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Third party logistics: a literature review and research agenda

Konstantinos Selviaridis (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)
Martin Spring (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 29 May 2007

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Abstract

Purpose

To provide a taxonomy of third party logistics (3PL) research and, based on that, to develop a research agenda for this field of study.

Design/methodology/approach

The proposed 3PL research classification framework is based on a comprehensive literature review, which concentrates on peer‐reviewed journal papers published within the period 1990‐2005. A total of 114 academic sources have been retrieved and analysed in terms of research purpose and nature, method employed, theoretical approach and level of analysis.

Findings

The review reveals that 3PL research is empirical‐descriptive in nature and that it generally lacks a theoretical foundation. Survey research is the dominant method employed, reflecting the positivist research tradition within logistics. It identifies certain knowledge gaps and develops five propositions for future research. It suggests that focus should be directed towards more normative, theory‐driven and qualitative method‐based studies. It also argues that further empirical research in relation to 3PL design/implementation and fourth party logistics services is needed.

Originality/value

This paper fulfils an identified need for a comprehensive classification framework of 3PL studies. It essentially provides both academics and practitioners with a conceptual map of existing 3PL research and also points out opportunities for future research.

Keywords

Citation

Selviaridis, K. and Spring, M. (2007), "Third party logistics: a literature review and research agenda", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 125-150. https://doi.org/10.1108/09574090710748207

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited