Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management.

Publication Details

Published: International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 55-74, 2006.


Purpose - In today’s supply chain management (SCM) practices, a successful strategy depends
increasingly on the performance of Third Party Logistics (3PL) providers as they play a key
integrative role linking the different supply chain elements more effectively. Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) has become an important element of 3PL competitive
capability as it enables higher levels of supply chain integration. Recent industry developments
have widened the technological gap between large and small 3PLs. This is critical particularly for
those markets populated by a large number of small 3PLs such as the Italian logistics industry. The
purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of ICT adoption in small logistics service providers.
The focus of the study is the Italian 3PL market.
Design/methodology/approach - The methodology adopted in this paper is based on the action
research framework and it is a combination of theoretical analysis and empirical findings (focus
groups and surveys). Firstly, a literature review on ICT dissemination in the international and Italian
3PL industry has been carried out. Then, a field survey has been developed preceded by two focus
groups. The empirical investigation examined a sample of 153 small Italian 3PLs on the base of a
definition and taxonomy proposed by the authors.
Findings - The results provide a useful technological profile of the surveyed companies, as well as
an analysis of the role of ICT in customising services and of the factors influencing ICT adoption.
Research limitations/implications - To give a more robust scientific justification of the survey
results it would be useful to carry out an additional large scale analysis including other countries
with a high presence of small logistics service companies. Furthermore, a complementary case
study analysis would be of help in defining the role of specific factors in different types of 3PL.
Given the importance of small logistics providers in contemporary supply chain configurations, the
main implication from a research point of view is that further investigations in this field are needed
to better understand innovation paths, and how ICT can improve the competitive capabilities of
3PLs and of the wider supply chain.
Practical implications - The practical implications deriving from this paper are twofold. Firstly,
managers of small 3PLs can use findings to set up guidelines for improving a company’s
technology innovation. Technology vendors can use findings to better market their service/product
into the small logistics service provider segment.