers equally share the responsibility for this blame.  During the initial phase of data collection, 3PL seek the existing costs, business processes, business volume etc., in order to understand the size of the business and develop a cost sheet.  Often it was reported that the shippers are hesitant to provide this information citing confidentiality as a reason. Outsourcing should be considered as a strategic solution and the service provider should be considered as a strategic partner.  Unless transparency is established, relationships do not flourish and this is one of the fallout.  If the shipper could provide all required information to the 3PL and insist on the 3PL to provide the costing using ABB (activity based budget), this may not happen. If necessary go for an open book method which would establish transparency. Many shippers believe that they have very limited role to play in the outsourcing process.  Outsourcing is a marriage; it may not work well for the organization unless both parties involved work for common objective with mutual interest.  CAPGEMINI 2010 report reveals that outsourcing companies have reported 15% cost savings, 25% reduction in capital deployment, and 11% reduction in inventory.  In my opinion if the outsourcing process is managed well one can avoid this problem.

3. Control over the outsourced function(s) would diminish: In my opinion it is a myth.  It is true that the shipper may not have transactional control but the overall control will not diminish.  Again the responsibility lies with the shipper.  If the shipper is able to develop KPIs for all the outsourced activities and monitor the KPIs regularly, one may not lose control over operations.  In my recently published article, I have identified 32 different KPIs for warehousing function only.  An effective set of interlocking performance indicators provides operational feedback to the enterprise and helps them in directing the 3PL operator effectively.  Instead of describing an operation as appalling, if one can explain that 75% of transactions failed to meet the expectations, it would deliver a better message.  Controls will never be outsourced, what are outsourced is transactional operations.

4. Logistics too important to consider outsourcing: There is no doubt Logistics is important function.  Seamless flow of material information keeps the business moving forward. However, some of the activities within logistics function are mundane in nature.  These activities can be outsourced and allow logistics/supply chain manager to focus on the value addition instead of managing day-to-day routine functions. Hence, it is necessary to develop a strategy on outsourcing and identify non-core activities and also develop a SWOT analysis to understand threats and weaknesses of outsourcing.  Routine functions such as transportation and warehousing are non-core functions in my opinion.  One can outsource them and save costs.  In current economic conditions it would be next to impossible to develop infrastructure globally, it would be advisable to farm partnerships and strategic alliances to save costs and expand globally.

5. Service level commitments would not be realized: It is true to some extent.  Again the shippers shares 50% responsibility for this blame.  As long as the shipper is able to define the measurable service levels and monitor the same periodically and works with the 3PL proactively, this could be avoided.  Operational efficiency should be measured on a daily basis.  Some of the Fortune 500 Companies recruit specialists or appoint lead logistics service providers to monitor their operations. Nicholas and Amrik of Monash University indicated that formulating and quantifying the requirements was an obstacle to outsourcing in Australia.  If you are not sure what to expect out of outsourcing, you have no right to complain about the service levels. Effective operational control will ensure high level of service levels.  CAPGEMINI 2010 review reveals that 29% improvement in average order cycle length, order fill rate improved by 11% and whereas order accuracy improved by 7% through outsourcing.

Other reasons include; organizational logistics expertise.  3PL service providers globally consolidated their positions and are able to provide cutting edge solutions which individual organizations cannot afford.  IT integration is very simple now days.  Without penetrating firewalls one can exchange information through EDI and integration may not be necessary.  3PL capability improvement is an on-going issue; shippers may have work with the 3PLs to get what they want.

However, in my opinion there are two genuine reasons and they are security risks and relationships failure.  I have discussed in length about the supply chain security risks in an outsourced environment earlier.  It is a genuine reason and 3PLs are expected improve their performance on this subject.  As mentioned earlier outsourcing is like a marriage.  As long as it is not a marriage of convenience and both the partners are willing to invest time and effort to make the relationships work, the pact should be successful.  The outsourcing goes through three phases before it firms up as a relationship.  The initial phase is known as courtship where everyone is happy.  The second phase would be hardship where the shipper notices inefficiencies and the 3PL struggles with resources and cost overruns.  The third phase is battleship, in this phase both the parties involved are in a mood to terminate the relationship because of mounting issues.  If both parties proactively work and sort out issues through well-defined escalation process, the outsourcing moves into a relationship mode.

Many organizations get caught up in the hype of the outsourcing craze and forget that it is a complex business strategy and lack of strategy, lack of top level management commitment and not dedicating best and brightest internal resources could lead to outsourcing disasters.  If organizations embark on outsourcing with one dimensional approach of saving costs, it would be a big business risk and will have long lasting implications on the business.  Ideally develop an organizational strategy, create an outsourcing frame work, and seek professional help (if necessary) to handle the process and select the right match (3PL) and this should work as mantra for outsourcing success.

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