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Third-Party Logistics: A Literature Review

Third-party logistics (TPL) has attracted considerable research attention in the recent past. Despite the growing body of literature on this topic, precious little effort has been devoted to synthesizing the overall state of art of research on TPL. By Alessandra Marasco

In this paper, an attempt is made to review the status of literature on Third-party logistics.

A literature review scheme is presented. A total of 152 articles published between 1989 and 2006 in 33 reputable international journals are reviewed and classified into content- and methodology-related issues.

In the recent past, third-party logistics (TPL), also referred to as logistics outsourcing (e.g. Knemeyer et al., 2003; Maltz and Ellram, 1997; Razzaque and Sheng, 1998), has received considerable
attention from logistics scholars, resulting in a plethora of research and writing in this field.

The interest of researchers in TPL should continue as several recent studies suggest that a steadily increasing number of companies across industry sectors use third-party providers for the management of all or part of their logistics operations (e.g. Lieb and Bentz, 2004, 2005a; Lieb and Miller, 2002; Lieb and Randall, 1999a).

Despite the growing body of literature on this topic, efforts to synthesize the overall state of art of research on TPL have so far been rather limited.

Razzaque and Sheng (1998) provided a comprehensive review of the logistics outsourcing literature, highlighting key research findings from journals and other publications.

An overview of TPL research is also offered by Skjoett-Larsen et al. (2003); being aimed at identifying the distinctive characteristics of the ‘‘Nordic School of TPL’’ in terms of research methodology, theoretical approaches or empirical findings, their study reviewed only the contribution of Nordic TPL researchers to the international research agenda.

More recently, Maloni and Carter (2006) provided a review of the survey-based portion of the TPL academic literature to assess its progress. Their work is only based on 45 publications, i.e. it does not cover all extant articles concerning TPL.

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