With remanufacturing, everyone wins

Posted on 22 Mar 2023 by Joe Bush

Caroline Guest is a Lead Engineer at WMG, one of the partners of the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) project, which is helping to make the UK a globally recognised centre of excellence in power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) manufacturing processes.

Here, Caroline makes the case for remanufacturing to be embedded in design and manufacturing processes and explores how electrification offers the opportunity to make the most of the social, economic and environmental capacity of remanufacturing, by building with disassembly in mind.


Reduce, reuse… remanufacturing?

As defined by the British Standards Institution, remanufacturing is: ‘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.’

Although a stalwart of the circular economy and a firm favourite for those in the manufacturing sector, remanufacturing can still be overlooked in favour of its more syllabically pleasing counterpart, ‘recycling’, something that is instantly recognisable to the general public.

This lack of public awareness has meant that the UK manufacturing, PEMD and automotive industries aren’t able to take full advantage of the economic and environmental opportunities presented by remanufacturing. According to the Carbon Trust, remanufacturing could boost the economy by £5.6bn in the UK alone. For industry, remanufacturing can:

  • Improve green credentials
  • Provide new revenue streams
  • Offer increased brand equity
  • Reduce costs of service and warranty provision
  • Protect against resource scarcity
  • Give oversight of performance of product throughout lifecycle – to inform future designs

Not only does remanufacturing have huge financial potential, but its green credentials are also unmatched by recycling. Remanufacturing can offer:

  • Reduced raw material consumption
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Reduction in CO2 emissions
  • Reduction of material sent to landfill
  • Reduced costs for the consumer

To help remanufacturing reach its potential across traditional manufacturing, internal combustion engines (ICEs) and electric vehicles (EVs), it needs a greater focus on embedding it in the early stages of education and training. Remanufacturing practices also need to permeate across roles, for example within design, to ensure that remanufacturing is considered from the research and development stage, including the ease of disassembly.

Why has the potential of remanufacturing been left to go to waste?

While recycling has become a part of the public vernacular and held up as a bastion of the circular economy, the benefits of adopting remanufacturing aren’t being realised because the word is entirely misunderstood. Remanufacturing extends the life and warranty of materials in their completed form. However, the public can mistakenly believe that to be offered a remanufactured product is to get something that won’t perform as well as a brand-new option. This misunderstanding is limiting consumer demand; a much-needed catalyst that could drive industry to act with greater urgency on remanufacturing.

The Ellen MacArthur circular economy

Similarly, remanufacturing is lacking the incentivisation needed to make more OEMs adopt it as a part of their business model. Ian Briggs, Director at Aspire Engineering, a company that has been remanufacturing for clients such as Ford for 65 years, said there’s a need for government to get behind remanufacturing: “It’s surprising how many big names haven’t heard of remanufacturing, let alone considered its benefits such as a huge reduction in warranty costs, but even those benefits aren’t enough to drive wholesale adoption. Companies aren’t optimising remanufacturing like they would if cash incentives, a levy or tax reliefs were around. We know that incentivisation is key to making this work, but it would also work alongside the desire to be recognised as an environmentally responsible organisation by customers.”

Bridging the gap between ICEs and EVs

If we’re all working towards electrification, doesn’t that make remanufacturing a moot point? Absolutely not. If everyone were to switch to an electric vehicle today, the infrastructure wouldn’t cope and the ‘slash and burn’ approach to the switch from ICEs to EVs would be environmentally questionable to say the least.

Better servicing of internal combustion engines is going to be essential during the move towards electrification. Phil Ridley, EV Project Manager at Autocraft, said: “We need to ensure that as we move towards net zero goals, we’re doing so in a practical and realistic way which takes everyone on the journey, and this will involve a range of solutions working together in sync.

“Yes, EVs offer a number of environmental benefits, but to realise this on a grand scale, we need to manage the transition and use this time to develop and enhance the technology that sits behind electrification, including EV remanufacturing. Autocraft has remanufactured IC engines since the 1970s, and over that time we have developed many remanufacturing and digital innovations which we are now adopting in our EV battery and Electric Drive Unit remanufacturing solutions.”

DER-IC (Driving the Electric Revolution Industrial Centres)

DER-IC is building a globally recognised, sustainable, UK-wide network with the relevant skills and capabilities to deliver the PEMD (power electronics, machines and drives) necessary for a net zero future in all relevant applications. The network of DER-IC is instrumental in the UK’s progress towards its 2050 net zero target and a response to the realisation of the industrial technology (IDT) revolution.

DER-IC is funded by UK Research and Innovation and was set up in 2020 as part of the Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge.

DER-IC provides open access facilities to over £300m worth of state-of-the-art equipment, bringing together the UK’s technology and manufacturing expertise in electrification research and development.

  • DER-IC is creating cost-effective, UK-based technologies and solutions, with export market opportunities, to help address and support climate change.
  • DER-IC is educating about the art of what’s possible for governments, industry, academia and schools.
  • DER-IC is an industry-led project which has so far engaged with 400 industrial organisations, as well as having 30+ academic institutions and RTOs in its network.

There are four DER Industrialisation Centre regions established: North East, Midlands, South West and Wales and Scotland

There are ten key industry sectors that DER-IC is working across: Aerospace, Automotive, Energy, Industry, Marine, Micromobility, Rail, Robotics, Truck and Bus, Off Highway

To find out how your electrification journey can be supported visit: www.der-ic.org.uk

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