Online platform shows sustainable product lifecycle
Most companies perceive the pillars of development and design over the lifecycle of a product as two separate entities, but economic and environmental added value can be achieved by pursuing a holistic approach. Within the ResCoM project, Fraunhofer IPA’s Sustainable Manufacturing project group in Bayreuth worked with eleven partners to develop an integrated consideration of the supply chain, business model, product design and IT systems via an online platform. This provides companies with an incentive for reusing, reconfiguring or reselling their products after use.
A linear production system is used at most companies. The product lifecycle ends once the product becomes defective or obsolete, but it is often more economically and environmentally sustainable to recycle or refurbish these products. The aim of the European ResCoM project (Resource Conservative Manufacturing) running until the end of October was to help companies to create closed-loop product lifecycles.
Viewing the product lifecycle in an integrated way
Supply chain, business model, product design and IT systems were at the heart of ResCoM. They are decisive pillars of the closed-loop product lifecycle. Fraunhofer IPA project leader Christoph Velte explains: “For example, strollers are often so sturdy that they last at least five years, but most parents only need their model for one or two years. It would make more economic sense to repurpose strollers as time goes by or to offer leasing agreements. However, this requires the product design and business model to be structured accordingly.”
The ResCoM industry and research consortium developed an IT platform with a variety of tools that shows the user how to achieve a sustainable product lifecycle. The user can then choose which strategies suit his or her process, receiving numerous suggestions based on user data on how to reconfigure products, offer them in another way or recycle them. These can then be further developed in the tools that follow. For instance, it is possible to analyze individual products in more detail with regard to the recyclability of single components or to create a multi-method simulation to compare the economic and environmental effects of various scenarios. The datasets are designed to save information in a database that can be accessed seamlessly. For instance, with the idea development function, you can establish an approach that can be calculated in the next step with the assessment tool. There is no need to re-enter data.
Results validated in case studies
Fraunhofer IPA has validated the online platform results within the framework of four case studies. The solutions were tested and implemented at manufacturers of strollers, automotive components, consumer electronics, and white goods. For example, a pilot project was implemented by the stroller manufacturer Bugaboo for leasing their models to customers rather than selling them. This involved paying a monthly fee. This business model enables customers to swap or refit their stroller with additional parts. Velte explains: “With the pilot project we were able to identify some of the challenges of closed-loop product systems. To give a specific example, the transport costs or the condition of the strollers after use.”
Interested companies can use ResCoM’s online platform for free at: http://www.rescoms.eu/
Name: ResCoM (Resource Conservative Manufacturing)
Duration: November 2013 – October 2017
Funding: EUR 4,367 million
Partners: KTH University, Fraunhofer IPA, TU Delft, INSEAD, Ideal & Co., Eurostep, Granta Design, Bugaboo, Gorenje, Loewe, tedrive Steering, Ellen MacArthur Foundation