What Makes Logistics Integration More Effective? Governance from Contractual and Relational Perspectives

Qianwen Wang (First Author), Xiande Zhao (Participant Author), Baofeng Huo (Participant Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal

16 Citations (Web of Science)


Third-party logistics (3PL) user-provider integration is attracting increasing attention from both academics and practitioners. However, it remains unclear how best to adopt governance mechanisms to safeguard 3PL user-provider integration (e.g., information sharing and process coordination). Based on transaction cost economics and social exchange theory, this study examined the individual and joint effects of contractual (e.g., detailed contracts and contract application) and relational governance (e.g., trust and relational norms) on 3PL user-provider integration for operational performance. We conducted a survey involving 247 3PL service users and analyzed the conceptual model using the method of structural equation modeling. The results showed that process coordination improved operational performance, while information sharing alone did not significantly improve operational performance but complemented the role of process coordination in improving operational performance. In addition, having detailed contracts was positively related to process coordination, while contract application was positively related to information sharing. Trust was not significantly related to information sharing or process coordination, while relational norms were positively related to both. Finally, three joint effects on 3PL user-provider integration were found. Two of them were substitutional (detailed contracts and relational norms; contract application and trust), and one was complementary (detailed contracts and trust). This study makes several theoretical contributions and provides novel guidelines for 3PL relationship development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Logistics
Issue numberEarly Access
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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Project name


Project sponsor

National Natural Science Foundation of China

Project No.



  • 3PL user-provider integration
  • China
  • complementary
  • contractual governance
  • relational governance
  • substitutional relationship

Indexed by

  • ABDC-A
  • Scopus
  • SSCI


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