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Supply Chain Forum:

An International Journal

Application of Blockchain Technology for Addressing
Reverse Logistical Challenges:

Current Status and Future Opportunities

Guest editors

  • Kamalakanta MUDULI, Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Papua New Guinea

  • Sunil LUTHRA, Ch. Ranbir Singh State Institute of Engineering & Technology, Jhajjar India

  • Jose Arturo GARZA-REYES, The University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom (UK)

  • Donald HUISINGH, University of TN, Knoxville-37996, United States of America (USA)

Submission deadline

  • February 1st, 2022


Introduction and Context of the Urgent Need for this Special Issue, (SI)

The increasing popularity of online commerce companies such as Amazon, Alibaba, Ali Express and eBay has increased the global demand for the delivery of products directly to customers. This growing demand is accompanied by the increasing importance of Reverse Logistics (RL), from which purchased goods are returned to sellers for a variety of reasons. While this accounts for approximately 30% of the demand (Panigrahi et al., 2018), the management of returned goods comes with multiple challenges. Upon the return of a product that may be defective or no longer needed, a RL system has to keep track of it. This represents an additional cost (Queiroz and Fosso Wamba, 2019), in which in this case, Blockchain Technology (BCT) can be used to create an efficient management system that is capable of covering all aspects from the management of recalled goods, to their placement back in the inventory and/or their resale, repair, recycling, remanufacturing, repurposing, warranty and disposal (Saberi et al., 2019).

With the progress of information and communication technologies, massive quantities of data are generated and shared through connected devices. This can help organizations to restructure their supply chain networks and make them more responsive and potentially more socially responsible (Mukherjee, et al., 2021). However, data security is increasingly a major concern across supply chain networks. The usage of BCT can help them to develop and use a robust approach to protect them from unwanted risks. Unique features of BCT such as security, privacy, smart contracts and the ability to overcome duplicity and fraud in transactions are attracting organisations to integrate it into their forward and reverse supply chains (Khan et al., 2021). With the transparency offered by BCT, there can be improvements in the quality control of raw materials and products as well as improvements in inventory management. In this context, the recall of goods is very different from a dissatisfied customer returning a product. This reduces the time and effort needed for a company to recall a product by minimising delays or for collecting related data, which can be used for fast and effective decision-making. Additionally, BCT can be used to assist in the recycling and management of returned products in a manner that avoids environmental damage for high-risk goods such as chemicals, electronic products and machines by assisting in the planning of product reclamation by manufacturers or recycling organizations.

Furthermore, the usage of BCT in inventory management helps to ensure product authentication as an approach to reduce the probability of products being replaced by counterfeit products. Counterfeit goods have negative impacts on the manufacturing and service provider industries because they erode consumer trust by potentially breaching product-service safety and quality standards (Kamble et al., 2020). In a traditional system, it is difficult to trace the asset life cycle and its movement from its origins to the End-of-Life management. However, by using BCT there is authentication of the history of the product, which helps manufacturers to perform predictive data analyses and ensure authentic and top-quality spare parts. This contributes to increasing consumer’s trust in the producer’s reliability and decreases wastage of materials, energy and time.

Finally, most consumers tend to purchase products based on the warranty period attached to the product and in analysing the services associated with a specific warranty type. This often requires significant time and effort. The use of BCT provides an easy way to reduce these inefficiencies by verifying and validating the user’s identity and by providing a secure space for storing personal data with maximum privacy, which prevents or reduces fraudulent activities, improves loyalty and customers’ satisfaction. It is also increasingly an efficient element in return supply chain systems. Additionally, because of rapidly increasing customer demands for greener processes, products and services, there is an increasing competitive pressure for producers to reduce production costs while retaining product quality and reliability. The scarcity of virgin materials and increased post-consumer product waste management related issues are challenging companies to restructure their reverse supply chains (Malolan et al., 2020). In this context, research on the restructuring of RL networks through the integration of emerging ICT technologies such as BCT is essential because it will help companies to withstand the shocks of future pandemics and other types of crises (Samson, 2020).

Although much has been published about BCT integration in forward supply chains, studies on BCT integration into RL is scarce. Researchers have emphasized that BCT is a relatively new tool for the management of RL, although technologies like RFID have already been previously used in the past to support RL operations (Lagorio et al., 2020). Hence, empirical studies are urgently needed to explore ways by which RL systems can be improved through the integration of BCT. Additionally, studies exploring the bottlenecks to BCT integration in sector-specific RL are scarce; hence more research is urgently needed in this context. Moreover, research into opportunities and benefits of integrating BCT with Big Data and other Industry 4.0 technologies to improve the responsiveness and flexibility of RL systems are urgently needed. Additionally, BCT-based supply chain solutions are evolving rapidly, especially in the context of the COVID pandemic. In this line,  Nguyen et al. (2020) have emphasized the need for new studies on the risks for BCT-enabled supply chains.

Some researchers have emphasised that Circular Economy (CE) implementation in organisations requires more efficient forward and reverse logistics operations which, in turn, require the integration of logistics systems with BCT (Khan et al., 2021). Research examining this realm can help organizations interested in CE implementation to formulate and deploy improved policies, strategies, and procedures. Concepts and tools related to BCT are evolving rapidly, hence the exploration of their applications in RL associated challenges is a rich research area (Morgan et al., 2016). This will help in facilitating the development of customer-centric supply chains that will provide customers with a better experience while returning products. There have been increasing industrial efforts to introduce remanufactured products in the market to support circular economy initiatives. However, its success depends upon how the customers perceive the risks associated with buying and using remanufactured products. A well-designed reverse logistics network that facilitates a smoother return process can help to build trust among customers for remanufactured products (Confente, et al., 2021). Empirical examinations of the operational benefits and risks associated with designing and implementing customer-driven RL programs and BCT solutions are urgently needed to enhance customer confidence. Currently, there is a lack of empirical research according to observations from various scholars (Morgan et al., 2016).

Some authors consider that BCT integrated practices have the potential to help develop and implement more environmentally sound solutions because they facilitate the reduction of natural resources’ usage through activities such as refurbishing, remanufacturing, recycling and reusable packaging during reverse flows (Morgan et al., 2018). It could help organizations to more effectively achieve their climate change commitments and be more resilient in the context of humanitarian crises such as the COVID-19 and other global disruptive events.  Until now, publications focused on these dynamics are at an elementary stage, particularly in the RL domain (Fu et al., 2018). It is clear that although some leading journals have published special issues on BCT integration in forward supply chains, none have published SIs on BCT integration in RL.

How can you contribute?

With a shift in customer’s shopping behaviour from a physical to an online world, the importance of reverse supply chains has increased dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. In this context, the Editors of this SI invite authors to prepare excellent scientific papers that provide insights into the progress, problems and visions for future developments in the digitization of RL networks based on the deployment of BCT and related evolving tools.

This SI will also pave the path to address the complex challenges that current RL networks are or will be facing due to and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Novel, high-quality articles presenting original research results that have not been published or considered for publication elsewhere should include, but are not be limited to the following research questions:

  • How can the integration of BCT improve reverse logistics systems?

  • How can advanced decision-making techniques improve RL systems through the integration of Industry 4.0 tools with and Blockchain?

  • How are Industry 4.0 and Blockchain concepts, approaches and technologies used to improve performance, in general, and in the last-mile pickup of returned products?

  • How will BCT influence central payment systems from the perspective of returning products through RL?

  • How will BCT affect the innovativeness and resilience of reverse logistics?

  • How can Operation Research models help implement BCT in the manufacturing (small, medium, and large scale) sectors for their returned products?

  • How can BCT, optimization techniques, artificial intelligence and Big Data Analytics be integrated for better decision-making in RL networks?

  • How can the digitization of RL networks improve coordination among various players through BCT?

  • How will the inclusion of BCT in RL influence the attitude of manufacturers and consumers and in what ways will it help to reduce wastage of time, energy and materials?

  • How will organizations, which are implementing CE, benefit from BCT enabled RL practices?

  • How can these RL approaches help producers to re-design their products or product-service systems to prevent and/or to reduce the need for consumers to return the products they purchased?

Potential research topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Blockchain readiness RL models and empirical assessment

  • Blockchain analytics for sustainable RL operations

  • Blockchain and data-driven decision-making for RL operations

  • Smart RL management using blockchain

  • Design of blockchain-based customized RL networks

  • Blockchain adoption and risk assessment of RL networks

  • Blockchain and RL supply chain intelligence

  • Performance assessment of blockchain integrated digitized RL supply chains

  • Advancements in BCT integrated RL networks for improved organizational sustainability in a data-driven environment

  • Innovation possibilities of BCT and other digital technologies for developing efficient RL networks and what will be their positive and negative impacts, and improvements in efficiency and effectivity of implementation of CEs

  • Lessons learned from the societal, industrial, economic and ecological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused rupture and non-resilience of forward and RL supply chains.  These dimensions could be creatively addressed with special emphasis upon what can or should be done to reduce risks from future pandemics and other types of crises


  • Confente, I., Russo, I., Peinkofer, S., & Frankel, R. (2021), “The challenge of remanufactured products: the role of returns policy and channel structure to reduce consumers' perceived risk”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-03-2020-0089

  • Fu, B., Shu, Z., & Liu, X. (2018), “Blockchain enhanced emission trading framework in fashion apparel manufacturing industry”, Sustainability, Vol. 10 No. 4, p. 1105.

  • Kamble, S. S., Gunasekaran, A., & Sharma, R. (2020), “Modeling the blockchain enabled traceability in agriculture supply chain”, International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 52, p. 101967.

  • Khan, S. A.R, Yu, Z., Sarwat, S., Godil, D. I., Amin, S., & Shujaat, S. (2021), “The role of block chain technology in circular economy practices to improve organisational performance”, International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, pp. 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/13675567.2021.1872512

  • Lagorio, A., Zenezini, G., Mangano, G., & Pinto, R. (2020), “A systematic literature review of innovative technologies adopted in logistics management”, International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, pp. 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/13675567.2020.1850661

  • Malolan, S., Mathirajan, M., & Tiwari, M. K. (2020), “A methodology for determining the optimal reverse flow capacities and the breakeven period for a multi products-component remanufacturing problem of an OEM”, Operations Management Research, pp. 1-16.

  • Morgan, T. R., Tokman, M., Richey, R. G., & Defee, C. (2018), “Resource commitment and sustainability: a reverse logistics performance process model”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 164-182.

  • Morgan, T.R., Richey, R.G. and Autry, C.W. (2016), “Developing a reverse logistics competency the influence of collaboration and information technology”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 46 No. 3, pp. 293-315.

  • Nguyen, S., Chen, P. S. L., & Du, Y. (2020), “Risk identification and modeling for blockchain-enabled container shipping”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-01-2020-0036

  • Panigrahi, S. K., Kar, F. W., Fen, T. A., Hoe, L. K., & Wong, M. (2018), “A strategic initiative for successful reverse logistics management in retail industry”, Global Business Review, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 151-175.

  • Queiroz, M. M., & Fosso Wamba, S. (2019), “Blockchain adoption challenges in supply chain: An empirical investigation of the main drivers in India and the USA”, International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 46, pp. 70-82.

  • Saberi, S., Kouhizadeh, M., Sarkis, J., & Shen, L. (2019), “Blockchain technology and its relationships to sustainable supply chain management”, International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 57 No. 7, pp. 2117-2135.

  • Samson, D. (2020), “Operations/supply chain management in a new world context”, Operations Management Research, Vol. 13, pp. 1-3.

Special Issue information

Submissions will be subject to a double-blind peer review process. Online submissions to Supply Chain Forum: an International Journal are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system.

Registration and access is available at http://mc04.manuscriptcentral.com/scfij

Information concerning formatting is available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?show=instructions&journalCode=tscf20

Publication schedule

  • Deadline for submissions of full papers: February 1st, 2022

  • Notification of final acceptance for publication: December 17th, 2022

  • The special issue is expected to appear in March 2023

Questions should be addressed to the guest editors

  • Kamalakanta MUDULIPapua New Guinea University of Technology, Papua New Guinea. kamalakantam@gmail.com

  • Sunil LUTHRA, Ch. Ranbir Singh State Institute of Engineering & Technology, Jhajjar India. Sunilluthra1977@gmail.com

  • Jose Arturo GARZA-REYES, The University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom (UK). j.reyes@derby.ac.uk

  • Donald HUISINGH, University of TN, Knoxville-37996, United States of America (USA). dhuisingh@utk.edu


Supply Chain Forum: an International Journal is published by Taylor & Francis Group