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Reflective backward analysis to assess the operational performance and eco-efficiency of two industrial districts

Andrea Appolloni (Management and Law, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy)
Idiano D'Adamo (Computer, Control and Management Engineering, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy)
Massimo Gastaldi (Industrial and Information Engineering and Economics, University of Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy)
Morteza Yazdani (ESIC University, Madrid, Spain)
Davide Settembre-Blundo (Department of Business Administration, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 31 December 2021

Issue publication date: 26 June 2023




The best strategy to apply for the future cannot disregard a careful analysis of the past and is the one capable of seizing opportunities from outside. Manufacturing sectors are characterized by sudden changes, and in this work, we analyze the ceramic tiles sector characterized by a mature technology in which innovation has played a key role.


This study aims to provide a sectorial analysis based on a historical data set (2004–2019) to highlight how an industry is performing both operationally and in terms of eco-efficiency. For this purpose, from a methodological point of view, the data envelopment analysis (DEA) was used.


The results of the analysis show that the Spanish ceramics industry shows a growing economic trend by taking advantage of lower industrial costs, while the Italian industry is characterized by a modest decline partially mitigated by exports. The industrial districts are an aggregation of companies that in the ceramic sector has allowed to combine innovation, sustainability and digitalization and is a model toward the maximization of sustainable efficiency because it is a place of aggregation of resources and ideas.


This study experiments with an innovative way of addressing traditional industry analysis, namely, integrating the reflective management approach with DEA-based backward analysis. This provides decision makers with the basis for new interpretations of variable trends.



Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflicts of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Appolloni, A., D'Adamo, I., Gastaldi, M., Yazdani, M. and Settembre-Blundo, D. (2023), "Reflective backward analysis to assess the operational performance and eco-efficiency of two industrial districts", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 72 No. 6, pp. 1608-1626.



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