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Logistics outsourcing: a structured literature review

Mohammadreza Akbari (RMIT International University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 2 July 2018




The purpose of this paper is to provide a structured literature review (SLR) and systematic insight into logistics outsourcing research, in order to identify gaps in knowledge, and provide future research direction in the logistics outsourcing discipline.


This paper identifies and synthesises information from academic journals and examines research designs and methods, data analysis techniques, geographic locations, industry engagements, year of publication, publishers, university and author affiliations. A collection of online databases from 1991 to 2016 were explored, using the keywords “third-party”, “logistics” and “outsourcing” in their title and/or abstract, to deliver an inclusive listing of journal articles in this discipline area. Based on this approach, a total of 263 articles were found and data were derived from a succession of variables.


There has been a significant increase and concentration by researchers over the past 25 years focussing on logistics outsourcing. A need to implement best practice has been universally identified, owing to increasing global supply chain complexity. This analysis shows that only seven literature reviews were published in the logistics outsourcing discipline. Additionally, this study revealed that 42 per cent of the work in this field was found to be survey based and this trend in research indicates the development of the structural equation modelling and multi-criterion decision-making methods. Investigations between 2010–2012 and 2015–2016 accounted for 151 of the total 263 articles published. Finally, reverse logistics is an area that requires special attention.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is limited to a review of academic articles obtainable from online databases, containing the words “logistics” and “outsourcing” in the title and/or abstract. Additionally, only papers from high quality, peer-reviewed journals were evaluated. Other academic sources such as books and conference papers were not included in this study.


This review will provide an increased understanding of the existing state of current research, trends and future research directions in the logistics outsourcing discipline.



The author would like to thank Dr Steven Clarke for his encouragement and support throughout this research.


Akbari, M. (2018), "Logistics outsourcing: a structured literature review", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 1548-1580.



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