Horizontal Alliances Between Logistics Service Providers: An Interconnected Firms Perspective

Francesca Girotti & Luca Marzotti

Student thesis: Master thesis


The logistics industry is characterized by a high level of competition and high fragmentation. Logistics companies have been facing challenges such as globalization, environmental concern and higher customer service expectations. Horizontal alliances represent a common arrangement adopted by managers of logistics firms in order to cope with this demanding environment. However, it is estimated that 50% of horizontal cooperation between Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) fails because these alliances entail hurdles and drawbacks that threaten the relationship between the participants.
The purpose of this thesis is to study horizontal cooperation between LSPs through the lenses of theories drawn from strategic management research with a specific focus on the relational view developed by Dyer and Singh (1998) and the reformulation of the research-based view (RBV) proposed by Lavie (2006). Indeed, the authors aim to contribute to the logistics literature answering the following Research Question (RQ):
RQ: How does the relational view by Dyer and Singh (1998) and expanded by Lavie (2006) apply to horizontal alliances between Logistics Service Providers?
The authors conducted a multi-case study research involving eight companies from a European country, Italy. Every company selected can be defined as a LSP and it is part of at least one horizontal alliance with a foreign partner in order to support the international validity of the arguments developed. The authors conducted semi- structured interviews with members of the firms, which are directly responsible for the horizontal cooperation with other logistics companies. The interviews were developed in order to address the theoretical framework proposed by Lavie (2006) and the findings were corroborated with previous literature and further documents. Overall, the research conducted partly supports the theoretical contribution of Lavie (2006). However, this study also highlights its limited applicability to horizontal alliances between LSPs. Thus, the authors developed five propositions that aim to resolve the inconsistencies between Lavie’s (2006) contribution and the findings of this study. The empirical research suggests three determinants that influence alliance stability, namely relative opportunistic behaviors, relative bargaining power and the level of competition perceived by alliance’s members. Furthermore, it proposes that the greater the amount of physical assets owned by each firm, the greater the importance of formal mechanisms and contractual governance will be in horizontal alliances between LSPs. In conclusion, the authors provide practitioners with further guidance emerging from the findings of this study and suggest the future directions for researchers aiming to resolve the limitations of this research.

EducationsMSc in Supply Chain Management , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages120
SupervisorsAndreas Wieland