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Reverse Supply Chains in Industry 4.0

Wisam Ibrahim Mousa Al-Shihmani [1], Mouhamad Shaker Ali Agha [1], Tariq Masood [2]

[1] Department of Management Science

Strathclyde Business School

[2] Department of Design

Manufacturing and Engineering Management

Faculty of Engineering

Click the video to watch this paper being presented at DSMS 2021.

Global challenges are increasing including those linked to sustainability, which may be tackled through Industry 4.0 (I4) technologies [1]. I4 is a widely used concept that encourages the adoption of a modern technological and interdependent approach to manufacturing [3-4]. Although manufacturers have traditionally viewed reverse supply chain (RSC) or reverse logistics activities as a costly nuisance, recent research has found that RSC can contribute to a company's financial performance [2]. However, the concept of RSC is forked and representative of many activities. The tasks of RSCs are not limited to recycling of waste but rather extends to fulfilling the actual needs and desires of customers, after-sales services, and rational use of raw materials. This research will be focussed on RSCs investigating customer requirements and rational use of raw materials for product development in accordance with emerging I4 concepts and systems practices that allow this and maintain sustainability in production and environmental preservation.

The impact of I4 contributes to meeting market needs and environmental requirements. The smart plant, which represents the implementation of I4 principles, uses technology to integrate business and engineering processes, allowing production to operate in a flexible, cost-effective, and resource-efficient manner [3,5]. I4 can be used to maximize value and sustainability while minimizing waste. I4 is also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced manufacturing or smart manufacturing [6]. I4 is the result of the explosive growth in new digital technologies such as cloud computing and IoT. The core of I4 implies smart connectivity between industry units, process mobility, industrial process flexibility and interoperability, and integration with customers and suppliers [7].

However, further research is needed to identify waste and its disposal so that it has an impact on increasing the industrial productivity [8]. However, in order to achieve sustainability in production and manufacturing, RSCs need to be integrated with I4.

This research envisions to show the importance of using I4 and the extent of its support through RSCs, and how the use of the smart factory affects the integration of RSCs that targets achieving sustainability in manufacturing and preserve the environment. The overarching aim of this research is based on the following research question: “How can I4 be integrated with RSC?”. The research will use a mixed methodology consisting of a structured literature review, industry survey, expert interviews, modelling, and simulation. The expected output of this research will be in the form of “a theoretical framework of I4 based RSC”. The framework objectives will include: (i) improve production performance metrics in terms of quantity, quality, and cost; (ii) achieve sustainability in production to meet the customer requirements; and (iii) achieve the rational use of raw materials.

The main expected academic contribution of this research is the theoretical framework of I4 based RSC in the fields of supply chain and operations management and sustainability. Industrial impact is expected through RSC feedback loops to support smart production systems in meeting customer requirements. The importance of the topic lies in providing high-quality goods at lower costs, preserving raw materials, and rationalizing their use. This is especially valid for those that are depleted, to achieve sustainable development and production system support mechanisms, as well as mechanisms to reduce losses in production and its use in developing the product and adding value to the goods or services. Overall, this research is expected to have impact on the society and global economy (UN SDGs 9 and 11).


1. Masood, T., Yang, M., & Wang, J. (2021) Industry 4.0 Technologies for Global Challenges, Special Issue Call for Papers, Sustainability, available from:, accessed 12 April 2021.

2. Larsen, S. B, Masi, D, Feibert, D. C, & Jacobsen, P., (2018). How the reverse supply chain impacts the firm’s financial performance. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 48(3), 284-307.

3. Masood, T., & Sonntag, P., (2020). Industry 4.0: Adoption challenges and benefits for SMEs. Computers in Industry, 121, 103261.

4. Sharpe, R., Katherine, V. L., Neal, Aaron, G., Paul, C., Paul. P., & West, Andrew A. (2019). An industrial evaluation of an Industry 4.0 reference architecture demonstrating the need for the inclusion of security and human components. Computers in Industry, 108, 37-44.

5. Carla, G. M., Mats, W., Dan C., Peter A., Victor C., Malin, H., (2019) Industry 4.0 readiness in manufacturing companies: challenges and enablers towards increased digitalization., ISSN 2212-8271, Volume 81.

6. Pacchini, A. P. T., Lucato, W. C., Facchini, F., & Mummolo, Gi., (2019). The degree of readiness for the implementation of Industry 4.0. Computers in Industry, 113, 103125.

7. Shaharudin, M. R, Govindan. K, Zailani. S, Tan, K. C., & Iranmanesh, M. (2017). Product return management: Linking product returns, closed-loop supply chain activities and the effectiveness of the reverse supply chains. Journal of Cleaner Production, 149, 1144-1156.

8. Muharom, M., Abdullah, M.H., & Kholik, I. (2019). Application of new product development value stream mapping: a case study on wire steel and nails industry.

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