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Sustainable IT: What’s the difference between Remanufactured and Refurbished?

Sustainable IT: What’s the difference between Remanufactured and Refurbished?

Canon Camera
Sustainability is riding high on the consumer and business agenda. Increasingly, many of the choices available to make business operations more sustainable concern the IT department.

That’s because e-waste is a huge deal. Products such as PCs, laptops and smartphones represented 1% of the world’s carbon footprint in 2007, but this figure has already tripled and is on its way to exceed 14% by 20401.

When it comes to making sustainable choices, considerations for businesses should not just account for the carbon footprint of a device during the product use phase but over the entire product lifecycle. This means acknowledging that carbon footprint is not a one-time measurement. It’s an assessment of everything over the entire product lifecycle, from the sourcing of the raw materials, to the product manufacturing, transportation, use and end of life processing. Canon estimates that 60% of the carbon footprint arises from the early raw material sourcing and manufacturing stages2. As a result, business should account not just for the in-use phase carbon footprint of a device, but also its footprint through its entire lifecycle.

This is where remanufactured and refurbished devices come in. Both are great methods of breathing new life into existing hardware and components, thereby reducing total environmental impact over the long-term, and contributing to the circular economy. But the two shouldn’t be confused as they’re fundamentally different. Here’s why.

What is a refurbished device?

Refurbishment is the process under which products – usually electronics and electricals – that have been previously returned to a manufacturer or vendor are redistributed. These could be ‘new’ items that were unwanted, defective products returned under warranty, or products that were due an update (often this is true of smartphones).

The process for refurbishing involves anything from running a few simple tests to undertaking a thorough clean-up and rebuild of the product. Unlike second-hand products, refurbished goods are tested to ensure that they perform and function properly. Warranties on refurbished equipment also range from matching those of their new product counterparts to being non-existent.

What about remanufacturing?

The key difference with remanufactured devices is the rigour, standardisation and completeness of the process. A remanufactured machine is re-built from individual components to match the same customer expectations as those of new machines. This is achieved by rebuilding of a product to the specifications of the original manufactured product using a combination of reused, repaired and new parts.

For a product to be classed as ‘remanufactured’, it requires the repair or replacement of worn out or obsolete components and modules. It’s important to note, however, that as part of quality control during remanufacturing, any worn parts are replaced.

Our remanufacturing process

At Canon, we believe that sustainability should not have to be a compromise between eco-friendly and function. So, we ensure our remanufactured devices meet our exacting standards for quality and output at every step. Our imageRUNNER ADVANCE EQ80 range of multifunctional devices are designed to decrease resource consumption and environmental impact through the remanufacturing method.

Canon has a long history of investing in the circular economy and the EQ80 reduces the use of raw materials and CO2 emissions associated with manufacture by 80%, when compared to like-for-like new models. Here’s how it works:

  • Our best-selling models are collected from across Europe and sent to Canon’s dedicated remanufacturing facility at Giessen, Germany.
  • They are then checked to ensure suitability for remanufacturing.
  • Next, they’re stripped down to the bare frame and every component is thoroughly cleaned, checked for quality and if necessary, repaired or replaced.
  • The machine is then reassembled on a standard factory production line, using a combination of existing and new parts. Hard drives are erased and reformatted and the machine is upgraded with the latest firmware. The counters are set to zero, and the machine is assigned a fresh serial number, essentially bringing it back to new.
  • Every remanufactured machine is also given a brand-new warranty that is the same standard as the warranties offer for new machines, demonstrating the confidence we have in our machines.
  • Finally, each EQ80 model is put through a series of tests and given a stringent quality control inspection before it leaves the factory to guarantee it is in pristine condition before it is sold.

The circular economy: can your business contribute?

Remanufactured products should not be understood as “used,” “refurbished,” “repaired” or “reused.” Instead, we talk about the process of recovering, disassembling, repairing and cleaning components for resale at the same quality, performance and specifications of a brand-new product.  

The process we go through with EQ80 devices is critical, because over 2.4 million multifunctional printers are sold worldwide every year, and this number is mostly made up of newly sold devices replace existing ones. For customers that want to contribute to a circular economy or bolster their eco-credentials, a remanufactured device can take off some of the pressure on resources, while continuing to give them excellent quality of output. 

By choosing remanufactured devices, a company contributes to the circular economy by extending the lifetime of reused elements and creating value. As a result, businesses that use one or several remanufactured products also contribute to  a more sustainable society.

While remanufacturing is more costly than refurbishing, the end-result is a higher standard of product – which is partly due to how thorough the process is.  Of course, what is right for one business isn’t always right for another, and any organisation considering green IT or more eco-friendly devices needs to ensure it doesn’t compromise on quality or function. This is why we recommend looking into what remanufacturing can offer your business in terms of balancing your social responsibility credentials with excellent business function.

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    1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261733233X?via%3Dihub
    2. https://global.canon/en/csr/report/pdf/canon-sus-2019-e-18.pdf