Remanufacturing In the Circular Economy

The Concept of the Circular Economy

The concept of the Circular Economy involves a systematic approach to a range of activities including reuse, sharing, pay-per-use, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling of products. This is done to a maximum extent in an effort to preserve natural resources, minimize energy consumption, avoid landfilling and other forms of waste disposal, and have different economic benefits such as job creation.

It also includes the processes such as repairing, refurbishment and reconditioning. So, it promotes a restorative and sustainable industrial economy where every product will be useful even at the end of its life cycle.

In order to better understand the definition of the Circular Economy, it is useful to start with a simple definition of economy, which can be defined as follows: The wealth and resources of a country or region, especially with regard to production and consumption of goods and services. 

In the Circular Economy, the design of production and consumption of goods and services is designed to allow an economy to grow and prosper, while conserving resources and avoiding environmental degradation. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading proponent of the Circular Economy, “A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.” The technical cycle involves the circulation of materials and goods created by human activity which remain in a high-quality condition, without entering the biosphere.

In the  biological cycle, renewable materials which are originally derived from the biosphere are in turn, safely reintroduced to it.

What is Remanufacturing?

Remanufacturing is one of the many aspects of Circular Economy. It is, however, often confused with other key activities in the circular economy aimed at extending the life of products or minimizing the materials and energy required to restore them.

So, let’s see how remanufacturing is different from other aspects of Circular Economy:

It worth mentioning that there is no universally accepted definition of remanufacturing. According to Remanufacturing.org.uk, the website of Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse (CRR), “Remanufacturing is the process of returning a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent to or better than that of the newly manufactured product”. So, it must not be confused with concepts of repairing, reusing, refurbishing, reconditioning and recycling as all these terms have their own meanings.

Reusing means simply the reuse of a product without any form of modification. Repairing is fixing the faulty part of a product to restore it to a useable condition, but with no particular guarantee on the product as a whole. On the other hand, Refurbishment is mainly aesthetic improvement of a product that might involve making the product look-like-new with limited improvements in functionalities. This is perhaps the closest to remanufacturing. Reconditioning means the potential adjustment to the components of a product in an effort to bringing it back to working condition but not necessarily to completely “new” state.

Finally, Recycling refers to using extracts of product’s raw materials for the production of a new product.

How Remanufacturing Works

According to Remanufacturing.org.uk, “Remanufacturing involves dismantling the product, restoring and replacing components and testing the individual parts and whole product to ensure that it is within its origin design specifications”.

That means the performance of a remanufactured product should be at least the same as the performance of the original product. So, from a customer’s point of view, a remanufactured product should be considered the same as a brand new product.

The Role of Remanufacturing in Accomplishing the Circular Economy

In order to shape a sustainable economy, governments and businesses around the world are now being encouraged to embrace the Circular Economy in an effort to conserve resources and prevent environmental degradation.

And remanufacturing, being one of the major pillars of Circular Economy, can play a powerful role in accomplishing the status of a circular economy. It is  a cost effective alternative to manufacturing brand new products while also saving energy. Substantially less energy is required to remanufacture rather than manufacture. Remanufacturing normally uses 85 percent less energy than manufacturing, and, of course, diverts end-of-life products from landfills.

Remanufacturing has many other notable benefits as well. The worldwide remanufacturing industry creates jobs for millions of people. The cost saving in the remanufacturing process benefits the end users as well. For some products, product owners receive good value returning an end of life product to its manufacturer.  One of the challenges for the Circular Economy will be to design more products for remanufacturing, and to design incentives for their return. In this regard, pay-per-use or leasing models for a growing range of products might become a useful tact to ensure the return of end-of-life products, while providing better value for customers.

References

http://www.remanufacturing.org.uk/what-is-remanufacturing.php

http://www.policyconnect.org.uk/apsrg/sites/site_apsrg/files/apsrg_-_remanufacturing_report.pdf

http://slaters-group.com/2014/05/02/remanufacturing-circular-economy/