Opportunities and threats in providing remote access to manufacturing-related environments

Call for papers for: Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

Submissions Deadline: 31st January 2022


The weekly number of new confirmed cases of covid-19 pandemic have been steadily and dangerously increasing worldwide from the beginning of 2020. As a consequence, public and private organizations, in various service and industry sectors, are striving to provide remote access to their facilities in order to guarantee continuity to their operations and to properly and safely deliver their products and services.

In fact, in order to contain the spread of new coronavirus, many governments all over world are adopting preventive measures mainly intended to limit as much as possible and to make safer social interactions. The effect of such measures on daily work activities is variable and strongly depending on the activity being considered. While being trivial on the activities that could be performed in virtual presence, it appears to be very impactful on those activities that require physical presence or a direct interaction with physical resources such as shop floors, warehouses, plants and teaching/research laboratories.

Since many years, a great research effort concerns with issues related to remote access to physical systems. This research domain turns out to be at the same time vast and multidisciplinary as a consequence of the various aspects and issues involved. Most of these research activities, however, concerned with the Virtual and Remote Labs (VRLs) for educational purposes. These labs differ substantially from the traditional hands-on laboratories and could be of several types, such as online, simulative, virtual, remote and hybrid labs. In this context, the concept of lab network has also arisen as a set of two or more labs that cooperates for a certain amount of time for a common purpose or benefit, especially by sharing resources, or by using a common organization, platform, architecture, or purpose (e.g. teaching or research).

Unfortunately, the long established literature on VRLs does not match with an analogous and structured research effort tackling the problems of remote access to other equally important physical resources such as shop floors, warehouses, production plants. In general, when facing the problem of remotely accessing and controlling a physical resource, several design and implementation issues are to be tackled. The main of which are: automation of equipment; configuration of a proper network architecture, safety of operators, people and assets, and data security.

From a manufacturing perspective, several concepts might be connected to the remote-access to physical systems: as an example, the concept of cloud manufacturing has emerged in the last decade, which is based on the integration of new generation information technologies with advanced manufacturing methods, such as networked and virtual manufacturing systems. Also, other important research streams involves the reconfigurable and flexible manufacturing systems. Lastly, another relevant and recent trend that has been pioneered by VRLs and lab networks is the concept of servitization, that is the integrated offering of product and services, with a clear emphasis on the latter one. Servitization, also linked to the various ‘as-a-service’ approaches, also known with the acronym ‘X-as-a-Service’, appears to be both a pivotal element in modern economies, and a growing and competition strategy for manufacturing companies. All these concepts and trends were anticipated by VRLs and lab networks, and therefore we strongly believe that a contamination of this research field with the broad stream of manufacturing research could be particularly fruitful.

In regard to the problem of remote-accessing to physical systems, a great leap forward may also possible by taking advantage of the IT technologies that feature the Industry 4.0 scenario, such as, for example, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality, Big Data, Cloud Computing, and Digital Twins. In fact, the availability of connected and intelligent physical resources has sometimes blurred the distinction between real and digital world by providing their seamless integration. Also considering the current general trend of economy that is moving an increasing share of our lives from the physical to the digital world, a growing interest around the many problems of providing remote access to physical systems is to be expected.

This special issue is centered on that latter topic with the aim of gathering experiences, researches and case studies coming from the more diverse contexts and geographical areas. We are urging academics and professionals to share their knowledge in order to start the journey toward the creation of a systemic foundation for remote access to physical systems. Despite the variety of the disciplines and problems involved, systematic and unifying research efforts would benefit and effectively speed up the overall process of providing remote access, operability and control to physical systems. Moreover, the analogy of problems faced in very different settings would serve as a common denominator to transfer of knowledge across various domains.

Potential topics

In particular, we seek original contributions in the following areas:

  • Applications & Experiences of remote-access, operability and control of physical systems
  • Architectures and models for remote access, operability and control of physical systems
  • Augmented & Mixed Reality
  • Cloud and IoT services connected to physical systems
  • Cloud manufacturing
  • Collaborative and cross-reality applications to physical systems
  • Cyber Physical Systems
  • Data Science in remote access of physical resources
  • Evaluation of remote access solutions to physical resources
  • Flexible manufacturing systems
  • Hardware and software in remote-access and smart systems
  • IoT networks and security
  • Manufacturing-as-a-Service - MaaS
  • Networked and virtual manufacturing systems
  • Process Visualization & Virtual Instrumentation
  • Reconfigurable systems and manufacturing
  • Remote access to physical systems for academic education and industrial training
  • Virtualization and automation of supply chain management
  • X-as-a-Service or ‘as-a-Service’ approach

Submissions Information

Submissions are to be made through the JMTM ScholarOne manuscript submission portal, and authors are encouraged to consult the journal's author guidelines. The deadline for submissions is 31st January 2022. 

Guest Editors

Dr. Giovanni ROMAGNOLI

Department of Engineering and Architecture, University of Parma, Italy- [email protected] 

Dr. Mosè GALLO

Department of Chemical, Materials and Industrial Production Engineering, University of Naples Federico II, Italy- [email protected]

Prof. Annalisa LICCARDO

Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, University of Naples Federico II, Italy- [email protected]

Prof. Ralph RIEDEL

Department of Factory Planning and Factory Management, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Chemnitz, Germany- [email protected]