William Walker, sales director of Berkshire-based Walker Logistics, believes a lack of communication and poor timing are often to blame when a logistics contract gets off to a spluttering start

Starting points

According to recent research undertaken by supply chain consultancy firm, SCALA, a fifth of companies who outsource to a new third party logistics (3PL) partner report feeling dissatisfied with the levels of service they receive in the early stages of the contract. Cost and timing issues were among the main causes of frustration.

In most cases, a reputable 3PL will be able to resolve any initial ‘teething troubles’ to the client company’s satisfaction as the contract evolves, but why are unhappy ‘onboarding’ experiences apparently so common?
William Walker, sales director of Berkshire-based Walker Logistics, believes a lack of communication and poor timing are often to blame when a logistics contract gets off to a spluttering start.

“When the implementation process is rushed and not enough attention is paid to historical data or the client company’s product range, the chances of a successful ‘go live’ can be greatly diminished,” he says.

He continues: “Ideally, a mutually acceptable start up date should be agreed between the client and its new 3PL well in advance – and clearly it is beneficial if this does not coincide with a peak period in either party’s calendar.

“Once a ‘go live’ day that works for everyone has been decided a detailed implementation plan can be put together that covers all aspects of the contract such as IT integration, product training, sales forecasts and so on. The implementation plan is, in effect, a giant tick list.”

It is vital that the client company makes its new logistics partner aware of anything that is likely to lead to a spike in inbound or outbound orders if optimum service levels are to be achieved.

According to William Walker, there are plenty of things – some of them seemingly trivial ­– that the client should always strive to flag up to its new 3PL partner during the planning phase.

“For example,” he says, “if a company operates in the B-2-B space, has it picked up any significant orders recently that are likely to result in a surge in demand for its products just as the new contract kicks in? Are any marketing campaigns or other promotions planned that will drive B-2-C sales or new products set to be launched that may create extra demand? Collaboration and open and honest levels of communication are vital throughout the contract but particularly so at the outset.”

One of the latest additions to Walker Logistics’ client portfolio is Meglio – an international supplier of fitness, physiotherapy and rehabilitation equipment that includes resistance bands, acupuncture needles and foam rollers.

As a supplier to the National Health Service (NHS), Meglio’s products are used daily in hospitals across the UK. Last year alone, the company provided over 15,000 resistance band rolls to the NHS and private physiotherapy practices.

In addition, Meglio has a thriving B2C business with consumers ordering products directly via the company’s e-commerce website.
The company’s distribution and supply chain manager, Michael Commissar, reflects on how his team worked closely with Walker’s to ensure the successful implementation of the ‘onboarding’ process: “In the run up to our ‘go live’ date, Walker explained everything that needed to be done. They had a clear plan, which we found tremendously helpful,” he says.

Michael Commissar continues: “There was a huge amount of interaction between Walker’s IT department and ours and we ran-through and tested numerous different scenarios many times to ensure that our two systems would not experience any problems.

“We have used outsourced logistics partners before and our previous ‘onboarding’ experience was less positive, so we do appreciate the benefits of having a 3PL partner that puts so much emphasis on what may appear insignificant details to ensure that we ‘hit the ground running’.”

William Walker adds: “Whilst problems that arise in the early phase of a new contract can usually be rectified over time, if the ‘go live’ is a success the relationship between the 3PL and the client company is far more likely to develop into a long and mutually beneficial one. Therefore, it is vital that both parties plan meticulously, take their time and work closely to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”