Digital Supply Network Design: A Circular Economy 4.0 Decision- making System for Real-world Challenges

Naoum Tsolakis, Tomás Harrington, Jagjit Singh Srai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This research introduces the idea of ‘Circular Economy 4.0’ to reflect the emergence of ‘digitalised’ sustainable supply networks. While often characterised by enhanced productivity and resource/energy efficiency, current perspectives are largely descriptive with limited practical relevance. A hierarchical decision-making framework and a multi-level simulation modelling and optimisation technique are constructed to explore the interplay between Circular Supply Chains and Industry 4.0. The real-world case of blue-green algae as renewable feedstock – to derive value-added omega-3 oils and biofertilizers – is investigated to develop ‘Circular Economy 4.0’ perspectives. The emerging circular supply network utilises micro-factories (i.e. photobioreactors), continuous manufacturing technologies (i.e. piezoelectric transducers), and drone operations for feedstock availability monitoring. This study contributes to theory and practice, by building on the limited empirical research exploring determinants of successful transitions in Circular Economy-Industry 4.0 network contexts. Four design principles are proposed that capture the interplay between digital technologies and network design, i.e. centralised – semi-centralised – decentralised configurations. Modelling was developed across macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of analysis. Results demonstrate significant gains in terms of resources utilisation and market dynamics, enabled by the adoption of digital operations in a circular economy context, with initial insights on the evolution of such networks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProduction Planning & Control
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Apr 2020

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