The most wonderful 3PL of all

By Joe Limbaugh, Motion Industries

If the internet is correct (wink), 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) started growing their legs back in the '70s and '80s as companies began to outsource various distribution disciplines. By 2014, the global 3PL market had reached revenues in excess of $750 billion. Today, it’s impossible to read any business journal without some reference to the subject and the latest and greatest advancements made in technology and reach to market.

But I think that the history here is all wrong. There is an often overlooked model of distribution that predates the '70s by far. It developed without technology and warehouses. It involved no massive delivery fleets, no growth by acquisition, no public stock offering for funding. The key to success here was a leader who understood the importance of an unwavering message to the market coupled with the right human resource acumen to develop and encourage legions of dedicated workers. It’s hard to know exactly when this enterprise began, but it reached its zenith in the late 1800s and has never turned back. 

Think about it. On one night and one night alone, scores of people will receive gifts of varying attributes in an extremely short time frame. Imagine the logistics behind organizing such a feat. This is where the value of the right team is illustrated, proving that the elves in Santa’s employment are the sharpest of sharp, and any of us in the supply chain industry would be lucky to have just one.

First, the client list has to be developed, vetted (naughty and nice/double-check) and then organized by geographical zone. Gifts have to be staged for quick packing into the sleigh and in the right order of distribution. (Damaged goods are not acceptable.)

Once the goods are loaded, Team 2 is assembled. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. Led by Rudolph, this team is the model of motivation, good health, and energy. (It's a testament to the enterprise’s excellent wellness program.) Bad weather? No problem. From there, the gears are set in motion. 

By morning, the globe will have been circumnavigated and countless chimneys descended and ascended.And then back to the North Pole to begin the strategic planning process for the following Christmas.

True, there are some competing models. The Easter Bunny will post as many stops on his one day of the year, but the cargo here is not as varied. And generally speaking, he will not have to work in such inclement weather. Who wouldn’t rather be outdoors working in the spring as opposed to winter?

But to me, the most impressive part of this model is the spirit in which it is ensconced. The messaging has broad appeal. Hope, love, sharing, generosity, family…the list goes on and on. It is little wonder, then, that this model has endured. It is a time to reflect, to reconnect with friends and family, and to dream.

For me, 2016 has been a Dickens of a year. Our team accomplished a lot, and we have great things planned for 2017. I am proud to work alongside them. And next year, I’ll write a few more blog posts. Please know that I always appreciate your feedback. 

But in the meantime, it is my sincerest hope for all of you that 2017 will bring you happiness, good health, and success in your endeavors. 

Merry Christmas!