Special Issue "Digital Transformation and Its Opportunities for Sustainable Manufacturing"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Jonathan Sze Choong Low
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), Singapore 138634, Singapore
Interests: Life Cycle Engineering; Sustainable Manufacturing; Life Cycle Assessment; Life Cycle Costing; Circular Economy
Dr. Mark Mennenga
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institute of Machine Tools and Production Technology, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Interests: Engineering Research Methodology, System of Systems Engineering, Sustainable Product-Service-Systems, Recycling 4.0, Research data management, Teaching and training for sustainability, Automotive Engineering, E-Mobility
Dr. Carlo Brondi
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Institute of Intelligent Industrial Systems and Technologies for Advanced Manufacturing (CNR), 20133 Milano, Italy
Interests: Production Planning,Process Simulation, Modeling, Operations Management, Production, Production Management, Optimization, Sustainability metrics, Integrated management systems, Modular LCA assessment, Industrial Symbiosis, Eco-design, Technology substitution

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The digital transformation has been touted as the game changer especially for the manufacturing sector. Although mainly looked at from the perspective of economic growth (or recovery given the COVID-19 pandemic), businesses and governments recognise the potential of leveraging the same digital transformation enablers to facilitate the sector’s transition to sustainable manufacturing. For instance, the adoption of Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), pervasive sensorisation of production systems at the shop floor- and factory-level, as well as the digitalisation of whole supply chains are generating an unprecedented amount of data. Coupled with the deployment of Cyber-Physical Production System (CPPS) and Digital Twins, these data open up new ways for how manufacturing systems and processes can be efficiently embedded in supply chains – so that the manufacturing and the whole life cycle of products consume less resources, emit less harmful emissions, and generate less waste and pollution.

This special issue aims to further explore the topics at the intersection of digital transformation and sustainable manufacturing. This special issue in particular explores research on intersection area between applicative sustainability aspects driving change in product chains and adoption of digital tools and methodologies to contextualize and improve related assessment, analysis and optimization. Both original research and review papers are welcome, from the various research disciplines, such as smart and sustainable manufacturing, life cycle engineering, eco-design, remanufacturing, circular economy and system of systems engineering. The following non-exhaustive list of topics can be addressed:

  • Data science and AI methods towards mitigating the environmental impacts of manufacturing;
  • Engineering and design of sustainable products, processes and/or supply chains;
  • Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), Digital Twins and/or Cyber-Physical Production Systems (CPPS);
  • Sustainable cyber-physical product- and/or production-service-systems;
  • Shop-floor and/or dynamic life cycle assessment (LCA);
  • Sustainable operational and business model innovation;
  • Digital tracking and monitoring systems for sustainability;
  • Circular economy through management and digital tools;
  • Sustainability metrics;
  • Compliance with international standards.

Dr. Jonathan Sze Choong Low
Dr. Mark Mennenga
Dr. Carlo Brondi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Life Cycle Engineering
  • Industrial Sustainability
  • Eco-design
  • Industrial Ecology
  • Circular Economy
  • Digitalization
  • Industry 4.0
  • Cyber-Physical Production System (CPPS)
  • Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT)
  • Smart sensoring
  • LCA

Published Papers (3 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:


Riding the Digital Product Life Cycle Waves towards a Circular Economy
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8960; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168960 - 10 Aug 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 928
Data driven organizations such as Amazon and Uber have raised the capabilities and expectations of customers to a new level by providing faster and cheaper products and services. The reviewed literature documented that 10–15% of the online products are returned and in many [...] Read more.
Data driven organizations such as Amazon and Uber have raised the capabilities and expectations of customers to a new level by providing faster and cheaper products and services. The reviewed literature documented that 10–15% of the online products are returned and in many cases such products are not shelf-ready due to product obsolescence or slight wear and tear, thereby reducing profits. Many of these products are disposed of in landfills. There were very few publications that documented how integration of digitized product life cycle into the business model improves product returns and the remanufacturing processes. As societies continue on, environmentally responsible, digital journeys with connected devices and people, reverse supply chains and remanufacturing will play increased importance in fulfilling customers expanded expectations. The networks are evolving, wherein, data are collected from all phases of the product lifecycles from design, prototype, manufacturing, usage aftermarket, returns remanufacturing and recycling. The objective of this paper’s authors was to describe how all phases of product life cycles can be digitized to improve global reverse supply chains and remanufacturing. The authors performed a literature review and developed case studies to document current and to predict future transformational waves that will become increasingly used in many industrial sectors. The authors made recommendations about the importance of improved product design, reduced processing costs and increased use of remanufactured products based upon data on returns to manufacturers and service providers. This paper contributes to research by providing a framework of a digitized product life cycle integrated with the business process phases including remanufacturing and supported with real-world case studies for practitioners and academicians. The authors outlined potential future topics for academic researchers and practitioners, for expanding usage of digital tools in real-time predictive analytics to improve remanufacturing system’s efficiency and quality. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

A Hybrid MCDM Model Combining DANP and PROMETHEE II Methods for the Assessment of Cybersecurity in Industry 4.0
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8833; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168833 - 07 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 616
IT technologies related to Industry 4.0 facilitate the implementation of the framework for sustainable manufacturing. At the same time, Industry 4.0 integrates IT processes and systems of production companies with IT solutions of cooperating companies that support a complete manufactured product life cycle. [...] Read more.
IT technologies related to Industry 4.0 facilitate the implementation of the framework for sustainable manufacturing. At the same time, Industry 4.0 integrates IT processes and systems of production companies with IT solutions of cooperating companies that support a complete manufactured product life cycle. Thus, the implementation of sustainable manufacturing implies a rapid increase in interfaces between IT solutions of cooperating companies. This, in turn, raises concerns about security among manufacturing company executives. The lack of a recognized methodology supporting the decision-making process of choosing the right methods and means of cybersecurity is, in effect, a significant barrier to the development of sustainable manufacturing. As a result, the propagation of technologies in Industry 4.0 and the implementation of the sustainable manufacturing framework in companies are slowing down significantly. The main novelty of this article, addressing the above deficiencies, is the creation, using the combined DEMATEL and ANP (DANP) and PROMETHEE II methods, of a ranking of the proposed three groups of measures, seven dimensions and twenty criteria to be implemented in companies to ensure cybersecurity in Industry 4.0 and facilitate the implementation of the sustainable production principles. The contribution of Industry 4.0 components and the proposed cybersecurity scheme to achieve the Sustainable Development goals, reducing the carbon footprint of companies and introducing circular economy elements was also indicated. Using DANP and PROMETHEE II, it can be concluded that: (i) the major criterion of cybersecurity in companies is validation and maintaining electronic signatures and seals; (ii) the most crucial area of cybersecurity is network security; (iii) the most significant group of measures in this regard are technological measures. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Industry 4.0 Accelerating Sustainable Manufacturing in the COVID-19 Era: Assessing the Readiness and Responsiveness of Italian Regions
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2670; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052670 - 02 Mar 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1449
An unpredictable shock hit the Italian economy in February 2020 when the spread of the COVID-19 virus began in Italy and other countries worldwide. In this context, Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technologies can be a fundamental tool for economic recovery by favouring the shift [...] Read more.
An unpredictable shock hit the Italian economy in February 2020 when the spread of the COVID-19 virus began in Italy and other countries worldwide. In this context, Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technologies can be a fundamental tool for economic recovery by favouring the shift towards sustainable manufacturing. Therefore, it is necessary to measure the readiness of countries for I4.0 in order to guide policies in defining incentives to promote I4.0 and unlock its potential in the pandemic era. In this context, the paper aims to understand the readiness and responsiveness of the Italian Regions with respect to I4.0 concepts prior to the pandemic and identify best practices that are supporting companies in I4.0 adoption, with a focus on those incentivizing sustainable practices. An assessment framework before the pandemic is provided based on two dimensions: the readiness of firms to invest in I4.0 and favourable structural conditions. The assessment shows a group of alert regions as opposed to a group of unprepared, mostly linked Northern and Southern differences. Assuming that the “alert regions” are more likely to effectively manage and overcome the post- COVID-19 crisis, we provide a picture of how the Italian Regions have sought to encourage the adoption of digital technologies to improve resilience after the shock. The analysis shows that supporting measures mainly address Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. Furthermore, the tenders encouraging the adoption of I4.0 suggest that collaboration among stakeholders will become imperative. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Digitalization Platform for Mechanistic Models in the Battery Production Chain
Authors: Matthias Thomitzek; Oke Schmidt; Tim Abraham; Arno Kwade; Christoph Herrmann
Affiliation: Institute of Machine Tools and Production Technologies (IWF), Chair of Sustainable Manufacturing and Life Cycle Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Langer Kamp 19b, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Abstract: The application of batteries in electric vehicles and stationary storage systems is widely seen as a promising enabler for a sustainable mobility and energy sector. Although significant improvements have been achieved in the last decade in terms of higher battery performance and lower production costs, there remains high potential to be tapped, especially during the battery production chain. However, battery production process is highly complex due to numerous process-product interdependencies along the process chain, many of which are not yet fully understood. In order to move away from expensive trial-and-error operation of production lines, a methodology is needed to make knowledge-based decisions to improve the outcome of battery production. In the present work, a digitalization platform is presented which combines a process chain and a battery cell model to quantitatively predict the impact of processes on the final battery cell performance. The digitalization platform enables coupling of diverse mechanistic models for the individual processes and the battery cell, ultimately providing a virtual representation of a battery production line that allows optimal production settings to be identified in silico. The digitalization platform is suited to provide decision support and can also be implemented as part of a digital twin to control the production line.

Title: Directed laser deposition sustainability: life cycle assessment of powder feedstock material reuse
Authors: Yang Shanshan; Davide Verdi
Affiliation: Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre
Abstract: In the present document, the advantages connected to the reuse of powder feedstock material in directed laser deposition are analysed. In particular, Ti6Al4V ELI powder was used to deposit samples coupons. The un-melted powder blown during the process was collected, sieved, and reused for a subsequent cycle of deposition. The process was repeated for a total of three cycles of builds without addition of new powder. A life cycle assessment is reported comparing two scenarios. In the first one, the un-melted powder is reused as previously described. In the second one, virgin powder was hypothetically used in every cycle of deposition. Considerations on raw material usage and reduction of wastes and emissions are reported. The results of the study will provide data to support the use of additive manufacturing technologies toward sustainable manufacturing and remanufacturing.

Title: An integrated approach for resource-efficient production planning
Authors: Berend Denkena; Marc-André Dittrich; Simon Kettelmann; Leon Reuter; Jonas Matthies
Affiliation: Institute of Production Engineering and Machine Tools (IFW), Leibniz Universität Hannover, An der Universität 2, 30823 Garbsen, Germany
Abstract: The starting point for sustainable production is production planning. As production planning can be divided into different phases that differ in their level of detail, the consideration of energy and resource efficiency in each of these phases is necessary in order to promote sustainable production. In this paper, an approach for identifying resource-efficient manufacturing routes during rough-cut planning, as well as specifying resource-efficient process execution during detailed planning is proposed. The aim of this approach is to bring the planning phases together and align them according to the objective of sustainable production. During rough-cut planning, an estimation of consumed resources during manufacturing is made by specifying possible manufacturing routes and deriving requirements for machines. The identified requirements allow for an estimation of consumed energy and resources during manufacturing. In the detailed planning phase, an assessment of energy and resource consumption is made considering required energy for restoring used resources to a usable state. The approach as a whole is evaluated by means of an exemplary component from the aerospace industry. The results indicate that rough-cut planning under uncertainties in the early stage of process chain design can form a reasonable estimation about resource efficiency of possible manufacturing routes. For detailed planning it was found that the proposed approach enables the identification of a resource-preserving process execution.

Back to TopTop