Towards self-organizing logistics in transportation: a literature review and typology

Berry Gerrits*, Wouter van Heeswijk, Martijn Mes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Deploying self-organizing systems is a way to cope with the logistics sector's complex, dynamic, and stochastic nature. In such systems, automated decision-making and decentralized or distributed control structures are combined. Such control structures reduce the complexity of decision-making, require less computational effort, and are therefore faster, reducing the risk that changes during decision-making render the solution invalid. These benefits of self-organizing systems are of interest to many practitioners involved in solving real-world problems in the logistics sector. This study, therefore, identifies and classifies research related to self-organizing logistics (SOL) with a focus on transportation. SOL is an interdisciplinary study across many domains and relates to other concepts, such as agent-based systems, autonomous control, and decentral systems. Yet, few papers directly identify this as self-organization. Hence, we add to the existing literature by conducting a systematic literature review that provides insight into the field of SOL. The main contribution of this paper is two-fold: (i) based on the findings from the literature review, we identify and synthesize 15 characteristics of SOL in a typology, and (ii) we present a two-dimensional SOL framework alongside the axes of autonomy and cooperativity to position and contrast the broad range of literature, thereby creating order in the field of SOL and revealing promising research directions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational transactions in operational research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 2 Dec 2023


  • distributed control
  • literature review
  • logistics
  • self-organization
  • transportation


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