contract logistics - third party logistics

Contract logistics is a concept in the logistics industry where a company (the client) outsources its logistics activities to an external service provider (the contract logistics provider). This service provider, on behalf of the company, takes over the planning, management, and execution of various logistical tasks and processes.


The essential components of the concept of contract logistics are:

  • Scope of Services: This includes the specific logistics services that the contract logistics provider delivers on behalf of the company. These services often involve transportation, warehousing, picking, packing, distribution, inventory management, and other logistical tasks.
  • Contracts and Durations: The relationship between the client and the contract logistics provider is based on contracts that define the scope of services, terms, service level agreements, and durations. These contracts can be short-term or long-term, depending on the client's needs.
  • Integration: Contract logistics often requires close integration of the client's and the service provider's logistical processes and systems. This enables seamless cooperation and real-time communication.

The advantages of contract logistics are:

  • Cost Efficiency: By bundling logistics activities and the specialization of the service provider, cost savings can be achieved.
  • Scalability: Companies can expand or reduce logistics services as needed without making long-term investments.
  • Expertise: Contract logistics providers specialize in logistics and possess expertise and experience in this field.
  • Focus on Core Competencies: Companies can concentrate on their core business while outsourcing logistics to external experts.
  • Flexibility: Flexibility regarding capacity, locations, and services can be increased to adapt to changing market conditions.

The disadvantages of contract logistics are:

  • Dependency on the Service Provider: Heavy reliance on a service provider can make a company vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.
  • Quality Control: It may be challenging to control the quality of services provided by the service provider, especially when services are delivered at remote locations.
  • Cost Transparency: Cost transparency may be limited, as some costs may not be directly visible.
  • Contractual Risks: Poorly structured contracts can lead to disputes or misunderstandings.
  • Loss of Company-Specific Know-How: Outsourcing logistics activities can result in the loss of company-specific knowledge about the supply chain.

Overall, contract logistics can be a valuable solution for optimizing logistics processes and reducing costs, but it is important to plan carefully, select the right partner, and establish clear contracts to mitigate potential drawbacks.

The bundling of logistics functions, to provide a comprehensive and complex service package, using concrete and individual customer requirements is also referred to as contract logistics. This is an agreement (contract) between a logistics service provider and for example, an industrial company. The proposed and offered services go far beyond the classical storage, transportation and handling of goods. A contract logistics provider can manage, for example, the ordering and payment processes, handle returns, accept installation work, etc. realize packaging or set formation of products.

Frequently, the logistics service provider in this context is required to make a broad investment to be able to meet individual customer requirements. In addition to the cost of the logistics the service provider obtains a comprehensive know-how in return and is thus a difficult irreplaceable partner in the supply chain. For this reason also a high degree of specialization and a niche strategy, especially for small to mid-sized companies is very promising. Both partners integrate their processes and embark in a close partnership. For this reason, a solid foundation of trust is the focus here, this includes a so-called Open Book Policy in the basics of pricing and billing will set out in transparent and open and can be viewed by both parties.

The providers of logistics services are classically divided into different categories. The classical transport services are provided by Second Party Logistics Provider (2PL). The next category are classified as third party logistics (3PL) providers of contract logistics services. The level of 4PL logistics focuses primarily on administrative tasks and discussions. The coordination of several logistics service provider on behalf of a customer can be done by Lead Logistics Provider (LLP). Usually they don't have any own resources to provide logistics services.