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Remanufacturing is the rebuilding of a product to specifications of the original manufactured product using a combination of reused, repaired and new parts. It requires the repair or replacement of worn out or obsolete components and modules. Parts subject to degradation affecting the performance or the expected life of the whole are replaced. See an example of a professional automotive electronics remanufacturing flow. Remanufacturing is a form of a product recovery process which differs from other recovery processes in its completeness: a remanufactured machine should match the same customer expectation as new machines.
In 1995, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented the Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) program to promote waste reduction and resource conservation through the use of materials recovered from solid waste, and to ensure that the materials collected in recycling programs will be used again in the manufacture of new products. The EPA is required to designate products that are or can be made with recovered materials, and to recommend practices for buying these products. Once a product is designated, state and federal procuring agencies are required to purchase it with the highest recovered material content level practicable.
In 2004, the EPA published its third CPG update (CPG IV) which designated seven additional products and revised three existing product designations. One of the new product categories to be added was Rebuilt Vehicular Parts. The EPA defines rebuilt vehicular parts as "vehicle parts that have been re-manufactured, reusing parts in their original form. Rebuilt parts undergo an extensive re-manufacturing and testing process and must meet the same industry specifications for performance as new parts."
Other forms of product recovery
- Reuse implies that items are used by a second customer without prior repair operations or as originally designed.
- Repair: the process of bringing damaged components back to a functional condition.
- Refurbishing/Reconditioning is the process of restoring components to a functional and/or satisfactory state to the original speciﬁcation, using methods such as resurfacing, repainting, etc.
- Recycling is the process of taking a component material and processing it to make the same material or useful degraded material.
- Cannibalization (parts)
Many formal definitions of remanufacturing exist in the literature, but the first published report on remanufacturing, by R. Lund (1998), describes remanufacturing as "... an industrial process in which worn-out products are restored to like-new condition. Through a series of industrial processes in a factory environment, a discarded product is completely disassembled. Useable parts are cleaned, refurbished, and put into inventory. Then the product is reassembled from the old parts (and where necessary, new parts) to produce a unit fully equivalent and sometimes superior in performance and expected lifetime to the original new product".
Furthermore, the Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA) realized that communication problems can arise when people from different countries with different language skills talk about remanufacturing. Certain terms can have different meanings as definitions between countries and individuals vary. In 2013, APRA was able to solve these communication problems by publishing a common translation list in many different languages in order to unite all those who deal with the automotive industry.
- Air-conditioning units
- Bakery Equipment
- Carpet tiles
- Computer and telecommunication equipment.
- Defense equipment
- Electrical motors and apparatus
- Excavation equipment
- Gaming Machines
- Industrial food processing equipment
- Machine tools
- Musical Instruments
- Office furniture
- Office photocopiers (laser toner cartridges)
- Power bearings
- Rolling stock (railway vehicles)
- Vehicular Parts
- Vending Machines
Different types of remanufacturing
There are three types of remanufacturing activities, each with different operational challenges.
- Remanufacturing without identity loss; with this method, a current machine is built on yesterday’s base, receiving all of the enhancements, expected life and warranty of a new machine. The physical structure (the chassis or frame) is inspected for soundness. The whole product is refurbished and critical modules are overhauled, upgraded or replaced. If there are defects in the original design, they are eliminated. This is the case for customized remanufacturing of machine tools, airplanes, computer mainframes, large medical equipment and other capital goods. Because of its uniqueness, this product recovery is characterized as a project.
- Remanufacturing by recoating of worn engine parts; many engine parts, components are large and expensive and after a period of use become worn. An example of such a part is the engine block, in particular the cylinder engine bores, which must withstand explosions during piston firing. Instead of disposing of large engine blocks, remanufacturing has resulted in re-use of the parts by coating them with plasma transferred wire arc spraying (PTWA) Caterpillar known for manufacturing very large industrial trucks and machinery has started such remanufacturing programs of equipment parts using PTWA, resulting in a greener environment. Remanufacturing by recoating of parts is also very popular in the aircraft field, the geothermal pipe field and the automotive engine field.
- Repetitive remanufacturing without identity loss; in this method, there is the additional challenge of scheduling the sequence of dependent processes and identifying the location of inventory buffers. There is a fine line between repetitive remanufacturing without loss of identity and product overhaul. Again, the critical difference is that remanufacturing is a complete process. The final output has a like-new appearance and is covered by a warranty comparable to that of a new product.
Remanufacturing with loss of original product identity
With this method, used goods are disassembled into pre-determined components and repaired to stock, ready to be reassembled into a remanufactured product. This is the case when remanufacturing automobile components, photocopiers, toner cartridges, furniture, ready-to-use cameras and personal computers. Once the product is disassembled and the parts are recovered, the process concludes with an operation not too different from original manufacturing. Disassembled parts are inventoried, just like purchased parts and made available for final assembly.
Remanufacturing with loss of original product identity encompasses some unique challenges in inventory management and disassembly sequence development. Some of the open questions relate to the commonality of parts in products of different generations, the uncertainty in the supply of used products, and their relationship with production planning. The National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery (NCR3) at Rochester Institute of Technology (NY) is researching remanufacturing processes including testing standards for remanufactured products.
Rebuilding is an old name for remanufacturing. It is still widely used by automotive industry. For example, the Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA), have the new term in their name, but to be safe on their own website use the combined term 'rebuild/remanufacture'.
The term 'rebuilding' is also often used by railway companies; a steam locomotive may be rebuilt with a new boiler or a diesel locomotive may be rebuilt with a new engine. This saves money (by re-using the frame, and some other components, which still have years of useful life) and allows the incorporation of improved technology. For example, a new diesel engine may have lower fuel consumption, reduced exhaust emissions and better reliability. Recent examples include British Rail Class 57 and British Rail Class 43.
- Johnson, M. R. & McCarthy I. P. (2014) Product Recovery Decisions within the Context of Extended Producer Responsibility. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management 34, 9-28
- "Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines - Conservation Tools- US EPA".
- "Remanufacturing". Lund, Robert T., Technology review, v 87, n 2, p 19-23, 28-29, Feb-Mar 1984
- "The Reman Institute-Home".
- "Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association".