Factors driving the spatial layout of distribution channels

A.T.C. Onstein, M. Ektesaby, J. Rezaei, L.A. Tavasszy, D.A. van Damme

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

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Research statement
Our study analyses the factors that drive decision-making on distribution structures, including the layout of distribution channels and the locations of distribution centres. Distribution is a primary firm activity, which strongly influences logistics costs and logistics performance. Distribution is a challenging activity as customer demand is often volatile and unpredictable. Consumers continuously expect higher service related to distribution, e.g., same day delivery and more flexibility in delivery locations. Therefore, it is of strategic importance to shippers and Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) to decide which distribution channel layout to use and, accordingly, plan distribution centre location(s). Distribution structure selection concerns the number and locations of distribution centres, as part of the larger corporate planning process. The main questions we strive to answer in this paper are: (1) what are the main criteria that determine the spatial layout of distribution structures? and (2) how important are these criteria, relative to each other?

The literature on distribution channel design mostly revolves around optimization methods; we are not aware of literature that takes a descriptive approach. We therefore develop a descriptive conceptual model that includes these factors, developed from the contextual literature around this decision. The second part of the study concerns the measurement of the relative importance of these factors. We implemented an elaborate survey and used the Best-Worst Method (BWM) to identify these weights. The survey considers different experts (e.g., logistics managers versus logistics professors) and population segments (e.g., in-house versus outsourced distribution).

Data and results
Currently we are completing the survey dedicated to evaluating the above factors. We have received sufficient response to estimate a first model. These first estimations already provide useful results. Final estimations will be completed and reported in June 2017. At the I-NUF conference we will be able to present the results and analysis of all factors when comparing respondents and parameters.

Preliminary conclusions
Based on literature review, eight main factors – divided into 33 sub factors – are included in our research: 1) Demand factors, 2) Service level factors, 3) Product Characteristics factors, 4) Logistics costs factors, 5) Proximity-related location factors, 6) Accessibility-related location factors, 7) Resources-related location factors and 8) Institutional factors. A number of hypotheses were built from the literature analysis relating, for example, to the relative importance of service- and cost- related factors within different industries. We will revisit these hypotheses and provide the quantitative results of the importance of the individual factors in our paper and at the conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventMetrans Urban Freight I-NUF conference 2017 - Hyatt Regency, Long Beach, United States
Duration: 18 Oct 201720 Oct 2017


ConferenceMetrans Urban Freight I-NUF conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLong Beach
Internet address


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