The value of fourth-party logistics services in the humanitarian supply chain

Hella Abidi*, Sander de Leeuw, Matthias Klumpp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify the value of fourth-party logistics (4PL) services in a humanitarian supply chain. Furthermore, it shows a framework for a fourth-party humanitarian logistics concept. Design/methodology/approach – The research paper presents a framework of fourth-party humanitarian logistics based on the four core components described by Christopher (2005) which was evaluated with a nonlinear approach called analytical hierarchy process (AHP). The AHP method explores qualitative and quantitative decision-making criteria in case of solving multi-attribute and complex problems. In total, seven experts from academia and practice have contributed to this research, resulting in a better understanding of the decisive needs of humanitarian supply chain actors for implementing and integrating a 4PL concept. Findings – The research shows an increased value for humanitarian supply chain actors of establishing a 4PL concept. The results present a positive influence of 4PL in complex disasters environments and provide key drivers for increasing and simplifying collaboration between the humanitarian supply chain actors. Research limitations/implications – Future research has to consider different disaster types and needs to further emphasize the added value for beneficiaries of implementing a 4PL concept in a humanitarian supply chain environment. Further research should preferably also consider case studies in order to analyse challenges, drawbacks and benefits of this concept (qualitative and quantitative factors) in a real-life humanitarian supply chain setting. Practical implications – The research offers managerial insights into the use of a 4PL concept in the humanitarian supply chain environment to improve efficiency due to an improved collaboration between the humanitarian supply chain actors. Originality/value – The research paper investigates an under-researched topic in the humanitarian supply chain environment. For humanitarian supply chain actors outsourcing their activities to a 4PL service provider could secure collaboration, increase service levels as well as efficiency and therefore create additional value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-60
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Analytical hierarchy process
  • Fourth-party logistics
  • Humanitarian logistics
  • Humanitarian supply chain

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