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Third-party logistics (3PL) industry worldwide - statistics & facts

Industrial management shapes the global economy we live in today. As part of the supply chain network, the logistics industry performs a multitude of services that facilitate economic coordination of firms. In 2018, the size of the global logistics market was over 5.5 trillion euros in economic value. One of the services that the logistics industry provides is 3PL, which helps firms of all sizes to fulfil their business performance and production. In general, 3PL is a logistics service that enables industrial organizations to access the larger service network of global supply chain logistic providers. For instance, a manufacturer firm integrates the 3PL system into its production and operational system; thus, providing finding tailor-made solutions for distribution, storage and transportation. During 2018, 3PL market participants generated an economic value that amounted to over 931 billion U.S. dollars.

Recent market changes

The development of the logistics industry follows economic growth since more demand for transportation, warehousing, and many other services arise from new business opportunities. When the economy is in an expansionary stage, so does the logistic firms’ operations and revenue streams. In less than a decade, the 3PL market expanded by roughly 40 percent, generating additional 271 billion U.S. dollars globally. Yet the growth rate differs cross-country, for example, the U.S. and China have the largest markets by country comparisons, making up almost 44 percent of global market share for 3PL services. Similarly, if one will aggregate the 3PL markets of the European Union (EU-27) countries, the size will be enormous as well.

Firms in the global market for 3PL services

Growing economic opportunities and diversified corporate structures in the logistics industry nurture a highly competitive business environment. As a result, new firms enter and inefficient firms exit the marketplace for 3PL services. In 2019, DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding, Kuehne + Nagel, and Nippon Express were some of the leading firms in 3PL services worldwide. During that period, C.H. Robinson, XPO Logistics, and UPS Supply Chain Solutions were the leading firms in the U.S.. Fierce competition can easily undermine dominating firms’ position in the market. Kuehne + Nagel, for instance, faced a fluctuating revenue generation between 2006 and 2017, mostly due to high competition. Since 2018, the company performs better and reached its peak revenue values over the last two decades.

Outlook of 3PL services

Like many industries, logistics is also not immune to potential disruptions in search for higher profit by some firms. The firm dynamics exposes current market-dominant players into an uncertain and disruptive situation by challenging the status quo of 3PL operations through new ways of doing business efficiently, sustainably, and more profitably. In addition to external business challenges, there are many internal challenges facing 3PL businesses. During a 2020 survey, providers and users of 3PL services expressed that retaining sustainable business operations and customer flow, supply chain disruptions, and technology investments were the top three challenges for the 3PL industry. At the moment, 3PL service providers offer demand-driven logistics, end-to-end logistics, vendor management, shared services, supply chain finance and more. One of the innovative steps taken by 3PL businesses is to integrate blockchain or distributed ledger technologies into the supply chain services to face upcoming challenges ahead of time.

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Third-party logistics (3PL) industry worldwide

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