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Chemical Logistics Requires a Certain Kind of 3PL. What It Take to Rise to the Top

November 29, 2020 Chemical

3PL for chemical logistics — the telltale signs of a qualified partner

Serving the chemical logistics industry is not a task for your everyday third-party logistics provider (3PL). The high barriers to entry weed out anyone without a complete and industry-certified commitment to the highest industry safety standards. Few things illustrate that fact more than the limited number of that has qualified to become an American Chemistry Council Responsible Care Partner (we’ll get to that later in this piece).

Still, securing certifications is only the first step to becoming a trusted 3PL for chemical logistics companies.

Your chosen 3PL should also have a proven record of executing complex contracts, on-time capabilities, staff training, and an ability to safely solve problems that hold clients back.

Features that separate the best 3PLs for chemical logistics from the pack

Let’s start with an example of problem-solving
As anyone who works in chemical logistics knows, the fewer miles you drive the better it is. Transporting hazardous chemicals is automatically associated with increased risk. Reducing transportation distances does not only improve safety, but it also cuts costs.

So, when we noted one of our customers, a manufacturer of industrial polymers and coating for the paint industry, wasted time and money on excessive transportation, we proposed and executed a solution.

The issue? The product was shipped 100 miles roundtrip for additional processing although our dedicated distribution center was located less than a mile down the road. WSI responded by acquiring the equipment needed to package and grind the polymer product into flakes and setting up a clean processing area within the warehouse.

The result? The new in-house capabilities meant the lengthy roundtrip could be eliminated and the polymer flakes could be processed, packaged, stored, and distributed within blocks of the manufacturing plant.  That, in turn, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, improved oversight, and reduced lead times and inventory levels. And, again, fewer miles on the road is always a boon for safety.

The fact WSI was able to bring the process in-house was the result of our decades of experience in serving the chemical industry and certified commitment to safety first. If you have to advise the 3PL provider supervising and operating your business, then it is time to look for another partner. Your 3PL partner should be initiating process improvements, not the other way around.

Next: ACC Responsible Care Partner
A telltale sign of a serious 3PL for chemical logistics is being an ACC Responsible Care Partner. Out of over 100 Responsible Care Partner companies in 2018, only 24 were 3PLs (WSI was the first 3PL to receive the designation).

ACC members have signed o  Sustainability initiatives are also central to their mission to promote pollution prevention, minimize waste, and conserve energy at every stage of the product lifecycle.

ACC members go above and beyond the requirements spelled out in the more than dozen federal laws regulating the safe use of chemicals. They are committed to open and transparent reporting and undergo mandatory headquarters and facility audits to certify their performance. In the name of full disclosure, the results are made publicly available on the ACC website.

When you work with a 3PL for chemical logistics with that level of commitment, you also reap the benefits of the performance record of ACC companies. Some notable results include:

• 5 times better employee safety record than the U.S. manufacturing sector, and almost
• 3 times better than the business of chemistry overall.
• 48% reduction in process safety incidents since 2000.
• 66% drop in recordable injury and illness incidents since 2000, a considerable step toward the industry goal of no accidents, injuries, or harm to human health.
• $24 billion worth of investments in facility security since Sept. 11, 2001.

Another feature to look for: Integrated services
A good number of chemical logistics providers offer one or the other: warehouse services or last-mile transportation. But from the perspective of safety and the inherent complexities associated with the transportation, storage, and distribution of hazardous materials, integrated services offer distinct advantages. Having a single point of contact and the ability to track the product throughout the distribution cycle helps maintain process integrity and reduces the risk of costly mishaps.

A word on nationwide coverage
An established national distribution network also brings benefits that should be taken into consideration. If not all 3PL providers offer integrated logistics services, the pool of candidates diminishes further when you add nationwide coverage as a criterion.

Strategically located chemical facilities with secured access and in full compliance with industry regulations (OSHA, DOT, DHS, EPA, C-TPAT) means your 3PL for chemical logistics is always close to where you need to be — and perhaps hope to expand to in the near future. The coast-to-coast reach also brings a full understanding of the rules for hazardous cargo that change across state lines and ensures a uniform training experience for staff regardless of location.

An example of network expansion
The importance of working with a 3PL with the capacity and know-how to help clients strategically build out their footprint is illustrated by a new partnership between WSI and Syngenta, a top crop protection products manufacturer.

The issue: Syngenta needed to expand its network to service customers more quickly and reliably in the Midwest.

The result: WSI built a “greenfield” facility for Syngenta in Council Bluffs, Iowa, leaving Syngenta better equipped to meet the increasing demand for its innovative crop solutions in the United States and to provide uninterrupted distribution and faster service that, in turn, will benefit its customers.

Selecting a 3PL partner for chemical logistics is one of the more important business decisions you will make. Please let us know if we can help!

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