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Exploring Industry 4.0 technologies to enable circular economy practices in a manufacturing context: A business model proposal

Daniel Luiz Mattos Nascimento (Federal Fluminense University, Niteroi, Brazil)
Viviam Alencastro (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Osvaldo Luiz Gonçalves Quelhas (Federal Fluminense University, Niteroi, Brazil)
Rodrigo Goyannes Gusmão Caiado (Federal Fluminense University, Niteroi, Brazil)
Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes (Centre for Supply Chain Improvement, The University of Derby, Derby, UK)
Luis Rocha-Lona (Instituto Politécnico Nacional, ESCA Santo Tomás, Mexico City, Mexico)
Guilherme Tortorella (Production and Systems Engineering, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 27 November 2018

Issue publication date: 3 April 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore how rising technologies from Industry 4.0 can be integrated with circular economy (CE) practices to establish a business model that reuses and recycles wasted material such as scrap metal or e-waste.


The qualitative research method was deployed in three stages. Stage 1 was a literature review of concepts, successful factors and barriers related to the transition towards a CE along with sustainable supply chain management, smart production systems and additive manufacturing (AM). Stage 2 comprised a conceptual framework to integrate and evaluate the synergistic potential among these concepts. Finally, stage 3 validated the proposed model by collecting rich qualitative data based on semi-structured interviews with managers, researchers and professors of operations management to gather insightful and relevant information.


The outcome of the study is the recommendation of a circular model to reuse scrap electronic devices, integrating web technologies, reverse logistics and AM to support CE practices. Results suggest a positive influence from improving business sustainability by reinserting waste into the supply chain to manufacture products on demand.

Research limitations/implications

The impact of reusing wasted materials to manufacture new products is relevant to minimising resource consumption and negative environmental impacts. Furthermore, it avoids hazardous materials ending up in landfills or in the oceans, seriously threatening life in ecosystems. In addition, reuse of wasted material enables the development of local business networks that generate jobs and improve economic performance.

Practical implications

First, the impact of reusing materials to manufacture new products minimises resource consumption and negative environmental impacts. The circular model also encourages keeping hazardous materials that seriously threaten life in ecosystems out of landfills and oceans. For this study, it was found that most urban waste is plastic and cast iron, leaving room for improvement in increasing recycling of scrap metal and similar materials. Second, the circular business model promotes a culture of reusing and recycling and motivates the development of collection and processing techniques for urban waste through the use of three-dimensional (3D) printing technologies and Industry 4.0. In this way, the involved stakeholders are focused on the technical parts of recycling and can be better dedicated to research, development and innovation because many of the processes will be automated.

Social implications

The purpose of this study was to explore how Industry 4.0 technologies are integrated with CE practices. This allows for the proposal of a circular business model for recycling waste and delivering new products, significantly reducing resource consumption and optimising natural resources. In a first stage, the circular business model can be used to recycle electronic scrap, with the proposed integration of web technologies, reverse logistics and AM as a technological platform to support the model. These have several environmental, sociotechnical and economic implications for society.


The sociotechnical aspects are directly impacted by the circular smart production system (CSPS) management model, since it creates a new culture of reuse and recycling techniques for urban waste using 3D printing technologies, as well as Industry 4.0 concepts to increase production on demand and automate manufacturing processes. The tendency of the CSPS model is to contribute to deployment CE in the manufacture of new products or parts with AM approaches, generating a new path of supply and demand for society.



Nascimento, D.L.M., Alencastro, V., Quelhas, O.L.G., Caiado, R.G.G., Garza-Reyes, J.A., Rocha-Lona, L. and Tortorella, G. (2019), "Exploring Industry 4.0 technologies to enable circular economy practices in a manufacturing context: A business model proposal", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 607-627.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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