Remanufacturing: giving products multiple new lives
Remanufacturing is a key activity within the circular economy. It allows for products at the end of their useful lives to be given a completely new life, while also preserving the maximum value. Remanufacturing contributes to conserving the materials contained within products, including plastics, and helps prevent the generation of additional waste. These remanufactured products are of the same quality as new products, or even better, but generally cost less.
The International Resource Panel defines remanufacturing as a standardized industrial process that takes place within industrial or factory settings, in which cores are restored to original as-new condition and performance, or better. The remanufacturing process is in line with specific technical specifications, including engineering quality, and testing standards, and typically yields fully warranted products. Firms that provide remanufacturing services to restore used goods to original working condition are considered producers of remanufactured goods.
Remanufacturing covers a wide range of industry sectors and is possible for most products. Examples include the following:
- Office furniture (such as tables and chairs)
- Printer ink cartridges
- Car components (such as engines, hydraulic cylinders, clutches and alternators)
- Aerospace components (such as engines, avionics and structural components
- Medical equipment (such as surgical tables and medical imaging devices)
Socio-economic and environmental benefits
Remanufacturing provides numerous benefits for Canadian businesses and the general public, from both a socio-economic and environmental perspective. For example, the International Resource Panel has found that when compared to manufacturing a new product, remanufacturing can reduce the need for new materials from 80 to 98%. Remanufacturing can also reduce 57 to 87% of the energy needs and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to their manufacturing. In Canada, sales revenues from remanufacturing and comprehensive refurbishment generate an estimated CAD$5 to 6 billion annually. These benefits are expected to grow with the projected increase in these activities.
Other advantages of remanufacturing, according to the International Resource Panel, include the following:
- Reduction of production costs for manufacturers
- Reduced prices for consumers purchasing like-new products
- Creation of new job opportunities
- Reduction of waste, including plastic waste
- Reduction of GHG emissions and energy consumption linked to the extraction of new resources.
Like-new products resulting from a rigorous process
The remanufacturing process is very rigorous and consists of a series of steps aimed at ensuring the quality of the product. These steps are generally the same from one sector to another, but their order may vary depending on the remanufactured product.
The remanufacturing process, notably, includes the following:
- Disassembly of the product
- Cleaning of components
- Inspection of components
- Repair or replacement of certain components
- Inspection of the final product
The infographic “Remanufacturing: like-new products resulting from a rigorous process” illustrates the cyclical process of remanufacturing a product at the end of its use. The infographic describes the different steps for remanufacturing a product. First, the product is collected, and then disassembled. Its components are cleaned and inspected, and certain parts are replaced or repaired. Afterwards, the product is reassembled and inspected. The aim is for the final product to be as good as new or better. Finally, the consumer can use the remanufactured product until the end of its service life, where the remanufacturing cycle can be repeated.
The difference between remanufacturing and refurbishment
Remanufacturing and refurbishment are two different processes and can often be carried out on the same types of products (such as medical equipment and vehicle components).
Remanufacturing is a standardized industrial process that aims to restore the product to a condition equal to or better than its original condition (i.e. “as-new”). It provides a full new service life to the product.
Refurbishment instead aims to restore the functionality of the product in order to partially extend its life beyond the expected service life. A refurbished product can also undergo a functional, technological or aesthetic update.
- Socio-Economic and Environmental Study of the Canadian Remanufacturing Sector and Other Value-Retention Processes in the Context of a Circular Economy.
- Executive summary of the socio-Economic and Environmental Study of the Canadian Remanufacturing Sector and Other Value-Retention Processes in the Context of a Circular Economy
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