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Managing reverse exchanges in service supply chains

Vikas Kumar (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Marlene Amorim (Department of Economics Management and Industrial Engineering, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal.)
Arijit Bhattacharya (College of Business Administration, University of Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)
Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes (Centre for Supply Chain Improvement, The University of Derby, Derby, UK)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




This study aims to address the management of reverse flows in the context of service supply chains. The study builds on the characteristics of services production reported in literature to: identify diverse types of reverse flows in services supply chains, discuss key issues associated to the management of reverse service flows and suggest directions for research for developing the knowledge for management of reverse flows in service contexts.


This study first provides an overview of the theoretical background which supports the identification and the characterization of the flows, and the reverse flows, involved in service production. A short summary of each paper accepted in this special issue is also provided to give readers an overview of the various issues around reverse exchanges in service supply chains that authors have attempted to address.


In this study, the authors identify distinct types of reverse flows in services production building on the analysis of the characteristics of service production and delivery reported in the literature. Our discussion highlights the fact that service supply chains can be quite diverse in the type of exchanges of inputs and outputs that take place between customers and providers, showing that often there can be substantial flows of items to return. In particular, and differently from manufacturing contexts, the authors highlight that in service supply chains, providers might need to handle bi-directional reverse flows.

Research limitations/implications

The lack of research on reverse service supply chains is, to a great extent, a consequence of dominant paradigms which often identify the absence of physical product flows as a key distinguishing feature of service supply chains, and therefore lead to the misbelief that in services there is nothing to return. This special issue therefore aims to clarify this misunderstanding through the limited selection of eight papers that address various issues around reverse exchanges in service supply chains.


While theoretical and empirical research in supply chain is abundant, management of reverse exchanges in service supply chain is sparse. In this special issue we aim to provide the first contribution to understand how the characteristics of service production raise new issues for the management of reverse flows in service supply chains, and to foster the development of adequate management strategies.



Guest editors of this special issue (SI) would like to express gratitude to all anonymous reviewers for their valuable contributions in reviewing the papers as without their contributions we would not have been able to complete this task successfully. Guest editors would also like to thank the editor in chief, Dr Beverly Wagner as well as the editorial and publishing team for their continuous support, and finally, all the authors who submitted their work for consideration in this special issue. All the submissions were of high quality; however, the guest editors had to disappoint some contributing authors due to limited publication space. The guest editors have to select the very best out of the best for publication in this SI. We wish all those authors every success in publishing their papers in other outlets.


Kumar, V., Amorim, M., Bhattacharya, A. and Garza-Reyes, J.A. (2016), "Managing reverse exchanges in service supply chains", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 157-165.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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