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Remanufacturing is an essential component of developing resource-efficient manufacturing industries. By maintaining and using parts and materials for an extended period, society can avoid emitting more greenhouse gases, polluting the air and water, and significantly reduce the manufacturing impact of energy use and waste production. In addition to environmental benefits, remanufacturing provides opportunities to create highly skilled jobs and economic growth. By saving more resources, firms could become more competitive, mostly if bureaucratic restrictions required companies to offset the ecological consequences of their business practices
Strategies For Remanufacturing
There are at least five ways to adopt remanufacturing as part of the supply chain and even in governmental incentives, as seen in the case of Sweden, which started to offer a tax break for people who repair their products back in 2017. Here are some remanufacturing methods:
Reuse - disassembling broken gadgets to harvest usable parts for installation in newly manufactured products.
Remanufacturing - used products restored to like-new condition after being disassembled, cleaned, inspected, and reassembled, optionally creating opportunities for products to be updated in the process.
Reconditioning - parts or components are cleaned and repaired for reuse or resale afterward.
Component Cannibalization - a limited number of components can be extracted for a single product. The excess parts can be used to repair or rebuild another unit at the malfunctioning item's expense.
Material Recycling - the reprocessing of materials to return to their raw form, so they can be used as a "new" material for manufacturing a new product.
By beginning to think about product remanufacturing possibilities, designers are already considering methodologies that include modularization, reuse of returned parts, life cycle profit, customized remanufactured products, upgradeability, and reusability evaluation quota, use of sustainable remanufactured products, and analysis of remanufacturability. This is something already being considered by big tech companies such as Google and Apple, for instance, but also well established industrial manufacturers like Caterpillar.
In other words, even before creating a product, engineers and designers are already considering the degree of reusability and remanufacturability of components, forming a more conscious cycle of production and consumption in a closer move to a closed-loop system. By adopting methods such as Industrial 3D Printing, remanufacturing not only could become easier for customers and workshops, but also cheaper to find and produce parts from simply accessing the 3D model.
Finally, there are alternatives that the manufacturer does not need to be involved in; third-party repair shops or the consumers themselves could carry out the remanufacturing. This is what RREUSE has been doing as "an international network representing social enterprises active in re-use, repair, and recycling." Repair-friendly regulations would need to be more than stimulated, as in the case of Sweden, but rather enacted and enforced (e.g., the “right to repair” bill in the United States), ensuring easy-to-disassemble products with an abundance of spare parts available to replace broken ones. This initiative could include making systems more modular, developing repair manuals, and determining the average expected lifetime of individual components.
Avoiding The Zombie Technologies Apocalypse
Alexandre Monnin, the Head of the Strategy and Design for the Anthropocene Master of Science, coined the term zombie technologies to describe "[...] technologies that are not based on renewables or are based on finite materials. They remain usable for a short time, and since their components are not part of any biochemical cycle, they end up producing waste that cannot disappear.”
Since the 20th-century, material extraction increased exponentially due to many industrial revolutions creating a production paradigm in the industrial sector. Accordingly, as the population grows, resource consumption is expected to continue to rise. Thinking in circular economy terms, remanufacturing could create a way that can dramatically reduce the strain on resources.
Society needs to invest in methods of extending product lifespans to close the loop. This would be accomplished mainly by using fewer resources, focusing primarily on reuse, repair, refurbishing, and remanufacturing. These practices can go a long way, especially when combined with new community-based exchange platforms, such as Bartering Platforms, as well as decentralized production, and innovations in transportation, mobility, and 3D printing.