The Physical Internet (PI) is an emerging concept that applies the Digital Internet as a design metaphor for the development of sustainable, interoperable and collaborative freight transport. With the aim of aiding researchers and policy makers in their future efforts to develop efficient logistics systems, the purpose of this paper is to present a review of the existing literature on the PI, to critically discuss the concept and to outline a research agenda.
The literature review investigates scientific papers, project reports, specifications and other publications related to PI. In total, 46 publications were finally analyzed. The approach used in this paper is technology adoption by firms. The authors examine the PI based on four factors: organizational readiness (technological blueprints), external pressure (promised effects), perceived benefits (business model) and adoption.
A growing number of strategies, blueprints and specifications have been developed for PI, yet there are no currently developed models that illustrate how the move from the entrenched logistics business models to the PI could ensue. There is a lack of understanding of the business models needed that can involve critical actors and promote the adoption of the PI concept.
While using the internet as a metaphor for reimagining physical transports is certainly exciting, this review and analysis suggest that several research questions need to be addressed before further PI blueprint work is carried out.
The “grand challenge” of sustainability in logistics needs to be addressed and improved, but the authors’ analysis suggests that, to some extent, it is uncertain how the PI will contribute to improving sustainability, and why logistics service providers should engage in PI. Policy makers and practitioners are provided with critical issues to consider in the practical development and adoption of the concept.
This paper provides an outsider and technology-adoption perspective of PI research, as well as important implications for policy makers and researchers.
The authors are grateful to Magnus Andersson at RISE Viktoria, for his involvement in the Swedish Physical Internet roadmap project and his input to this paper. The authors would also like to thank Closer and the Swedish Traffic Administration for their support of this project.
Sternberg, H. and Norrman, A. (2017), "The Physical Internet – review, analysis and future research agenda", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 47 No. 8, pp. 736-762. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-12-2016-0353Download as .RIS
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