Collaborative Logistics Management. The Role of Third-Party Service Providers and the Enabling Information Systems Architecture
Abstract: The trend towards centralization of distribution structures, to one or a few warehouses or distribution centers serving large geographical areas, has opened up opportunities for logistics outsourcing. The number of parties involved in such logistics setups has increased during the last decades and in setups with outsourced logistics services at least one third-party service provider is introduced and in many distribution setups two or more are involved. These setups require good relations between the parties and a well structured collaboration can make up a ground for better operation.
The theme of this thesis is collaborative logistics management with a focus on the role of third-party service providers and the use of information systems to enable successful operations of logistics setups. Collaborative logistics management can only be accomplished by integrating the business processes, the logistics activities and the supporting information flow between the parties. The aim of this work is to develop and verify a collaborative framework that specifies the physical and administrative interfaces between the partners in logistics setups.
To prepare this thesis, a study of logistics and informatics literature has been conducted together with several case studies. The empirical evidence has been collected through seven qualitative multiple-case studies involving 42 companies in Europe as well as in the US. Different aspects of collaboration between the organizations have been studied where information and communications systems, data and information flows as well as services and activities have been analyzed to understand the characteristics of the interfaces between shippers, third-party service providers and receivers of shipments.
The results from the work cluster the different third-party service providers in three different groups: carriers, logistics service providers and logistics service intermediaries. All of these parties have different roles and provide various services in outsourced logistics setups. A Collaborative Logistics Management model has been derived that, in addition to the third-party service providers, includes the shippers and the receivers. The model describes the information and the physical interfaces with four and two attributes, respectively, that need to be defined for every collaborative logistics setup. The characteristics of the interfaces are defined in terms of information and communications technology; data and information contents; the activities that each partner is to perform; and the technology applied in the physical activities.
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