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Call for Papers: Special Issue at the Operations Management Research (1*) journal on  »Hybrid operations, emerging technologies, and the sustainability frontier – Operational efficiency in the context of corporate social and environmental responsibilities »

Date limite de soumission : 15/01/2025

While new technologies impact all areas of business, perhaps no other is as affected as operations management (Hayes, 2002). The constant search for productivity gains, cost reduction, and increased service levels pushes companies to invest in new machines, equipment, databases, and digital tools in general (Danish et al., 2022; Mithas et al., 2022). Among the strategic reasons for that is the expectation that new technologies will grant firms with competitive advantages, or at least allow them to keep up with their competitive environments (Krakowski et al., 2023). As a result, the reality of factories and warehouses has been changing rapidly, with new functionalities being incorporated in manufacturing and storage processes (Helo and Hao 2022).

Similar situations can be observed in ports, airports, streets, and roads, with logistical operations becoming increasingly autonomous and, in some cases, completely independent of human intervention (Dekhne et al., 2019; Tsolakis et al., 2022). It is not uncommon, for example, for self-driving vehicles to transport goods and perform and process tasks (Franse and Eekelen, 2023). Industrial kitchens and fast-food chains have also been investing in automation to replace workers (CNBC, 2023), while sectors such as retail and education see the use of augmented realities as a new way of interacting with their consumers and students (Sirakaya and Sirakaya, 2022; Vaidyanathan and Henningsson, 2023;). Digital environments are equally applied in exchanges among buyers and suppliers, with specific software composing the so-called knowledge-intensive supply chains (KISCs; Chen and Wen, 2023). New technologies have also profoundly changed the operations of financial institutions, with new possibilities favouring the emergence of virtual banks and fintechs of different shades (Windasari et al., 2022).

These and other examples reflect the potential of emerging applications that facilitate faster and more reliable exchanges of information, the recording and analysis of large amounts of data, a drastic reduction in mechanical failures and greater control (Chowdhury et al., 2023). In this sense, functionalities such as blockchains (Sharma et al., 2023; Tokkozhina et al., 2023), the internet-of-things (Jauhar et al., 2023; Yadav et al., 2020), the metaverse (Chen and Wen, 2023; Queiroz et al., 2023), machine learning (Chou et al., 2023; Fracarolli Nunes and Lee Park, 2020), artificial intelligence (Helo and Hao 2022; Naz et al., 2021), digital manufacturing (Holmström et al., 2016), cloud manufacturing (Kavre et al., 2023), data analytics (Choi et al., 2022) and deep learning models (Dang et al., 2022) – to name a few – assume an increasingly important role in operations, both in individual companies and throughout their supply chains.

If, on the one hand, the idea that technologies are, in general, beneficial to firms’ operational performance became widespread, knowledge about their extended consequences for societies and the environment is still relatively vague (El Baz et al., 2022). It is not clear, for example, how the greater presence of machines and robots affects issues related to the health, safety, and well-being of employees. Likewise, an extensive understanding of the effects of automated operations on their workers’ emotional and psychological states is still lacking, leaving space for speculation and misunderstanding. The complexity of this issue is revealed by the different degrees of intensity of these relationships, which may range from cases in which human beings and technology coexist harmoniously and productively to situations where workers are completely replaced (Choi et al., 2022). In the first scenario, we can speak of hybrid operations in which a sort of symbiosis between humans and technology takes place (Inga et al., 2022). In the second, workspaces become a zone of strict, precise calculations and movements (Tschang and Almirall, 2021). The effects of technology adoption on other stakeholder groups such as investors, consumers and supply chain partners are also rarely considered.

Likewise, the literature is not yet able to balance environmental gains and losses in a satisfactory manner. This issue becomes particularly relevant as new technologies may require the consumption of large quantities of natural resources, whether in the form of materials for their own manufacture (Alessia et al., 2021), or the energy necessary to ensure their operation (Noussan and Tagliapietra, 2020). Not rarely, these matters give rise to tensions between the three dimensions of sustainability (i.e., social, environmental, economic), with economic aspects potentially requiring social and environmental sacrifices that are not always correctly identified. Within a corporate social and environmental responsibility debate, the notion of sustainability trade-offs (Fracarolli Nunes et al., 2020) gains importance, connecting possible benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency with their possible side effects for human beings and nature.

Seeking to advance in this direction, the special issue “Hybrid operations, emerging technologies, and the sustainability frontier – Operational efficiency in the context of corporate social and environmental responsibilities” aims to be a space for debate on the subject. Bringing together operations management and sustainability perspectives, we intend to collect articles fully dedicated to investigating the social and environmental impacts of new technologies, proposing solutions so that technology-based operations do not conflict with companies’ social and environmental responsibilities. In view of these objectives, topics of interest of the special issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Energy and water demands to operate new technologies
  • Increased use of sensitive materials in the making of new equipment (e.g., lithium, cobalt, silicon, aluminium, copper)
  • Waste management and recycling of batteries and outdated machines
  • Sustainability trade-offs
  • Societal pressure for change and decision-making processes
  • Stakeholders’ safety and well-being
  • Physical and psychological impacts of new technologies on employees and consumers
  • Challenges and opportunities in the human-machine interface (i.e., hybrid operations)
  • Employees’ selection, recruitment, and development for the use of new technologies
  • Personnel layoff and unemployment

Format and Submission
Submissions must follow the guidelines (this opens in a new tab) established by Operations Management Research.

Key dates
First submission window: October 15, 2024, to January 15, 2025
First review round decision: April 15, 2025
Second submission window: May 15, 2025, to July 15, 2025
Final decision – October 15, 2025
Publication expected – November 15, 2025

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