Inderscience Publishers

From standard 3PL provider to service developer: a case study from the Swedish furniture industry

The strong competition between companies has resulted in an increased outsourcing of activities that are not considered core activities. This has created an emerging business opportunity in logistics, attracting several new actors and companies to enter the market and fill the demand for new services. These actors represent several types of providers who are often called Third-Party Logistics (3PL) providers. The purpose of this study is to investigate the environment of a 3PL provider that also develops services. The focus is particularly on how the provider has evolved and identifying the key issues on how to be successful in the 3PL industry. The primary research strategy is a descriptive embedded single case study. The findings reveal that the case company has evolved from being a standard 3PL provider to a service developer, since it, in addition to traditional services, nowadays also provides more value-added services. These services involve a set of more standardised activities that can be combined according to each customer's wishes and requirements. The findings also reveal that the main requirements to be a successful service developer are a clear customer understanding and focus, value-added and customised services and reliable deliveries (both in terms of time and a low percentage of damaged goods), as well as the utilisation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Keywords: supply chain management, SCM, third-party logistics, 3PL service providers, service developer, business models, outsourcing, customer understanding, customer focus, value-added services, customised services, delivery reliability, Sweden, furniture industry

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