German firm Alec believes it has the world’s first robotised electronics remanufacturing plant. Thijs Jasink tells Adam Hill how a desire for proactivity has driven the company forward.
“Robotising the process means that errors are minimised: we offer a customised service and can immediately start offering a reman solution”
The future is now. The interior of the HQ of reman specialist Alec looks more like the sort of lair that James Bond would find himself in – a hi-tech environment which is some way removed from the traditional idea of what a remanufacturing operation should look like.
Alec, based in Germany, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ACT group - which also owns automotive reman specialist ACtronics – and specialises in reman of electronic mobility components. In March it opened a brand new, 1500 m2 facility at Eching-München, close to Munich Airport. The firm has automated and robotised its processes by using automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) for bulk remanufacturing.
“We want to eliminate human error,” says Thijs Jasink, Alec’s chief commercial officer. “AGVs do the internal logistics. AGVs allow us to have flexible processes in a quicker way. Our automated robots take the products to the relevant department, where they are diagnosed with extreme precision and remanufactured. Every step in our process is subject to strict quality tests to ensure that everything proceeds smoothly and quality is guaranteed at all times. The robot drives around with the product, and knows where it needs to go and where it needs to stop. Cleaning will be done by a robot arm.”
When its full remanufacturing operation starts, Alec’s business will employ 20 or so people. Jasink explains how the company was set up – and how it differs from the rest of the group. ACtronics’ clients tend to be garages and dealerships, but Alec’s will be OEMs and Tier 1 companies only – the sort of people who might only want large numbers of a single product remanufactured.
“The process at ACtronics is good,” he begins. “But it’s based on individual components, and batches didn’t really fit. ACT decided to form Alec – and as soon as we raised the idea we contacted our clients. We were welcomed with open arms. This has taken two years from the initial thought process.”
“The independent aftermarket will not be as it is now – it will change. And it will move quicker than people actually expect”