The resources and mechanisms required to complete a value proposition are generally considered as crucial aspects in designing a company business model. However, research in the third party logistics (3PL) arena concerned with studying how 3PL providers define their value creation architecture to meet different shippers’ requirements has so far been inadequate. The purpose of this paper is to fill the gap, providing a detailed investigation on how the 3PL providers’ capabilities and logistics expertise can add value to their shippers’ processes.
A qualitative exploratory research was conducted involving, first, a systematic combining process to understand the main factors and operational strategies whereby 3PL providers can create value and build a comprehensive framework of their value creation architecture. Second, a qualitative survey was conducted on 44 leading 3PL providers operating in Italy to understand how these providers can organise themselves to create value for shippers.
The 3PL providers’ value creation architecture is presented within a clear and comprehensive framework, together with 30 potential operational strategies that can be used by 3PL providers and the related factors that enable value to be created for shippers. Three main value creation models (volume-oriented 3PL providers, process-oriented 3PL providers and innovation-oriented 3PL providers) are identified. The importance of the different factors enabling value creation is highlighted for each model, identifying the distinctive operational strategies and those adopted most frequently.
From a managerial perspective, 3PL providers will find these results useful for developing suitable strategies to compete on the market. From their side, shippers can understand and evaluate how 3PL providers are able to offer value to their logistics processes, allowing them to select the logistics partner who best fits their needs.
The present paper fulfils the identified need of examining the 3PL providers’ business model in detail. A set of distinct value creation models is identified and thoroughly investigated to reveal the different competitive advantages available to shippers.
The authors Marco Melacini, Sara Perotti, Chiara Sassi and Elena Tappia, together with the colleagues of the Logistics Research Group at Politecnico di Milano, take the chance to express their gratitude to their colleague and mentor, Professor Gino Marchet, who recently and prematurely passed away. He was the inspirer of the presented research work. This paper represents one of his last published research contributions on an international peer-reviewed journal.
Marchet, G., Melacini, M., Perotti, S., Sassi, C. and Tappia, E. (2017), "Value creation models in the 3PL industry: what 3PL providers do to cope with shipper requirements", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 47 No. 6, pp. 472-494. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-04-2016-0120
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