INTEGRATED LOGISTICS STRATEGIES
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
Integration has been one of the dominant themes in the development of logistics
management. This development began around 40 years ago with the integration at
a local level of transport and warehousing operations into physical distribution
systems. Today, many businesses are endeavoring to integrate supply networks
that traverse the globe, comprise several tiers of supplier and distributor, and use
different transport modes and carriers. The process of integration has
transformed the way that companies manage the movement, storage, and
handling of their products. Traditionally, these activities were regarded as basic
operations subservient to the needs of other functions. Their integration into a
logistical system has greatly enhanced their status and given them a new strategic
While logistical activities have been undergoing this fundamental restructuring,
companies have been placing greater emphasis on the formulation of strategy.
Business strategy has become a very fertile field of research and consultancy work,
generating many new ideas, approaches, and conceptual frameworks. This has
affected logistics management in two ways. First, much of the output of this
research has been directly applicable to logistics, helping managers devise
strategies specifically for the logistics function. Second, several of the most
influential company-wide strategic models, such as that of Porter (1985), have
identified a central role for logistics and confirmed that it can make a major
contribution to the competitiveness and growth of a business. The real challenge is
now to ensure that logistical strategies are aligned with the broader strategic goals
both of individual businesses and groups of companies linked together in a supply
This chapter begins by reviewing the integration of the logistics function over
the past few decades, showing how it has widened its scope from the distribution of
finished products to the “end-to-end” supply chain and has been elevated from an
Handbook of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Edited by A.M. Brewer et al.
© 2001, Elsevier Science Ltd
operational to a strategic level. The following sections examine the contribution
that logistics can make to wider corporate strategy, the strategic options available
to logistics managers, and the impact of logistical decision-making on the freight
2. A brief history of logistical integration
The process of logistical integration can be divided into four stages:
Stage 1. The first stage in the process is generally considered to have been the
“revolution in physical distribution management,” which began in the early 1960s
in the U.S.A. and involved the integration into a single function of activities
associated with the outbound distribution of finished goods. Formerly, logistics
“was a fragmented and often unco-ordinated set of activities spread throughout
various organizational functions with each individual function having its budget
and set of priorities and measurements” (Lambert and Stock, 1993). Separate
distribution departments were created which, for the first time, were able to
coordinate the management of transport, warehousing, inventory management,
materials handling, and order processing. The integration of these activities
within physical distribution management (PDM) had three beneficial effects:
(1) It allowed companies to exploit the close interdependence between them,
establishing a “distribution mix” which could meet customer requirements
at minimum cost. In designing an integrated distribution system, they
aimed to achieve an optimal trade-off between the costs of the various
activities. Traditional accounting structures had prevented this in the past.
The development of a new “total cost approach” to distribution accounting,
which became a prerequisite of PDM, permitted much more detailed
analysis of distribution costs. This often revealed, for example, that a large
proportion of companies’ total output was being distributed in small
quantities at a high delivery cost per unit. In pursuing their prime objective
of maximizing revenue, sales departments were prepared to supply very
small orders, in some cases at a loss. Once these inefficiencies were
exposed, companies began to raise minimum order sizes, stopping
deliveries to small outlets and effectively rationalizing their delivery
networks (McKinnon, 1989).
(2) It gave distribution a stronger customer focus. PDM was initially motivated
by a desire to cut cost, reflecting the traditional view of distribution as
simply a drain on companies’ resources. During the 1960s it was recognized
that the quality of the distribution service could have a significant impact on
sales, market share, and long-term customer loyalty (Stewart, 1965).
158 A. McKinnon
Distribution could therefore affect profitability on both the cost and
revenue sides of the balance sheet. The new distribution departments
began to develop more explicit customer service strategies based on closer
co-ordination of order processing, warehousing, and delivery operations.
(3) It raised the status of distribution within the management hierarchy. When
identified as a function in its own right, distribution began to take its place
alongside production, marketing, and sales, with its own budget and often
separate representation at company board level. A new generation of
managers was appointed to oversee the full spectrum of distribution
activities and devise distribution strategies for their businesses.
Stage 2. PDM was initially concerned only with the distribution of finished
products. The same general principle was subsequently applied to the inbound
movement of materials, components, and subassemblies, generally known as
“materials management.” By the late 1970s, many firms had established “logistics
departments” with overall responsibility for the movement, storage, and handling
of products upstream and downstream of the production operation. This enabled
them to exploit higher level synergies, share the use of logistical assets between
inbound and outbound flows, and apply logistical principles more consistently
across the business (Bowersox, 1978). Fabbes-Costes and Colin (1999) use the
term “integrated logistics” to describe the co-ordination of inbound supply,
production, and distribution. They also differentiated later phases in this process,
where logistics extends its influence upstream into product development and
downstream into after-sales service and the recycling and disposal of waste. They
called the culmination of this process “total logistics.”
Stage 3. Having achieved a high level of integration within the logistics function,
many firms tried to co-ordinate logistics more closely with other functions. Most
businesses have a “vertical” structure built around a series of discrete functions
such as production, purchasing, marketing, logistics, and sales, each with their
own objectives and budgets. These functions are often represented as “silos” or
“stovepipes” (Christopher, 1998). Senior managers often put the interests of their
functions before the profitability of the business as a whole. Under these
circumstances, logistics can play an important co-ordinating role, as it interfaces
with most other functions. As Morash et al. (1996) observe, “the strong boundary
spanning role found for logistics implies that logistics can be used as a vehicle for
cross-functional integration, a nexus of communication and co-ordination, and for
better system performance.” They argue that “functional boundaries need to be
made flexible and virtually transparent in the pursuit of cross-functional
With the emergence of business process re-engineering (BPR) in the early
1990s (Hammer and Champy, 1993), the relationship between logistics and
Ch. 10: Integrated Logistics Strategies 159
related functions was redefined. BPR identifies a series of core processes that cut
across traditional functional boundaries and are essentially customer-oriented.
Effective management of these processes requires the development of new
working relationships between functions and the formation of more cross-
functional teams. These are acknowledged to be core processes which drive the
typical business, of which order fulfillment, the raison d’être of all logistics
operations, is arguably the most important (e.g., Christopher, 1998) (Table 1). As
Hines (1999) points out, however, the range of key processes and their relative
importance can vary between sectors and companies (see Table 1).
Bowersox and Closs (1996) have adapted the principles of BPR to logistics,
emphasizing four factors “common to all logistical reengineering initiatives.” The
first and most important is “systems integration.” The authors argue that “a
logistical system with cross-functional integration should achieve greater results
than one deficient in co-ordinated performance,” although they concede that
“effective application of systems integration in logistics is operationally difficult.”
The other three factors are benchmarking, “decompositional” analysis of
individual logistics activities, and the quest for continuous improvement.
Stage 4. All the developments discussed so far have related to the management
of an individual business. If all the businesses in a supply chain optimize their
logistical activities in isolation, it is unlikely that the flow of products across the
supply chain will be optimized. To achieve wider, supply chain optimization it is
necessary for companies at different levels in the chain to co-ordinate their
operations. This is the essence of supply chain management (SCM). The main
driver of SCM over the past 20 years has unquestionably been the desire to
minimize inventory. Supply chain (or “pipeline”) mapping has shown that much of
the inventory in a supply chain is concentrated at “organizational boundaries,”
160 A. McKinnon
Core business processes
Christopher (1998) Hines (1999)
Electrical distributor Chemical producer
Order fulfillment Order fulfillment Strategic management
New product development Supplier integration New business development
Marketing planning Sales order acquisition Customer support
Information management New product introduction Order fulfillment
Profitability analysis Cost management
Quality and environmental
where products are transferred from one company to another (Scott and
Wesbrook, 1993). Uncertainty about the behavior of suppliers and customers
causes firms to accumulate buffer stock. More open exchange of information and
closer integration of logistical activities enables companies to cut lead times and
reduce stocks, to their mutual advantage and the benefit of the supply chain as a
whole. For example, Lewis et al. (1997) cite the case of a medium-sized
manufacturer of mechanical/electrical equipment which doubled its stock turn
(from four to eight times a year) and raised its inbound delivery service level from
60% to 98% by “re-engineering its supplier interface.” While there has been some
acknowledgement of the role of freight transport in the development of successful
supply chain links (Gentry, 1995), this subject has attracted little research.
Members of an integrated supply chain should collaborate to maximize vehicle
load factors, minimize empty running, achieve an optimal allocation of freight
between modes, and standardize on handling systems that make effective use of
vehicle and warehouse capacity (European Logistics Association, 2000).
It is difficult to define the exact chronology of the process of integration as it has
diffused at different rates across industrial sectors, countries, and company size
categories. There are still many small and medium-sized business which have yet
to embrace fully the principles of PDM and whose distribution management is still
highly fragmented. While at an individual company level the process of logistical
integration has proceeded at varying rates, the sequencing of the four stages has
been more regular. There is general agreement, for example, that companies must
integrate their internal logistics operations before attempting to link these
operations with those of external suppliers and distributors.
Stevens (1989) has examined the nature of the transition between the various
stages of integration and noted that different factors dominate at the each stage.
He argues that the application of new technology has been the principal force
in moving firms from stage 1 to stage 2, which he calls “functional integration.”
The transition to stage 3 (internal integration) involves primarily a change
in organizational structure, while to attain stage 4 (external integration)
management must undergo a major attitudinal change.
It is also worth noting that the multistage integration of companies’ logistical
operations has been reflected in the out-sourcing of logistical activities. While this
process of integration has been underway, companies have been externalizing an
increasing proportion of their logistics spend (McKinnon, 1999). Traditionally,
they would out-source activities such as transport or warehousing on an individual
basis. During the 1970s and 1980s it became common for firms to contract out
their entire distribution operation, particularly in those countries with
deregulated road freight markets, such as the U.K. In some cases, the processes of
out-sourcing and integration were concomitant, with much of the responsibility
for combining the various activities entrusted to third-party operators (Cooper
Ch. 10: Integrated Logistics Strategies 161
and Johnstone, 1990) More recently, there have been examples of large
manufacturers and retailers employing a single contractor to manage their
inbound as well as outbound logistics. There is now a growing demand from
multinational businesses for the services of logistics providers capable of
integrating their global supply chains (Datamonitor, 1999).
3. Strategy formulation
The role of strategy is to “guide the firm in its efforts to develop and utilize key
resources to achieve desired objectives within a dynamic and challenging
competitive environment” (Fawcett et al., 1997). In a monograph for the Council
of Logistics Management, Cooper et al. (1992) outline the process of strategic
planning as it might be applied to the logistics function. They summarize this
process as “identifying the long-term goals of the entity … and the broad steps
necessary to achieve these goals over a long-term horizon … incorporating the
concerns and future expectations of the major stakeholders.” These goals can be
defined at different levels and are usually based on a wide-ranging audit of a
company’s capabilities and market opportunities. At the highest level are broad
corporate goals affecting the positioning of a business within its competitive
environment. In companies, which have reached the third stage of integration, the
logistics function will be represented in the corporate planning team, ensuring
that the logistical implications of each strategic option are properly evaluated.
The corporate plan drawn up to achieve these goals will define a series of logistical
requirements. It will often be possible to meet these requirements in different
ways, introducing a degree of flexibility into the formulation, at a lower level, of
the logistics strategy. At a lower level still, separate strategies can be devised for
individual logistical activities, such as transport and warehousing. The planning
process must ensure that strategies developed at the different levels are closely co-
4. Corporate goals
At the heart of all business strategy lies the desire to achieve differentiation
through cost reduction and/or value enhancement (Porter, 1985). These strategic
options are typically represented by a simple matrix showing four combinations of
high and low ratings for cost and added value (Figure 1). By common consent, the
least competitive businesses will be found in cell 1, supplying low value,
undifferentiated products at relatively high cost. The most competitive companies
produce high value, well-differentiated products at relatively low cost, and thus
occupy cell 3. Intermediate positions are held by companies placing an emphasis
162 A. McKinnon
on minimizing cost (cost leaders) or maximizing value (service leaders). Various
attempts have been made to classify businesses with respect to these two criteria
and to plot changes in their relative position in the matrix over time.
5. Value enhancement
Effective logistics management can help companies to gain competitive advantage
through both value enhancement and cost reduction. The first of these is
discussed in this section, and cost reduction is discussed in Section 6.
5.1. Product diversification
One of the most effective means of adding value to a product or service is to tailor
it more closely to individual customer tastes and requirements. This involves
extending the range of products or services available. The proliferation of
products has major implications for logistics. There is generally a close correlation
between the number of separate product lines (or stock-keeping units (SKUs)) in
a company’s logistical system and the amount of inventory that must be held.
Highly diverse product ranges also require more complex warehousing, handling,
and information systems. The process of customization can further complicate the
logistics operation. It has become increasingly common for multinational
manufacturers to defer the final customization of their products until they reach
particular continental or national markets, in some cases adding an extra link to
the supply chain (Cooper, 1993).
Ch. 10: Integrated Logistics Strategies 163
Service leadership Cost and service
Uncompetitive Cost leadership
Figure 1. Strategic positioning (adapted from: Christopher, 1998).
5.2. Development of higher value products
Higher value products are often inherently more fragile and perishable, requiring
more packaging, more careful handling and, often, temperature control. More
expensive products also need tighter security and are more expensive to insure
while in transit. Many of the new higher value consumer products developed over
the past 20 years have production and distribution systems that are intrinsically
more complex and geographically extensive than those of their predecessors.
5.3. Improved service quality
Business customers and final consumers are usually prepared to pay more for
faster and more reliable delivery. They also attach higher value to products
supported by good after-sales service. Logistical services can therefore be used
augment the basic product and help companies differentiate their offering from
that of competitors.
6. Cost reduction
A recent survey of “over 200” European companies found that logistics costs
represent, on average, 7.7% of sales revenue (A.T. Kearney, 2000). In some sectors,
this proportion can be two or three times higher. By improving the productivity of
logistics operations it is possible to cut this cost and translate some of the savings
into lower prices. Over the past 20 years, the largest saving in logistics costs has
accrued from a reduction in inventory levels (relative to sales). This has been
achieved by the move to just-in-time/quick response replenishment, the
centralization of inventory, the application of new IT systems, and the development
of SCM. There have also been substantial improvements in the efficiency of
freight transport operations, resulting mainly from the upgrading of transport
infrastructure, liberalization of freight markets, and improved vehicle design.
Warehousing costs per unit have also declined in real terms as a result of scale
economies, increased mechanization, and the diffusion of new computer-based
warehouse management systems (see Chapter 34). The combined effect of these
trends has been to reduce the proportion of revenue spent on logistics by European
firms by an average of 46% between 1987 and 1999 (A.T. Kearney, 2000).
These cost reductions were achieved during a period when product ranges were
expanding and service quality steadily rising. There is little evidence of quality and
value being sacrificed for cost savings, or vice versa. This is making it harder for
companies to differentiate their offering in terms of both value and productivity,
as benchmarks are constantly rising. Simply to remain competitive, companies are
164 A. McKinnon
under pressure to improve both service and cost performance. As Persson (1991)
explains, “logistics … has become a win–win strategy, improving performance,
quality and productivity simultaneously.”
7. Logistical strategies
Several attempts have been to made classify logistical strategies. Persson (1991),
for example, has identified three basic strategies and exemplified them with short
case studies of Scandinavian companies. He calls them simply strategies 1, 2, and 3:
(1) Strategy 1. Companies use logistics to “influence competitive forces” by (i)
making suppliers or customers more dependent upon them or (ii) using
heavy investment in a new logistics network to discourage other firms from
entering a market sector. The specialist chemical supplier Merck, for
example, has developed a distribution system in the U.K. that can deliver
orders varying enormously in weight, from a few grams to a tonne, in an
effort to become sole supplier (or a “one-stop shop”) to laboratories
throughout the U.K.
(2) Strategy 2. Companies, using existing resources, develop innovative logistics
practices to penetrate new markets or gain competitive advantage in an
existing market. The abandonment of fixed depot area boundaries, for
instance, and the adoption of multi-depot fleet planning can strengthen a
company’s competitiveness in a regional market by simultaneously cutting
transport costs and delivery lead times (McKinnon, 1998).
(3) Strategy 3. Companies aim for across-the-board superiority in logistics by
“seeking new solutions and system combinations.” Such companies tend to
regard logistics management as a core competence and key to future
An alternative typology advanced by Bowersox et al. (1989) has been much
more widely quoted and subjected to greater empirical analysis. It was originally
developed as part of a study of the links between logistics strategy and the
organization of the logistics function. In its revised form, this classification
differentiates three types of logistics strategy:
(1) Process-based strategy. This applies to firms at integration stage 3 and
committed to the cross-functional management of business processes. The
emphasis here lies in improving the efficiency of a broad range of logistical
(2) Market-based strategy. This is concerned with a more limited group of
logistical activities, often carried out by different business units, and aims to
“facilitate sales and logistical co-ordination” by market sector.
Ch. 10: Integrated Logistics Strategies 165
(3) Channel-based strategy. The aim is to improve the management of logistical
activities performed jointly by supply chain partners.
A sample of 375 U.S. manufacturers were asked into which of these three
categories their logistic strategy fell. Approximately 54% identified with the
process-based strategy, 28% with market-based strategy, and only 9% with the
channel-based strategy. McGinnis and Kohn (1993) tested the validity of this
typology in two surveys in which managers were asked a series of questions
designed to assess the strategic orientation of their logistics function. Cluster
analysis of these questionnaire data indicated that the distinction between
process-based and market-based strategies was meaningful. They further refined
these strategies by distinguishing, in each case, three “substrategies.” A later
survey by Clinton and Closs (1997) of over 1300 North American companies
provided further empirical support for this typology. They used factor analysis to
explore the interrelationship between 43 logistical variables to see if companies
fell into reasonably coherent strategic groupings. They concluded that it was
possible to detect differences in strategic emphasis and expressed “cautious
optimism” that the typology proposed by Bowersox et al. was valid.
166 A. McKinnon
Interrelationship between strategic decisions and freight transport parameters
utilization Routing Scheduling
Product design ••••
Product range ••••
Market area ••• •
Marketing channels •••••
Sales strategy/promotion •••• •
Location of production
and distribution facilities •• •
Sourcing of supplies •• •
Production system ••• •
Inventory management •••• •
Materials handling ••••
After-sales service ••• •
Recycling/reverse logistics •••••
Key:•, a direct relationship exists.
This classification is, nevertheless, highly generalized. The fact that it requires
such a complex, multivariate analysis to produce strategic constructs that match
the typology is in itself revealing. It highlights the multidimensional nature, and
possibly uniqueness, of any strategies designed to cover the full spectrum of
logistical activities. The need to tailor these activities to the particular
circumstances of a business makes it very difficult to establish a series of generic
strategies for the logistical function as a whole.
It is, however, possible to distinguish a range of strategic options relating to
particular aspects of a logistical system. These are more clearly identifiable and
measurable. A good example is the choice that companies must make between a
postponement and a speculation strategy (Van Hoek et al., 1998). The
geographical (or “place”) form of postponement involves centralizing inventory
and delaying its dispatch to local markets until an accurate estimate of the likely
demand can be made. Speculation, on the other hand, entails dispersing inventory
to local markets in the belief that you will be better able to respond to short-term
increases in demand. These contrasting strategies have been examined in detail
and practical tools developed to help firms determine under what circumstances
they are appropriate. Both Cooper (1993) and Pagh and Cooper (1998) have
constructed simple matrices to show how the preferred strategy is likely to be
influenced by the nature of the product and packaging, the geography of the
market, and the manufacturing strategy.
8. The role of freight transport with integrated logistics strategies
Freight transport operations are affected by a broad range of strategic decisions
made at both a logistical and a corporate level within the business. These decisions
impact upon different aspects of the transport operation. Table 2 is an attempt to
map the interrelationships between a set of six freight transport parameters and
areas of strategic decision-making grouped in relation to the three core business
processes identified above, namely order fulfillment, marketing planning/sales
acquisition, and product development. The presence of a dot in a cell signifies the
existence of a direct relationship.
This shows that the nature of the freight transport operation is the result of a
complex web of decision-making, spanning different functional areas within the
business. As a result of the process of integration at functional, corporate, and
supply chain levels, the strategic context within which transport decisions are
made has undergone a radical change over the past 40 years. Few studies have
examined the effects of this change on the physical movement of freight. Little
is known, for example, about the impact of BPR or the application of the
postponement principle on freight traffic levels, the modal split, and vehicle load
Ch. 10: Integrated Logistics Strategies 167
Of the freight transport parameters listed in Table 2, only the volume of freight
movement has been analyzed in detail within an integrated logistics management
context. It can be argued that freight traffic levels were influenced by four levels of
logistical decision-making, relating to:
(1) Logistical structures: numbers, locations, and capacities of factors,
warehouses, terminals, and shops.
(2) Supply chain configuration: patterns of trading links within the logistical
(3) Scheduling of flows: manifestation of the trading links as discrete freight
(4) Management of transport resources: relating to the choice of vehicle,
utilization of vehicle capacity, routing of delivery, etc.
The growth of freight traffic is the result of a complex interaction between
decisions made at these different levels. Decisions at levels 1 and 2 determine the
quantity of freight movement measured in tonne-kilometers, while decisions at
levels 3 and 4 translate this movement into vehicle traffic, measured in vehicle-
kilometers. This decision-making hierarchy has been adopted by several EU-
funded research projects (e.g., Demkes, 1999) and been advocated by the U.K.
government’s Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment
(SACTRA) (1999) as a framework for future road freight forecasting.
Freight transport is an integral part of logistical systems and supply chains. Analysis
of the nature, volume, and pattern of freight movement must therefore be rooted
in an understanding of the way that these systems and chains function and evolve.
This chapter has outlined the development of logistics management since the early
1960s, highlighting the different stages in its integration. Over the past decade,
more formal methods of strategic planning have been applied at both the corporate
and the functional level. Within the strategic planning process, there is now wide
recognition that logistics is a major determinant of competitiveness, profitability,
and growth. Over the next decade, globalization and the growth of e-commerce will
further reinforce its position within the corporate hierarchy.
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