Investing in remanufacturing

Rockwell Automation Australia
Thursday, 26 July, 2012

Companies are continually being challenged to improve productivity to meet consumer demand, while minimising the impact of rising costs associated with energy and raw materials. Remanufacturing allows products to be restored to ‘like new’ or better condition, extending equipment life and enhancing its performance. Julian Needham, Customer Support & Maintenance Operations Manager, Rockwell Automation, discusses the benefits of remanufacturing in the current global environment.

Production of industrial equipment requires a large investment of resources such as the operation of large factories, the mining of metals and shipping of large containers - all of which contribute to the global impact of the industrial sector. Use of landfill for waste disposal continues to increase and the natural by-products of the decomposition of solid waste in landfills are primarily the powerful greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane. With industries continually looking for ways to minimise their environmental footprint, remanufacturing provides an attractive and viable solution.

Remanufacturing products provides many advantages to the automation industry as a whole by reducing cost, energy and materials during production. By restoring equipment to meet or exceed the original performance specifications, industries can benefit from improved productivity and reduced capital expenditure and environmental footprint.

To service the growing demand for remanufactured equipment, Rockwell Automation has invested in a remanufacturing facility in its South Pacific headquarters. The facility provides customers with an increased level of support to meet their remanufacturing requirements.

Rockwell Automation has developed a seven-step remanufacturing process. The first step in this process involves receipt and verification to allow catalogue numbers, series and revision levels to be verified, and a barcode is applied for easy tracking of repair history and order status. Modules are then cleaned, inspected and updated to the latest applicable hardware and copyrighted firmware revisions. These revisions and enhancements help extend equipment life and achieve integration with newer products.

As Rockwell Automation Remanufacturing Services use a proactive and predictive maintenance approach, the third step of the process involves verification and replacement. Suspect components are tested, verified and replaced with Rockwell Automation specified quality components if needed. Damaged components will be replaced by parts that have been prescreened, burned-in and specifically selected. Reassembled equipment is then thoroughly tested by specially trained technicians and the operational status is evaluated using dedicated test equipment including parametric testing. Dynamic environmental testing then identifies intermittent problems not readily apparent, helping prevent premature failures in the future. The final step in the process prior to secured shipping of equipment is the quality control inspection. All equipment is cosmetically cleaned and visually inspected by quality control inspectors for complete compliance to Rockwell Automation standards.

The large range of exchange inventories on hand at the facility can remove the need for an average three-week waiting period, allowing customers to maintain their operations efficiently and safely. Investment in testing equipment, capabilities and staff training are necessary steps in establishing a world-class remanufacturing facility.

Remanufacturing provides a better alternative to simply recycling. Recycling a consumable product such as a glass bottle requires energy-consuming processes to reduce the product back to its basic raw materials. By doing this, the value added to the raw materials to make the glass bottle is lost. ‘Value added’ refers to the cost of labour, energy and manufacturing operations that are added to the basic cost of raw materials in the manufacture of a product. Often referred to as the ‘ultimate form of recycling’, remanufacturing recaptures the value added to the product when it was first manufactured.

Reaping the benefits of remanufacturing

As companies look to improve productivity and sustainability outcomes, investing in remanufactured products and processes not only makes economic sense but also presents many benefits to society as a whole. The rate of energy and resource consumption together with the associated waste generated by the mining and industrial sectors creates a challenge that must be addressed. Producing more sustainable products and business models is a goal that companies are increasingly aspiring towards.

Remanufactured products provide companies with the opportunity to reduce capital investment expenditure. These products are typically 30 to 40% less than new products. In simple terms, the remanufactured products are as good as new for a fraction of the cost.

The global benefits of remanufacturing are considerable - by reducing the amount of energy and natural resources required to manufacture new products, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly. Remanufacturing reduces end-of-life product waste by reducing landfill and presenting new and sustainable business opportunities for companies.

Investing in remanufacturing technologies

While there are still many challenges that need to be addressed, remanufactured engineering offers abundant potential for sustainable development as products provide the same quality at a lower cost to the consumer. One of the main challenges for remanufacturing is establishing efficient processes required for disassembling, inspecting and testing products. Companies are required to undertake detailed strategic planning to assess the feasibility of new remanufacturing technologies. While remanufacturing requires developing a different skill set from manufacturing, it also provides a high growth opportunity in a current market confronted with rising costs of energy and raw materials.

Providing customers access to an exchange inventory of remanufactured products allows companies to incorporate the product into a service system. Rockwell Automation has developed a support offering - The Lifecycle Service Agreement - to provide customers with reserved parts and repair together with remote and on-site support for discontinued products. Additionally, the remanufacturing facility also stocks old products to allow customers the time to plan for migration to newer platforms without having immediate pressures placed upon them. This is a mutually beneficial business model that allows the customer to plan migration strategies to new technology - reducing capital expenditure while also optimising the lifetime of the product.

As remanufacturing technologies continue to develop, there are a growing number of options available to companies and businesses. By investing in new technology and testing platforms, Rockwell Automation South Pacific has attained ISO 9000/14000 certification and provides quality remanufacturing and exchange services to help customers minimise downtime and keep production lines running.

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