The nascent convergence of e-commerce and logistics has been led for the most part by traditional third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Established 3PL firms like Menlo Worldwide Logistics, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, and MIQ Logistics, among others, have offered e-commerce services as a natural extension of their service portfolios.
Thomas Unterseher, however, plans to move the needle by reversing its direction. Unterseher, CEO of One World Direct, spearheaded in early June the purchase of Sanyo Logistics Corp., the former 3PL unit of the Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp. Under the acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed, Mobridge, S.D.-based One World will acquire Sanyo's client base, its staff, and its 500,000-square-foot facility outside of Los Angeles.
Unterseher sees the Sanyo acquisition as a normal progression of both his company and of e-commerce. The 19-year-old company began in physical distribution but soon re-focused its model on direct-to-consumer fulfillment, 24/7 call center, and e-commerce services to mirror the Internet's growing relevance. Along the way, it dropped "Distribution" from its name and replaced it with "Direct."
Today, large manufacturers, some of whom are former Sanyo logistics customers, are struggling with the nuances of e-commerce, according to Unterseher. They see the potential but also the daunting economics of scale of developing in-house e-fulfillment services. The plan, he said, will be to marry the digital and the physical worlds to give customers the full platform without the hassle of running it themselves.
"E-fulfillment came from e-commerce, technology, and entrepreneurs—not logistics," he said.
Unterseher may not be the first digital business leader to take the logistics plunge. Electronic orders don't drop from thin air; they must be shipped and, in the cases of international transactions, a lot more.
Unterseher said the supposed "bifurcation" between e-commerce and logistics and fulfillment is one of those transitory phenomena that will prove to be a blip in business history. "It's all commerce," he said.