Is the pace of technology development a threat or opportunity for sustainability? The case of remanufactured industrial robots
Paper in proceedings, 2018
Remanufacturing has been identified as having much potential and providing a wide range of benefits. However, challenges remain for remanufacturing to be widely accepted, both from customers as well as within industrial firms. Business models for remanufacturing are complex and remanufacturing requires multiple competences across the firm. This paper is a study of the remanufacturing market for industrial products and is exemplified by a case study of a leading robot company in the US market. The study shows that rapid technology development impacts the remanufacturing possibilities and as such has an impact on sustainability. Technology development can be seen as a threat to remanufacturing e.g. making products become obsolete as well as leading to compatibility problems where it is difficult to find spare parts. Technology development also results in cheaper robots, making it difficult to provide economic incentives to buy remanufactured products. However, fast technology development can also be a possibility to firms that have well developed remanufacturing processes, as they are able to adjust to newer technologies. The study also points to the importance of cross-functional collaboration in the design phase of products, where remanufacturing needs to be considered. The article provides implications on how to manage rapid technology development in remanufacturing.