Working with one another
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Working with one another

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Battery reman and why mechatronics is a great opportunity for reman were among the key topics at the conference – but collaboration to achieve industry growth was perhaps the key message, says Denise Rondini

With three tracks (innovation track, leadership track – and even race track), MERA’s Sustainable Manufacturing Conference 2018 in Michigan, US, had something for everybody.

Kicking off the event, John Chalifoux, president and chief operating officer of MERA (which has rebranded itself as the Association for Sustainable Manufacturing), said he hoped that “collectively everyone involved in remanufacturing can help expand the awareness and acceptance of remanufacturing so it will have a greater impact in the next five years than it has had in the last 20”.

With the theme, A new vision for the remanufacturing industry,the conference began at LawrenceTechnological University in Southfield. Maria Vaz, provost and vice presidentfor academic affairs, welcomed the Battery reman and why mechatronics is a great opportunity for reman wereamong the key topics at the conference – but collaboration to achieve industrygrowth was perhaps the key message, says Denise Rondinigroup of about 100 attendees sayingthat, “by definition, remanufacturing is asustainable industry”.

In remarks prior to the first presentation, Patrick ‘PT’ Muldoon, chief engineer, remanufacturing for Axle Tech, echoed Chalifoux’s sentiments adding: “The opportunities coming in remanufacturing are unprecedented. We have to get excited about what we are doing.”

Battery reman
One of the big opportunities facing the industry is batteries. Dirk Spiers, president, Spiers New Technologies, focused on the challenges and opportunities in battery reman. Spiers explained that his firm is committed to extending the economic life of advanced battery packs and related electronics.

Spiers said: “Electric vehicles will change the way we do business. Even though they are only 10% of the vehicle population today, they are growing in use.” Globally, electric vehicles are projected to grow from one million today to 15 million by 2025.

He says there is both an economic and moral imperative to figure out how to remanufacture batteries. “We are trying to set up a cradle-to-grave value stream for batteries,” he said. Spiers told conference attendees that this is an exciting time for the electric vehicle market and indicated that the sector was “just at the beginning stages” of battery reman.

Another key theme of the conference was collaboration, and Daw Alwerfalli, professor of mechanical/manufacturing engineering and founding director of the master of engineering management programme at Lawrence Technological University, spoke about the need to design for reman and sustainability.

Designing for sustainability is defined as incorporating environmental considerations into good design practice “which reduces the negative impact on the environment and human health, with careful consideration given to water, energy, building materials and solid waste”.

The goals of designing for sustainability are to: reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimise waste, and create healthy, productive environments.

Design principles
Alwerfalli explained the five basic principles of sustainable product design are cyclic, solar, safe, efficient and social. Sustainable design takes a holistic view of the product throughout its first use and subsequent uses.

One way product design engineers can aid reman is to design for disassembly (DFD or Design4Reman). This allows for the cost-effective separation and recovery of reusable components and materials. Alwerfalli explained that with DFD products are designed to be taken apart so that they can be used in later generations of products. The benefit of DFD is that components which are of good quality can be reused, metallic parts can be easily separated into categories, disassembled plastic parts can be easily removed, and parts made from materials such as glass or hazardous material can easily be separated and reprocessed.

Today’s vehicles have evolved to contain parts that are both mechanical and electronic. Mechatronics encompasses both mechanical and electronic parts and is an area that is getting more complicated everyday, Muldoon said in his presentation, Mechatronics: The Brave New Frontier. Mechatronic devices are found in a wide variety of applications from automotive to defence to medical to consumer devices like cameras, HVAC units, et cetera.

Mechatronic opportunity
Remanufacturing mechatronic systems “requires detective investigations to determine the failure mode and repairs… You have to understand what you have to test as well”. Is it the mechanical part, the electronic part or both? “You need to understand the testing that is required to certify the part back to the OE level,” he added.

Given the complexity of these systems, Muldoon said: “The component and the system must be tested together to ensure that the system works together. In today’s age, the tolerances allowed are microscopic and the system takes that into account with the computer software/ hardware driving the system. Testing today is highly technical and precise.”

Muldoon sees mechatronics as a great opportunity for remanufacturing, and said: “There will be more product for us to reman than we can get to in a lifetime. In the future, companies are going to be rated on how environmental they are and how they service their products long term. We have a rare chance to do the right thing as this new technology emerges. Reman has the opportunity to give better value to customers.”

In another session, Tom Lerner, vice president, public policy at MEMA, and Dave McGuire, director of membership and business development at MERA, shared their thoughts on how US policy and regulations are impacting sustainable manufacturing. Tariffs were a main focus of their comments with Lerner saying that in September president Donald Trump indicated he was prepared to ask that tariffs be placed on the remaining $267 billion of imports from China. Lerner also said that Trump is thinking of tariffs on automobiles and auto part imports. The finance committee, according to Lerner, has told him this is a bad idea - but as president he still can enact them.

Disruptive technology
A New Vision for the Remanufacturing Industry, a presentation by Ben Stanley,automotive research lead, Institute forBusiness Value at IBM, focused on manyof the disruptive technologies that arereshaping the industry. He cited surveyresults, which showed that 73% of allexecutives rated collaboration with otherindustries as the best opportunity forindustry growth as we progress toward2025. Software is driving technologyand many non-traditional companies aredipping their toes in the transportationindustry with autonomous and electricvehicle technologies.

An engine or engine component is sold every 15 seconds on eBay Motors, according to Jordan Hettinga, eBay Motors director of parts and accessories category management. In addition, an engine control unit (ECU) is sold every two minutes and automotive parts e-commerce is continuing to grow and is forecast to reach $14.9 billion by 2020.

He challenged conference attendees to ask themselves how they could use e-commerce to grow their businesses and to change the narrative about remanufactured parts. Ebay is seeing an increased interest in remanufactured and used parts. In addition, he said that eBay is working with MERA on a logo usage agreement that would enable eBay to promote products that are affiliated with MERA’s Manufactured Again Certification.

Core definition
Remanufacturing developments in emerging markets were explored by Mitch Zajac, patent attorney, and Quan Yang, law clerk at Butzel Long. They began their presentation by reviewing the rules and policies in place in several areas of the world that impact remanufacturing. One of the biggest issues in the global reman space is cores and how governments in various countries define them. Zajac reminded attendees that the US Department of Commerce’s Automotive Industry Resource Guide was a good reference tool for US exporters. Much of the presentation focused on developments in the Chinese market, importing used parts into China and the process of incorporating a business in China. Yang said that there are still restrictions on importing cores, but it is not as difficult as in the past.

McGuire, who moderated this session said: “China is not a complete threat. There are opportunities there and the market is opening up.” He added that China has been setting up remanufacturing centres in the country. David Overbeeke, president and CEO of Brake Parts, which has operations in China, encouraged attendees who are interested in doing business in China to use an expert and to have a Chinese national involved as a partner in the business.

In closing out the conference, Overbeeke thanked MERA for its thought leadership in changing the narrative about remanufacturing and challenged attendees to go through the process of getting Manufactured Again Certification.


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