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Turning scrap into gold

Author William Schwarck
Date 03/10/2020

“All that glitters is not gold.”

William Shakespeare (1564–1616).

On the other hand, not everything that looks dreary, grubby or dirty is valueless.

Most motorists have passed scrapyards piled-high with car wrecks. It is here broken, rusty, old or obsolete vehicles come to die. It is the final stop for automotive or heavy-duty vehicles with up to a million or two miles behind them; the last resting place for vehicles that cost their owners tens of thousands of dollars to buy, run and service over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Yet, unknown to many is that rusty, oily, dirty and worn out parts from such vehicles –  “cores” – retain considerable value. In fact, selecting, buying and selling cores for remanufacturing constitutes much of what is important in an environmentally conscious world. Preserving natural resources, reducing material consumption, and extending the lifetimes of products all relate to the efficient handling of cores.

To simplify: without cores there would be no remanufacturing. And without remanufacturing, much of the circular economy would be a wholly different and less realistic proposition. Cores are the lifeblood of remanufacturing. They deserve to be treated with care.

The value of rusty parts

So, there are good reasons to highlight the value of these rusty, dirty or worn out parts. Here are some of them:

  • Materials savings
  • Parts affordability
  • Waste reduction
  • Carbon emissions
  • Energy savings
  • Savings in transport costs
  • Benefits to local employment

Remanufacturing cores is no simple matter. Behind the scenes, giving a component a second, third, or even a fourth life, through remanufacturing is a demanding exercise that requires in-depth knowledge, advanced technical skills, patience and care. It is hardly surprising that the average age of employees in remanufacturing companies is often well above that of many other manufacturing industries.

People and skills

As one owner of a remanufacturing company puts it: “We try to look after our people well. Their skills are not widely available. We find that once they begin working here, they stay for a long time. We’ve seen examples of a son following a father into the business – even sons of sons.”

To understand the skills required to assess cores for remanufacturing, simply imagine how they look from the outset: covered in layers of rust, grime, oil, marked by dents and scratches. Is the part good enough for remanufacturing or should it be recycled or even sent to landfill? Is there an immediate demand for the part? What model is it and what year was it made?

Increasingly, these questions can be answered through intelligent data management systems. Yet, even advanced databases are only as good as their input. Developing and continuously updating intelligent IT solutions takes in-depth expertise and not only in respect of physical attributes but also in terms of supply and demand of cores and finished remanufactured products.

Considering the often divided responsibilities from core broker to remanufacturer and OEM or OES an end-to-end IT solution remain quite rare.


What this really boils down to is the potential for combining the technical expertise offered by the remanufacturing industry and active core management designed to ensure the right supply of quality products through highly automatized IT solutions.

Converting a seemingly worn out, obsolete component to something “as good as new and sometimes better“ is no easy journey. “Better” in this case being the remanufacturer’s skills in incorporating more recent technological advances/upgrades into the original designs.

Understandably, some would claim that remanufacturing is small industrial miracle. It is certainly a step along the way towards a healthier environment for everybody.

So whereas most people just see the remanufactured component as a shining reborn product of equivalent quality and with same warranty as when new, it is more than worth remembering where it comes from. Look after the cores and they will look after you.