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Laurence Saglietto and Cecile Cezanne
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Laurence Saglietto: University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis

Articles, 2015, vol. 42, issue 4

Abstract: Purpose: Since the mid-1990s, logistics auditing and consulting are central tasks outsourced by firms to fourth-party logistics (4PL) providers. But, little attention has been paid on the precise role and the official economic status of these key industrial actors. The aim of the paper is to provide a systematic assessment of the body of extant publications on 4PL, propose and discuss the structuration of this topic area and suggest how it might advance. Design/methodology/approach: This paper adopts a bibliometric viewpoint to analyse the academic literature and the business press that has addressed the study of 4PL. It has examined the Business Source Complete and Science Direct databases since 1996 to 2015. Main findings: 72 academic and magazine articles and have finally been studied to portray 4PL based on three main themes (1) justifications of outsourcing logistics activities to 4PL; (2) 4PL’s operations and roles in the supply chain, and (3) optimisation of 4PL’s activities. We synthetize and discuss these distinctive features and advance a proposal of portraying 4PL as i) human capital-intensive firms, ii) experts in complex tasks solving, iii) key partners with economic power which need to be regulated in the global supply chain. Originality/value: This paper fulfils an identified need to survey a fragmented theoretical field of analysis. It provides an assessment of the concept of 4PL and suggests avenues for future research.

Date: 2015
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Working Paper: A bibliometric analysis of Research on 4PL (2015)
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