The International Conference on Remanufacturing 2017 threw up a number of stimulating discussions – not least on what the current research priorities for the reman industry should be
The need for research priorities which would bolster the position of remanufacturing was high on the agenda at the International Conference on Remanufacturing (ICoR) 2017. Held at Linköping University in Sweden, it was run in association with Scotland’s University of Strathclyde. This was the third ICoR, and the next edition - ICoR 2019 - will be held alongside ReMaTec 2019 at the Amsterdam RAI. Run by Erik Sundin, associate professor at Linköping, the three-day conference contained a wide range of papers. Ross Harris of Strathclyde, gave a presentation on improving inspection approaches within automotive reman, while Liangchuan Zhou, of Northeastern University in the US, looked at marketing research and life cycle pricing strategies for new and reman products. Erik Pettersson, sustainability manager at IT equipment remanufacturer Inrego, suggested that few materials are being recycled from IT equipment but many could be reused in products and components - although reman processes often have long process lead times, which are a challenge to reduce. David Fitzsimons, director of the European Remanufacturing Council (CER), delivered a keynote speech discussing ways that reman companies could collaborate within Europe and then led a discussion on research priorities for businesses in European reman.
Reman research priorities
The key priorities that delegates were challenged to produce (with the objective of prolonging product life) included: frameworks for the use of intellectual property by remanufacturers; incentives for the adoption of circular economy business models by OEMs; the implications and application to reman of the German government’s Industrie 4.0 initiative; applications for existing data to enable or improve reman activities; benchmarking product performance in reman supply chains; and incentives for end consumers to use take-back systems. Underpinning these was the idea of designing data management systems to enable product life extension – something the CER is particularly interested in: after all, if a product is designed to be remanufactured then it cannot be attacked as part of the obsolescence debate. Delegates also had the chance to get out and look at some of the issues in a practical environment. During a site visit to Toyota (Materials Handling), plant manager Anders Nielsen explained how offering reman machines did not cannibalise sales of new equipment as some in the company had once feared. In fact, sales actually rose because inventory costs fell, and because Toyota had been able to offer an immediate customer fulfilment service when they most needed it.
Definitions and standards
Martin Charter, from the University of Creative Arts and Science in the UK, explained how reman fits into the circular economy. In particular, he emphasised the need for standards and definitions – something that he is involved in developing with researchers Mattias Lindahl and Erik Sundin from Linköping. Standards published in 2017 include BS8001 (‘Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations – Guide’) and US RIC001.1-2016 (‘Specifications for the process of remanufacturing’). Patricia van Loon from the Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD in France won the award for the best paper at ICoR 2017 with her submission on comparing leasing and buying white goods for the manufacturer and consumer.