The EU’s new Circular Economy Package is a welcome initiative that focuses the spotlight on the importance of remanufactured power and distribution equipment, says Nick Bull

The recent package of measures announced by the EU* will undoubtedly stimulate moves towards a circular economy, boosting competitiveness, nurturing sustainable growth and creating jobs. But it has to be seen as much more than that. It signals a fundamental shift in the way products can be manufactured, transforming the way the economy works within a framework that can deliver real change and business opportunity.

And as a remanufacturer of end of life products this has to be welcomed – our remanufactured power distribution equipment provides a quick, cost effective, high performance and environmentally friendly solution that meets the best practice of a circular economy that reshapes markets and improves competitiveness.

Transformers and their associated switchgear are an integral part of an electrical power network. Industrial transformers ensure that power is delivered to site at the required voltage, and industrial switchgear ensures the safe operation and maintenance of transformers and other electrical equipment.

Remanufacturing these units offers a cost effective means to complement the supply of brand new power distribution equipment.

Traditional business practices can lead to the over use of natural resources and energy and also produces large amounts of waste, potentially causing severe environmental impact. The Circular Economy concept offers the opportunity for businesses to mitigate the impact of their activities by adopting a more strategic and thoughtful approach to the use of materials, energy and labour.

According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation, the Circular Economy is ‘One that is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times’.

Recycling of materials is of course not a new concept. However, the Circular Economy process covers the whole length of the supply chain, from initial design to the product end life, ensuring the maximum value of a product is derived by retaining as much of the embedded materials, labour and energy invested in the original product.

Refurbishing or remanufacturing parts or the products themselves, and the re-use and redistribution of refurbished products, is critical in minimising the need for completely new components and units to be manufactured; with the attendant heavy demand for materials, labour and energy.

The evidence to support the circular remanufacturing process is strong. The All-party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) recently produced two reports estimating that remanufacturing typically uses 85 per cent less energy than manufacturing, and is currently worth £2.4 billion to the UK economy, with the potential to increase to £5.6 billion and the creation of thousands of skilled jobs.

The remanufacturing of transformers and industrial power distribution equipment is commercially and technically feasible when the product meets three conditions. Firstly, when the product has a high embedded value, through the materials and/or labour used in the original construction.

Secondly, when the product has a slow technological evolution rate and is not subject to legislative restrictions or can be upgraded to overcome these. Thirdly, when the product design allows for re-constructability, including disassembly, overhaul, re-assembly and testing.

Slaters have remanufactured power distribution equipment for more than 70 years – returning end of service transformers and switchgear to their original performance. Today, we have developed a business model offering customers, new or remanufactured equipment either on a permanent sale or temporary leasing basis. Slaters can also remanufacture customer equipment using our in-house stock of power distribution spares – one of the largest in the UK.

Temporary leasing can be advantageous for customers requiring short-term transformer equipment for extra power requirements, in emergencies or due to budget restrictions, as no large upfront investment is needed and can be paid for over the hire period.

Whilst newly manufactured transformers tend to be more expensive than remanufactured units, they are produced in accordance with the recent EU Ecodesign directive which requires new transformers placed on the market (after 1st July 2015) to meet strict energy efficiency requirements.

It must be stressed that remanufactured units are not subject to the Ecodesign directive, allowing us to reuse and remanufacture transformer units and components whilst being fully compliant with EU legislation.

There are challenges to remanufacturing power distribution equipment. Some customers may be unfamiliar with purchasing equipment that is not new, or perceive remanufactured units to be ‘second hand’ and therefore ‘second rate’.

However, they come with many advantages. Remanufactured units can be installed on a like-for-like basis or configured to specific orders and customer requirements. They can also be supplied with shorter lead times, are typically 35-40 per cent cheaper than a new unit, and are offered complete with an extended warranty to that of a brand new equivalent.

Offering new or remanufactured transformers and switchgear means that we can be flexible to our customers’ requirements, as well as upholding our business philosophy of trying to be ethical wherever possible by mitigating waste and reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

* http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm

Nick BullNick Bull works at Slaters Electricals. Slaters Electricals in conjunction with the Centre for Remanufacturing & Reuse (CRR) has produced a white paper on the circular economy. For a copy of the paper please visit http://slaters-electricals.com/news/power-distribution-equipment-in-the-circular-economy-whitepaper/

For more information visit: www.slaters-electricals.com