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Product End of Life: Sustainability Considerations

Guest post by
Supratik Ray, Principal Consultant, Infosys


The choice between Disposal, Reuse / Repair, Remanufacture and Recycle for optimal business and environmental impacts can be made based on some of the sustainability factors listed below:

Products Considerations: Technology Life Cycle in the product category is key consideration that influences consumer choice. Products go into obsolescence primarily due to two reasons - functional obsolescence or fashion obsolescence. Categories like Home electronics, Home / Office Computers, Mobiles communication devices have seen very rapid product obsolescence and hence the choice to remanufacture at the end of productive life cycle has not seen mass adoption. Product categories like heavy engineering products and white goods have seen advances in technology, but basic technology life cycle has not changed as drastically in short time frame. Hence, it may not be unfair to assume that products with shorter technology life cycles have faster rate of obsolescence.

Product Design influences decision about repair or remanufacture. Some products, for example heavy engines and electric motors retain the core that can be reconditioned or remanufactured to provide near new functional performance. The inherent product characteristics and considerations given to recondition or remanufacture as initial design stage plays an important role.

Process Considerations: Use Process has more involvement from the end user of the products. Consumer satisfaction of using the new / reconditioned / remanufactured products plays a key role. Perceived values, total cost of ownership including use and discard phase, and involvement during use phase are critical factors that influence decision to purchase a new product or extend the life of an existing one. Product categories like personal computing and communication devices and entertainment systems have very high personal involvement. On the contrary, industrial products and appliances may score low on the same.

Manufacturing Process includes processes that may go into the value delivery network of the product from consumption of virgin resources to delivery of the product to the consumer. In the reverse cycle of recondition / remanufacture / recycle, it also includes reverse logistic considerations. The energy considerations in either the make or use phase also plays a pivotal role in some categories such as industrial equipments, locomotives etc. Energy considerations in either of the phases may influence decision making. Process improvements due to technical or business justification and adoptions of process to suit changes in end products also impacts decision matrix.

I would like to thank Vikas Jhamb (Lead Consultant, Infosys) for providing his valuable inputs in writing this blog.


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