Manufacturers can save on materials and labor by designing multiple lifecycles into their products — thus enabling remanufacturing, or the rebuilding of original products using a combination of reused or recycled parts — according to Michael G. Thurston, research faculty and technical director at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability.
“Generally, your margins are better in remanufacturing because there is less effort and less material costs than with manufacturing new,” Thurston said in an interview on ASME.org. “The traditional linear production process is you manufacture, the customer gets the product, they use it through one lifecycle, then they throw it away.”
In January the US Department of Education announced plans for its fifth DOE-led institute in the Manufacturing USA network: a sustainable manufacturing institute that will focus on reducing the cost of technologies needed to reuse, recycle and remanufacture materials.
The $140 million Reducing Embodied-energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute, which will be headquartered in Rochester, New York, aims to achieve a 50 percent improvement in overall energy efficiency by 2027, which could save manufacturers’ billions of dollars, the DOE says.
More than 100 partners including Dell, Nike, Resource Recycling Systems and ThinkStep have committed to help fund REMADE.
Extracting raw materials like steel and aluminum for manufacturing is energy intensive, as is the manufacturing process used to make products with these materials. By enabling recycling and remanufacturing, REMADE aims to reduce life-cycle energy consumption for products and improve overall manufacturing efficiencies.
This will enable business benefits for industries across sectors, Thurston told ASME. “If we design products that can be taken apart and reconditioned more cost effectively, that makes remanufacturing more competitive,” he said.
For example: how to reduce cleaning costs associated with heavy duty component cleaning? Automotive and other parts at end of life are often rusty, oily and very dirty. This means one of the first core processes in remanufacturing is cleaning all the contamination, Thurston said. “By reducing that cost, we can improve the overall economics. So cleaning technology is one of the technologies that the institute plans to look at.”