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 OF 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).