Original Research

Interpersonal and inter-organisational relationships in supply chain integration: An exploration of third-party logistics providers in South Africa

Tiaan van Staden, Wesley Niemann, Arno Meyer
Acta Commercii | Vol 20, No 1 | a867 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v20i1.867 | © Tiaan van Staden, Wesley Niemann, Arno Meyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 May 2020 | Published: 23 October 2020

About the author(s)

Tiaan van Staden, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Wesley Niemann, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Arno Meyer, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Third-party logistics (3PL) providers act as integrators between suppliers, manufacturers and retailers whilst providing product movement and logistics information flow throughout the supply chain. Firms have been integrating their supply chains and strengthening relationships with 3PLs to enhance supply chain performance, achieve cost reduction, improve service and shorten lead times. However, the innate association between interpersonal relationships (IPRs) and supply chain integration (SCI) has received little attention in literature.

Research purpose: To investigate the role of IPRs on inter-organisational relationships (IORs) during both the formative and the operational stages of SCI.

Motivation for the study: Although SCI has received increased attention over the past few years, significant gaps related to IPRs and SCI in the service sector still exist in the literature.

Research design, approach and method: This study was conducted in the South African 3PL industry. A generic qualitative research design was used to collect data from 12 middle- to senior-level managers employed by 3PL organisations in South Africa. This study used a thematic analysis approach to analyse the collected data.

Main findings: This study found that IPRs played a significant role in IORs during the SCI process, such as the improved ease of doing business, enhanced trust, enhanced business accommodation and improved customer retention. However, the negative influences of IPRs should not be ignored, such as unethical practices, crossing the line, bias judgement and personal issues affecting the business. Furthermore, this study identified how IPR elements, namely personal affection, credibility and communication mature throughout the SCI process. The findings indicated that the role of personal affection matures and plays a more significant role during the operational stages of SCI, whereas personal credibility and communication had shown to play a significant role during both the formative and the operational stages of SCI.

Practical/managerial implications: This study provided managerial insights into the role of IPRs and the importance of leveraging personal affection, credibility and communication to influence IORs during the SCI process.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the existing body of knowledge by being the first empirical study to investigate the role of IPRs on IORs during different stages of SCI in the South African 3PL context. This study reveals contradicting results in the evolutionary directions of personal affection, credibility and communication in their influence on IOR during the SCI process compared to the findings by Wang et al. (2018a:1170–1186).


Keywords

supply chain integration; interpersonal relationships; inter-organisational relationships; third-party logistics; generic qualitative research; semi-structured interviews; South Africa

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