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A new taxonomy of fourth-party logistics: a lexicometric-based classification

Nejib Fattam (Independent Consultant in Logistics and SCM, Athens, Greece)
Tarik Saikouk (Excelia Business School, CERIIM, La Rochelle, France)
Ahmed Hamdi (Rabat Business School, International University of Rabat, Rabat, Morocco)
Alan Win (Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand)
Ismail Badraoui (Department of Engineering Management, College of Engineering, Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 5 December 2022

Issue publication date: 1 December 2023




This paper aims to elaborate on current research on fourth party logistics “4PL” by offering a taxonomy that provides a deeper understanding of 4PL service offerings, thus drawing clear frontiers between existing 4PL business models.


The authors collected data using semi-structured interviews conducted with 60 logistics executives working in 44 “4PL” providers located in France. Using automatic analysis of textual data, the authors combined spatial visualisation, clustering analysis and hierarchical descending classification to generate the taxonomy.


Two key dimensions emerged, allowing the authors to clearly identify and distinguish four 4PL business models: the level of reliance on interpersonal relationships and the level of involvement in 4PL service offering. As a result, 4PL providers fall under one of the following business models in the taxonomy: (1) The Metronome, (2) The Architect, (3) The Nostalgic and (4) The Minimalist.

Research limitations/implications

The study focuses on investigating 4PL providers located in France; thus, future studies should explore the classification of 4PL business models across different cultural contexts and social structures.

Practical implications

The findings offer valuable managerial insights for logistics executives and clients of 4PL to better orient their needs, the negotiations and the contracting process with 4PLs.


Using a Lexicometric analysis, the authors develop taxonomy of 4PL service providers based on empirical evidence from logistics executives; the work addresses the existing confusion regarding the conceptualisation of 4PL firms with other types of logistical providers and the role of in/formal interpersonal relationships in the logistical intermediation.



Fattam, N., Saikouk, T., Hamdi, A., Win, A. and Badraoui, I. (2023), "A new taxonomy of fourth-party logistics: a lexicometric-based classification", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1649-1674.



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