Replace and Recycle

  • November 11, 2014
  • Northern Industrial
  • Feature

With the worst of the global recession behind us, things are looking up and growth is returning. Companies are hiring again and consumers are buying more, resulting in an increased pressure on manufacturing systems. The past couple of years have seen maintenance budgets slashed and retrofits put on hold, but as demand ramps up many companies are now deciding to invest in machine retrofits and new production machinery.


With the emphasis on new system acquisitions the issue of automation disposal is largely ignored with the majority of surplus parts destined for the local landfill. With the advent of stricter waste regulations and focus on recycling there is a growing number of options available for recycling automation parts, including ones which pay you for your old parts.


Having Spares


It might seem obvious but redundant automation parts can be a good source of spares for other production machinery within the factory. One major advantage is that it can help delay the need to upgrade other production lines, particularly if obsolescence was a major driver in upgrading.


Get more life from obsolete automation


There may be cases where you could reuse your surplus automation equipment for another project. If functioning equipment has been removed as part of a larger retrofit project it may be possible to reuse PLCs or variable speed drives on another machine, perhaps where there is no budget for a full upgrade or where it is less critical. If this is part of your strategy then getting the items tested and serviced prior to putting them back into production should feature as a part of your plan to ensure longevity and reliability.


Consider secondary function


It is always worthwhile considering if the displaced parts could be used in a secondary role. For example, a redundant PLC and drive might work perfectly in a training setting to teach basic fault finding to maintenance engineers, or in the maintenance department to bench test suspected faulty modules from other machines. In other cases, the equipment might still be of use in another branch or factory.


Get concessions from the equipment supplier


Suppliers can be extraordinarily accommodating in order to make a sale, so it may be a simple matter of asking the supplier to take the obsolete hardware with them as part of the purchase agreement. The supplier might be well positioned to reuse, recycle or dispose of your old parts on your behalf.


Sell to to a specialist dealer


It is a fact that some companies are tied to a legacy system and cannot upgrade or replace in an affordable manner. This forces the manufacturer to continue running the older equipment even when the equipment is no longer supported by the original equipment manufacturer. This has lead to an active secondary user market for automation spares. Northern Industrial is one such company who specialise in refurbished automation parts. The company purchase a wide range of redundant automation spares and will even remove the parts from site for free.


“It is a win win situation” explains David Lenehan. “Firstly, the company is able to reclaim some value for the surplus parts and also know they are doing their bit for the environment. We can then refurbish the parts and continue to support manufacturers who are unable to upgrade their legacy systems.”


Donate to education


Everyone complains about the lack of skilled automation engineers so why not help out your local university, college or training provider and donate your redundant PLCs, drives or HMIs. With any donation, be sure to contact the potential recipient first and discuss the donation to be sure the recipient can actually use the gear.


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