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Remanufacturing Meets Material Handling Equipment

Giving equipment a new lease on life

Recently, there has been a surge of advertisements and commercials relating to the “greening of our world.” There also has been an increase in the number of companies promoting their eco-friendly and sustainable products to a growing crowd of environment-conscious consumers who are thinking about global change and sustainable resources.

As awareness grows and the topic continues to surface, it often causes those in material handling to wonder where we fit in and how we can contribute to the greening trend. With the initiative to “go green,” material handling manufacturers and distributors have a lot to offer. With pressures from every direction to keep costs down, provide service after the sale, secure a sustainable future and provide quality, the industry is seeking different recovery programs and solutions to meet customers’ needs and the needs of our environment.

There are multiple ways to provide a sustainable supply chain through reducing, reusing and recycling. One available method to accomplish this is remanufacturing. This recovery method has been gaining popularity in multiple industry sectors, many of which are seeing the benefits of providing and purchasing a remanufactured product.

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Scissor lift before (left) and after remanufacturing
What is Remanufacturing?
The book Remanufacturing – The Ultimate Form of Recycling by Rolf Steinhilper states, “Remanufacturing is recycling by manufacturing ‘good-as-new’ products from used products.” Another way to describe remanufacturing is the process of disassembly of products, during which time parts are cleaned, inspected, refurbished or replaced, and then reassembled in sound working condition to the original manufacturer’s specifications. Often, these products are sold at a lower cost to the end-user but with the warranty of a new product and are considered as good as new, if not better. Whether it’s office furniture, toner cartridges, automotive parts or a computer, the name remanufacturing may change, but the positive results are all the same.
Remanufacturing isn’t new. In fact, during the Great Depression, automobiles were routinely remanufactured because resources were in short supply. The automotive sector remains at the forefront of remanufacturing, and now the material handling industry is embracing the concept and the environmental benefits that remanufacturing has to offer.

Why Remanufacture Products?
With the increases in raw material prices, pressures to purchase eco-friendly products and the ability to do something positive for the environment, the question is, why not?

Remanufacturing helps the envi- ronment in many ways, in- cluding reduced energy consumption, lower pollution, decreased consumption of raw materials and less waste sent to landfills. One study by the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, found that the energy savings by remanufacturing worldwide in a year equals the electricity generated by five nuclear power plants or 10.7 million of barrels of crude oil.

Remanufacturing is an important factor for preserving our natural resources and also offers many economic advantages for the customer. Most remanufactured products are sold at a lower price than a new product, so ROI can be achieved sooner.

When products are sent back to the OEM, not only are they remanufactured to the OEM’s exact standards, but the OEM’s intimate understanding of the equipment allows for a proactive approach to component upgrades and replacement.

There may be economic benefits for manufacturers too. Many states and legislatures are expanding their environmental stewardship by proposing tax incentives for domestic remanufacturing.

Where Does Material Handling Fit?
To illustrate how remanufacturing and material handling can meet, let’s use the example of a heavy-duty scissor lift. Such a lift that goes into an industrial environment could be a workhorse that lasts for years. Constructed entirely of steel, the machine may be operating in a harsh industrial environment, three shifts a day, seven days a week. The steel most likely will not wear out, but some of the components will. There are a multitude of parts, including hydraulic cylinders, hoses, fittings and bushings, that eventually will need to be replaced, or they may shorten the life of the equipment and potentially cause a halt in production.

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Central lube system before (left) and after remanufacturing

The paint on the lift may be worn away or chipped, allowing for the first signs of rust and corrosion. Safety stickers and other operational information may now be illegible or missing. In the “cradle to grave” days, some might think the life of the scissor lift has run its course and it would most likely be retired to the scrap yard to be recycled and replaced.

In today’s “cradle to cradle” days, a scissor lift in this state is ready to be remanufactured and the core will be sent to the remanufacturer. The scissor lift will go through the common steps in the remanufacturing process—it will be completely disassembled, inspected and cleaned. Any parts that cannot be reused will be removed and replaced with new or remanufactured parts as needed. The main frame portion of the scissor lift will most likely be sandblasted and repainted. The remanufacturing process will come to a close with the scissor lift being reassembled to sound working condition, tested and performing to its original specifications. Now the scissor lift can return to industry as good as new and be put back to work.

With remanufacturing, the steel plate arms did not have to be recut, and other machining operations also were not necessary. Many of the components were reused, and no additional resources were needed to construct the large steel scissor lift.

Remanufacturing is often coined “the ultimate form of recycling.” It’s easy to see how remanufacturing recaptured the original value put into the manufacturing of the scissor lift. If recycled, energy is put into the steel to melt it, reprocess it and form it into something new. Reusing the steel for its original intent eliminates additional energy and preserves natural resources.

Ultimate Recycling
The days of bringing goods to the landfill are well behind us. Further growth in remanufacturing and other recovery methods can be expected in the material handling industry. Offering the customer the chance to decrease their expenditures and preserve resources is just one way we can build a better future. Eco-driven innovations like remanufacturing are a great first step to show a commitment to our customers and our environment.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Tonya Byzewski Meet the Author
Tonya Byzewski is sales product specialist for the scissor lift product line at Omni Metalcraft Corp., located in Alpena, Michigan, and on the Web at www.omni.com.

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