Change Before You Have To: What 3PLs Can Learn from COVID-19

Date: March 24, 2020


Jack Welch often preached, “Change before you have to.”

Overnight it feels as if the world has completely changed. Three weeks ago, we had a booming economy, a healthy workforce, and a normalcy we all took for granted. Now, supply chains are grinding to a halt, large parts of the US are confined to their homes, economic uncertainty abounds, and a virus is challenging what we used to believe about how work gets done in this country. What does it mean to you?

As we’ve spoken to our customers and prospects during the recent days, we have heard one of two stories: a boom of business and unprecedented volume as they try to support the supply of essential items or a painful slow down sending workers home that creates fear and uncertainty. Both situations may lead companies to want to remain secure and comfortable in their current processes, but is this the time for 3PLs to change before you have to in order to take control of the future? 

Scenario 1: You do not fulfill "essential items" and may be experiencing a slow down

empty warehouse business in response to covid 19 economic downturn and quarantineWith COVID-19 impacting every state in the US and all regions in Canada, many 3PLs have recently experienced slow downs caused by required social distancing or the fears of an economic downturn. Some 3PLs have been forced to furlough employees or ask some employees to work from home. This is the time we see innovative 3PLs making strategic decisions about technology to ensure the viability and competitiveness of their business in the future.  

If you have employees working from home, asking them to research warehouse management systems (WMS) to drive more efficient operations and create a paperless warehouse could be the first big step in making you more competitive in the future. In many situations, these systems can help you acquire more customers and serve your customers better. The visibility to inventory, order volume, and where an order is in the pick and pack process can be a great selling point as you look to add more customers.  

Most importantly, when things are tight, making sure you can bill your customers quickly, accurately, and with the level of detail your customers expect can be the difference between having an invoice paid immediately or having disputes and delays that negatively impact your cash flow. Implementing a solution that allows for rapid and accurate billing could be the difference between keeping your doors open or succumbing to the turbulent economy. 

Change can be scary. Staying the same can be scarier. When you change before you have to, you take control of the future. 

Scenario 2: You fulfill "essential items"

busy warehouse in response to covid 19 increased shipping volumeIn speaking with one of our customers, they are experiencing unprecedented volumes and are working the team with significant overtime and looking to bring on more team members as soon as possible. If you are in this situation, look at each part of the fulfillment process and consider how to quickly optimize for an efficient warehouse.  

Start with your receiving process. You may have seen the recent Amazon decision to no longer accept deliveries of non-essential items in order to prioritize deliveries. Consider your own receiving process and how you manage dock scheduling. Are you wasting precious man hours on appointment scheduling and calls with carriers? Are you optimizing your docks and scheduling the right deliveries when you have the appropriate worker availability? Consider how you might leverage SmartDock for dock scheduling in order save 90% of time on scheduling. 

When things are moving quickly in a warehouse, you want to ensure the fastest and most accurate process possible, but with new or temporary employees, how can you ensure they learn the process and maintain accuracy? Implementing scanning technology in the pick and pack process can eliminate employee guess work and verify accuracy. Combining your shipping and carrier selection process with your warehouse management software can reduce the number of systems and allow you to get the best shipping rates all in one place.  

Implementing technology can smooth this transition to higher volumes, while also improving quality and decreasing the ramp up period for new employees. 

Why Now? 

What once seemed impossible to imagine is happening in front of us. It’s how we choose to respond to these changes that will define our future. Do you invest now or do you wait for more certainty? Change before you have to and empower your future.  

If you're interested investing in your 3PL and changing during these times, let us know. We at 3PL Central can help you like we've helped so many others. Just request a demo and we'll take it from there.


Rachel Trindade

Written by Rachel Trindade

A modern marketer with a passion for blending analytics and creativity, Rachel helps companies grow their talent and prepare for the future. With more than 20 years of experience across Marketing, Product Management, Customer Success and Field Operations, she offers a unique and balanced vision to the business. As Chief Marketing Officer at 3PL Central, Rachel's responsible for strategic planning and execution of all marketing and go-to-market efforts.