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Reverse exchange: classifications for public service SCM

Ann Elizabeth Esain (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.)
James Aitken (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Sharon Jayne Williams (College of Human & Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)
Maneesh Kumar (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




This paper aims to identify reverse flows and exchanges that support public service provision. Reverse flow literature has focused on manufacturing based supply chains using the lens of exchange (recovery, reuse, repair and recycle) to gain performance improvement in product flows. Limited research is available to support an understanding of customer-derived reverse exchange (RE) service processes. The authors contribute to the service literature through the development of RE antecedents and derive new and revised definitions with the supporting constructs of RE service processes.


This paper synthesises literature creating a framework of antecedents for RE. Antecedents reflect differences of service flow (level of service inseparability and ‘acting upon’). These antecedents are empirically tested within an illustrative pre-existing UK healthcare case study against the synthesised antecedents and existing RE definitions. Two teams of researchers reviewed the data generated from public service supply chain processes. Definitions of RE were either revised or derived from the empirical data by each team.


The service concept of ‘acting upon’ for inseparable public service supply chain flows provides a basis for examining the existence of reverse flows and exchanges. Revised and new classifications to the RE model are proposed to stimulate contextual performance improvement and innovation in public service provision. Psychological utility is an additional feature to economic, environmental and social utility in public service RE. RE offers practitioners and academics a strategic operational competence to achieve improvement and innovation in public services and further advance this concept.


Extending the literature beyond the manufacturing derived RE concept to develop an understanding of the customer’s role in preserving and co-creating value in RE and flows in public service. New RE antecedents for public services, including the potential of psychological utility, are presented.



Esain, A.E., Aitken, J., Williams, S.J. and Kumar, M. (2016), "Reverse exchange: classifications for public service SCM", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 216-227.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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