Service provider boundaries in competitive markets: the case of the logistics industry

Christian Koenig, Nigel Caldwell, Abhijeet Ghadge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


This study empirically investigates service provider firms’ attempts to move to higher value-added market segments in competitive and fragmented markets, using logistics services as a context. Novelty is added by taking the provider not the customer or outsourcing actor perspective, common to current third-party logistics perspectives. Data were collected in the form of semi-structured interviews with management at various provider firms. The interview guide was based on theoretical constructs regarding tangible and intangible capabilities (RBV) as well as constructs related to governance and integration (TCE). Unlike customer focused studies, this study is able to identify what distinguishes the rare successful boundary crossing attempts that lead to a more profitable market position. The key finding which contradicts studies based on the customer/outsourcing actor perspective is that a switch from a highly commoditised market position to a higher margin position is only possible, if relationships and network capabilities are leveraged, regardless of the assets and physical resources available to the firm. The presentation of service boundaries as both dynamic and fluid and the use of RBV are contributions, building on existing theory, illustrating why providers of commoditised services cannot escape from low-margin, competitive market positions simply by acquiring tangible assets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5624-5639
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number18
Early online date22 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2019


  • competitive markets
  • logistics
  • resource-based view
  • service boundaries
  • service providers
  • transaction cost economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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