ICoR 2017

Where themes of capitalism, cannibalization and product obsolescence made headlines.

Academic conferences are sometimes less than riveting, but Erik Sundin at Linköping University did a great job of blending a cocktail from dry academic papers on obscure aspects of modelling, practical site visits and “fruity” presentations from the commercial world. We took away these three learning points to share with you:

1.  The poorest people have the most to gain financially from renting the highest quality white goods, according to Patricia Van Loon from the Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD. Dutch company Bundles has implemented her findings and its sales are growing quickly. Whilst this is an example that could give capitalism a better reputation, let’s not get sentimental just yet. In the UK, BrightHouse adopted a similar business model but in October 2017 was fined £14.8 million by UK financial authorities for abuse of its poorest customers.

2.  During our site visit to Toyota (Materials Handling), Anders Nielsen delivered a presentation on why offering remanufactured machines did not cannibalise sales of new equipment as some in the company had once feared. In fact, sales rose because inventory costs fell, and because Toyota had been able to offer an immediate customer fulfilment service when they most needed it.

3.  On day three of the conference, delegates listed 10 issues to research over the next two years. Designing data management systems to enable product life extension was an underpinning idea, and one that has links to Industrie 4.0. If a product is designed to be remanufactured it cannot be attacked as part of the obsolescence debate.

IBM will be leading a discussion on this topic for members of the European Remanufacturing Council at its Paris meeting on 27 November. Could this be a great leap forward for remanufacturing and refurbishment or – if the data management framework is badly designed – could it have a negative impact on product life extension? This challenge generated some excitement and we look forward to revisiting this and other issues at ICoR 2019 at ReMaTec in Amsterdam.

Simon Strick