Call for Papers on Repurposing Production Operations and Manufacturing Systems During the COVID-19 Emergency: Meeting the Demand of Critical Supplies

Operations Management Research seeks submissions for a special issue on Repurposing Production Operations and Manufacturing Systems During the COVID-19 Emergency: Meeting the Demand of Critical Supplies.

The global Covid-19 emergency has triggered an unexpected spike in demand for essential products that include, among many others, medical diagnostic equipment, clinical care equipment, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medicines, sanitising products, food, etc. For example, in regards to PPE, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 89 million medical masks, 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles are required for the Covid-19 response each month (WHO, 2020). To meet the rising global demand for medical essential products, the WHO estimates that manufacturing capacity needs to be increased by 40% (WHO, 2020). 

On the other hand, the world’s production capacity was ground to a halt in key sectors such as automotive, smartphone, consumer electronic, appliance majors and others as they have been forced to stop operations to avoid the spread of Covid-19. This resulted in factories being idle and multi-billion pound losses due to lost production capacity. For instance, in the automotive industry, by the end of April 2020, UK car manufacturers had already sustained an £8.2 billion hit (Sharpe, 2020), putting in risk thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Likewise, production losses in the European automotive industry amounted to at least 2,446,344 motor vehicles so far due to factory shutdowns (ACEA, 2020). Similar significant losses were seen in many other manufacturing industries around the world.  

Due to the shortage of essential products, governments around the world called for firms across the manufacturing sector to repurpose their production operations and manufacturing systems to produce critical products that had shortages due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Repurposing can serve as a rapid response strategy to address shortages of Covid-19 essential medical and non-medical supplies by using idle manufacturing capacity. Additionally, repurposing can offset some of the negative economic impact created by the closure of manufacturing operations. This is a win-win strategy as repurposing companies are not only able to meet their corporate social responsibility but also keep their staff employed, build their reputation and recover some of their losses, potentially securing their very survival by keeping their production lines up and running during a time of low demand. 

Some large organisations and SMEs around the world successfully repurposed their manufacturing capacity to respond to their governments’ call. For example, LVMH, a French multinational corporation and conglomerate specializing in luxury goods switched their manufacturing systems and production lines from producing perfume to making hand sanitizer. ZF Friedrichshafen, a German automotive supplier, acquired a small face mask company in China, transported the machines to its factories and started to produce 100,000 face masks a day. In the same manner, suppliers of the car manufacturer Shanghai General Motors Wuling (SGMW), which previously provided it with interior textile for cars, supplied the company with medical-grade textiles to produce PPEs. Other large organisations that successfully repurposed their manufacturing capability to produce clinical care equipment such as ventilators include the leading UK companies Rolls-Royce, manufacturer and distributor of power systems for aviation and other industries, JCB, manufacturer of equipment for construction, agriculture, waste handling, and demolition and Dyson, designer and manufacturer of household appliances.

However, despite the positive results seen in some organisations and the best efforts of many manufacturing companies, the promised results of the repurposing strategy have been extremely limited. For example, an advanced automotive company in the UK saw an order of ventilators being cancelled by the government due to the product did not comply with expected standards. Similar repurposing failures were reported in the news with personal protective equipment manufactured in both the UK and abroad. This is an international problem that has also been seen in other nations. For instance, a US automotive manufacturer in the state of New York was not able to produce and deliver ventilators on time. Overall, efforts from manufacturing companies fell short as there was still a gap between the supply of many products, and especially essential medical products, and their demand. According to a report published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, this gap is likely to continue to grow before a vaccine against Covid-19 is found (López-Gómez et al., 2020). 

Until now, much has been theorised in the news and in industrial reports about repurposing production operations and manufacturing systems. However, academic research in the field is almost non-existent, for which the repurposing of production operations and manufacturing systems has not yet been comprehensively understood in the light of worldwide emergencies, and particularly Covid-19. Rigorous academic research is, for this reason, needed to investigate the operationalisation of repurposing within the context of production operations and manufacturing systems. 

The objective of this Special Issue of Operations Management Research is, therefore, to invite academics and practitioners to contribute to a better understanding of the repurposing of production operations and manufacturing systems as a strategy to address the shortages of critical supplies during and beyond the Covid-19 outbreak and other emergencies. As a potential manufacturing model to address shortages of critical products and provide a ‘lifeline’ to manufacturing companies to survive during pandemics or other worldwide emergencies, the repurposing model is significantly different from the common production operations and manufacturing systems as equipment, technologies, facilities, manufacturing systems, staff, suppliers and knowledge need to be rapidly refocused into producing a different product, or providing a new service, for a limited amount of time. This characteristic makes repurposing complex, expensive and time-consuming. In this context, advanced manufacturing management and systems real-world applications and business models including company case studies dealing with repurposing, theoretical papers, review papers and methodological papers can provide better guidance for companies to successfully deploy a repurposing strategy. In particular, practical, novel and original contributions investigating the repurposing of production operations and manufacturing systems addressing the following non-exhaustive themes are sought:

  • Technology aspects of production operations and manufacturing systems that contribute to repurposing production operations;
  • Flexible, reconfigurable and adaptable production operations and manufacturing systems as enablers of quick and effective production repurposing;
  • Digitalisation, computational intelligence, additive and rapid manufacturing and big data analytics as methods to support production operations and manufacturing systems repurposing; 
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning applications for production operations and manufacturing systems repurposing;
  • Robotics, mechatronics and manufacturing automation and their contribution towards the repurposing of production operations and manufacturing systems;
  • Production economics of repurposing during Covid-19 and other emergencies;
  • Coordination and complexity of production operations and manufacturing systems leading to repurposing during emergencies;
  • Risk and relationship management in the repurposing of production operations and manufacturing systems;
  • Supply chain network coordination mechanisms for fostering the deployment of repurposing strategies during and beyond Cov-19 or other national or worldwide emergencies; 
  • Innovations in Industry 4.0 technology and resource management practices to enable the effective deployment of a repurposing strategy;
  • Case studies within the manufacturing sector based on the application of novel repurposing models and principles;
  • Assessment of production operations and manufacturing systems repurposing models with a focus on investigating their potential, barriers, challenges and trade-offs in the manufacturing sector when under pressure from critical emergencies; 
  • Development of benchmarking models to support comparative assessments, simulation and analysis of repurposing capabilities in production operations and manufacturing systems;
  • Definition of suitable measures for manufacturing companies to evaluate their readiness to repurpose their production operations and manufacturing systems and their progress level towards such transition;
  • Relationship with and effect of repurposing production operations and manufacturing systems on sustainability approaches such as industrial/manufacturing/green sustainability, cleaner production, circular economy, etc. 
  • Success case studies of manufacturing repurposing during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Other themes related to production operations and manufacturing systems repurposing.

Manuscript Preparation and Submission

Before submission, authors should carefully read over the journal's "Submission Guidelines" ( The review process will follow the journal's practice. Prospective authors should submit an electronic copy of their complete manuscript via the manuscript submission, according to the following timetable.

List of Important Dates

Manuscript Submission Deadline: 12 November 2021
Notification of First Decision:  1 January 2022
Revised Version Submission: 3 March 2022
Final Decision: 20 March 2022
Expected Publication: First or Second Half of 2022

For further enquiries, please contact any of the Special Issue guest editors.

Guest Editors

Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes (Managing Guest Editor)
Centre for Supply Chain Improvement
University of Derby, UK

Guilherme F. Frederico
School of Management
Federal University of Paraná – UFPR, Brazil

Rohit Joshi
Department of Operations Management,
Indian Institute of Management Shillong,
Shillong, India

Fernando Gonzalez-Aleu
Department of Engineering
Universidad de Monterrey
Monterrey, Mexico

Simon Pater Nadeem
Centre for Supply Chain Improvement
University of Derby, UK


European Automobile Manufacturers Association (2020), “Interactive map: Production impact of COVID-19 on the European auto industry”, Available at: (Accessed on 16 June 2020).

López-Gómez, C., Corsini, L., Leal-Ayala, D., Fokeer, S. (2020), “COVID-19 critical supplies: the manufacturing repurposing challenge”, Available at:

Sharpe, T. (2020), “UK carmakers' £8.2bn COVID-19 loss could spiral without retail resurgence”, AM Online, Automotive Management, Available at: (Accessed on 13 June 2020).

WHO (2020), “Shortage of personal protective equipment endangering health workers worldwide”, Available at: (Accessed on 13 June 2020).