To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Evaluating the causes of uncertainty in logistics operations

Vasco Sanchez‐Rodrigues , Andrew Potter and Mohamed M. Naim (Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 25 May 2010




The purpose of this paper is to verify a transport uncertainty triad model taking a supply chain perspective, and determine which different forms of uncertainty impact on transport operations. The aim is to qualitatively evaluate the different types of uncertainty impacting on transport operations rather than estimating the risk that each of them involved. The literature indicates that there are many factors that influence transport operations. This paper aims to determine the key factors that impinge practice.


On the basis of a literature review, a conceptual model was developed to categorise the different factors that impact on transport operations. In order to determine the credibility of this model and assess which factors are the main barriers to effective transport operations a series of focus groups involving UK logistics practitioners and policy makers was undertaken.


The findings indicate that the main drivers impacting on transport operations are delays, delivery constraints, lack of coordination, and variable demand/poor information. The consequence of these is to reduce the efficiency of transport operations. Also, in the overall focus groups' data, unplanned road congestion represents the biggest individual issue leading to uncertainty.

Research limitations/implications

The model is refined based only on participants' perceptions. Therefore, further empirical‐based research is needed to quantitatively validate it, for each cluster identifying the frequency with which it occurs and the impact on economic and environmental performance. This will further strengthen understanding of the main uncertainty causes within supply chains in the UK. The model should also be tested through the investigation of real‐world situations, measuring the marginal impact of logistics disruptions, in economic and environmental terms.

Practical implications

The paper highlights the importance of looking at the whole of the logistics triad when dealing with uncertainty, as often there are multiple sources involving the shipper, carrier and customer. Equally, the paper highlights the importance of external factors, and managers need to consider how to deal with these issues. Although the easiest approach is to accommodate them within operational plans, there is scope for engaging with policy makers to identify ways forward.


Many researchers have developed supply chain uncertainty models focusing mainly on manufacturing. Transport has traditionally been considered as a marginal activity within supply chains and it has not been explicitly taken into account in those frameworks. It is necessary to determine the forms of supply chain uncertainty that exist and their impact on transport operations, as they will define the performance of logistics operations.



Sanchez‐Rodrigues, V., Potter, A. and Naim, M.M. (2010), "Evaluating the causes of uncertainty in logistics operations", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 45-64.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited