Ivor Searle highlights the importance of remanufacturing in a circular economy

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Recycling, remanufacturing and reconditioning are all part of a Circular Economy and are separate industries, yet are often construed as being the same. So, how is remanufacturing different and why is it important for the future?

One of the world’s greatest challenges is the quest for renewable energy on a global scale, that’s capable of delivering our power needs for the next generation.

Whilst the term ‘renewable’ is widely used, the concept of the Circular Economy is not yet on the public radar to any meaningful extent. Its purpose is to preserve natural resources, reduce oil-dependent energy consumption, avoid landfilling and other forms of waste disposal and provide other economic benefits such as job creation.

In essence, a Circular Economy is one that is restorative and sustainable, aiming to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles. The technical cycle involves the circulation of materials and goods created by human activity which remain in a high-quality condition, without entering the biosphere.

Processes such as recycling, repairing, remanufacturing and reconditioning are all part of a Circular Economy but each are separate industries in their own right, yet are often construed as being the same. So, what is remanufacturing and how is it different to other aspects?

According to the Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse (CRR), the definition of remanufacturing is “the process of returning a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent to or better than that of the newly manufactured product”. As such, it must not be confused with concepts of repairing, reusing, refurbishing, reconditioning and recycling as all these terms have their own meanings.

Reusing means simply the reuse of a product without any form of modification. Repairing is fixing the faulty part of a product to restore it to a useable condition, but with no particular guarantee on the product as a whole. On the other hand, Refurbishment is mainly aesthetic improvement of a product that might involve making the product look-like-new with limited improvement in functionality. This is perhaps the closest to remanufacturing. Reconditioning means the potential adjustment to the components of a product in an effort to bringing it back to working condition but not necessarily to a completely “new” state.

Remanufacturing has a long history in the UK and in respect of the automotive industry, Ivor Searle is one of the leading exponents of remanufacturing engines and other major units, having been established for over 70 years. The in-depth process involves a complete strip-down of the engine or gearbox, cylinder head or turbocharger, testing the individual parts to ensure that they are within original design specification, restoring and replacing components as necessary, before reassembly and testing of the whole unit.

Once complete, the performance of a remanufactured product should be at least the same (or better than) the performance of the original product. From a customer’s point of view, a remanufactured product delivered by Ivor Searle should be considered the same as purchasing a brand-new product (albeit for less money.)

As one of the central pillars of a Circular Economy, remanufacturing can play a powerful role in achieving Government ambitions to achieve targets for reducing waste and improving sustainability. Substantially less energy is required to remanufacture goods, typically in the order of 85 percent less than manufacturing with the added benefit of diverting end-of-life products from landfill.

Remanufacturing and reconditioning are sometimes used as equivalent terms where engines are concerned, however they are completely different.  Put simply, a reconditioned engine is a unit that has been fully stripped or partly disassembled, cleaned and may have had some damaged components replaced prior to being rebuilt.

In contrast, a remanufactured engine has been returned to the vehicle manufacturer’s original factory specification.  Furthermore, a reman engine is required to meet a specific standard for it to be described as such under BSI AU 257:2002. This is a British Standard Automobile Series Code of Practice that applies to the remanufacturing of internal combustion engines.  The standard fully details the procedures and operations for the remanufacturing of both spark (petrol) and compression ignition (diesel) engines.

These processes include the detailed inspection and checking of components against manufacturer tolerances.  Key parts, including pistons and ring sets, big and small end bearings and bushes, as well as gaskets, seals, timing chains and drive belts are all required to be renewed, while items such as tensioners and dampers are also required to be inspected and replaced if necessary.

Further important operations, such as intensive cleaning, crack testing machined components and the deburring of reworked oil pathways, are also undertaken to ensure the original specification of the engine is achieved with full reliability. In addition to having all key clearances, tolerances and end floats checked after assembly, the standard also requires complete engines to be checked for oil pressure and compression.

Reman engines built by Ivor Searle also offer the additional advantage of having their own unique serial number stated in the unit’s accompanying documentation that details all of the components that have been renewed, the remanufacturing completion date and test records, as well as pre-installation and model-specific instructions (where required) for the workshop.

Of course, as engines become more durable and technologically complex, particularly in respect of electronics, this will present new challenges to automotive remanufacturers. The drive towards greater efficiency and production flexibility is continuous at Ivor Searle with the objective of remaining extremely cost competitive and as sustainable as possible.

For fleet and garage owners, the key question is, “Why buy a new engine or major unit when we can have a remanufactured one from Ivor Searle?” Not only is workmanship guaranteed with a market-leading warranty, it also makes perfect business and environmental sense.