5.08 CESMA – Circular Economy Sustainable Manufacturing 

Luca Fraccascia
Gennaio 2023
Dicembre 2023
Sapienza Università di Roma

Politecnico di Torino

5.08 CESMA – Circular Economy Sustainable Manufacturing 

Nowadays, enhancing the sustainability of production processes is one of the keys to support the transition towards the circular economy. An important issue concerns reducing the amounts of industrial waste to be disposed of in landfill and the amounts of virgin inputs used by production processes. In this regard, industrial symbiosis (IS) concerns the exploitation of wastes produced by one production process as a substitute of primary inputs required by other production processes. Currently, Industrial Symbiosis (IS) is mainly implemented among different companies but scantly investigated at the company level, i.e., within the company boundaries. This issue requires further investigation on two specific lines: (1) drivers that push and barriers that hamper the implementation of industrial symbiosis at the company level, and (2) integrated operational models to concurrently manage IS and production, at the company level. Regarding the former line, technical, economic, and organizational drivers and barriers need to be highlighted, to contribute to the IS development. Indeed, so far the literature has focused on studying drivers and barriers at the inter-company level, while the company level has been mainly neglected. Alternatively, this issue is crucial to be investigated, since companies properly integrating IS among their processes have a higher chance to establish IS relationships with other companies, thus contributing to the diffusion of the IS practice at the local and regional levels. Regarding the latter line, new operational models for IS at the company level need to be investigated, such as the development of waste inventories and their integration into the inventory management strategies of the company. Such practices could further increase the efficiency in the adoption of IS. Furthermore, this project investigates the characteristics of the manufacturing system of a single company that amplifies or jeopardises the achievable technical, economic, and environmental benefits of joining an IS. In particular, the effects of variability propagation from disassembly, assembly, and manufacturing activities will be observed in the quantities exchanged within IS relationships under different operational characteristics.
In this scenario, a paradigm shift toward the circular economy in which new integrated production and consumption strategies and new sustainable value-sharing logic along value chains are considered. Specifically, the social perspective of sustainability will also be central to the research, both as part of the technology design and management perspective stressing the importance of sustainable and inclusive manufacturing. In this research area, aspects such as worker health and safety, high-quality work conditions, the defence of inherited craftsmanship skills and knowledge, and the digitalization of hand-made processes will be considered.


This project aims at providing both managerial and technical results.

The managerial expected results of this project are twofold:

  1. The first output of the project will be a conceptual model on the main drivers and barriers of manufacturing for (i) joining in Industrial Symbiosis Network and (ii) integrating IS at the company level. Such a model will be useful to support companies in deciding whether to adopt the IS approach.
  2. The second output of the project will be a set of guidelines to improve the technical, economic, and environmental performance of the manufacturing system (i) involved in ISN and (ii) adopting IS at the company level.

The technical expected results of this project are also twofold:

  1. The first output will be the design of artificial intelligence solutions to pursue zero-defect manufacturing processes. Generally, manual inspection is tedious, labor-intensive, and often not value-added and socially sustainable. Based on circular economy principles, the project proposes a computer vision solution to identify, classify, and evaluate surface defects in products, reducing emissions, resource consumption, and waste. The solution will be an easy-to-use AI tool that will improve workers’ tasks and digital skills while avoiding tedious manual inspection. The solution is expected to have a positive impact on the environment and society by reducing defects, increasing product – quality and customer satisfaction, while also elevating workers’ tasks and democratizing AI.
  2. The second output will be the design of a quantitative model for the standardization of raw materials to improve production processes and reduce costs by decreasing the amount of waste related to materials used in production (e.g., standardization of packaging of varying sizes). Specifically, the analysis of management complexity related to the variety of raw materials involved in manufacturing processes will be pursued following a Lean Design and Variety Reduction Program technique.