Remanufacture vs. Repair: What is the Difference?
The United States is the largest remanufacturer in the world. From 2009-2011 remanufacturing supported 180,000 full time jobs and was a $43 billion industry in the U.S. The remanufacturing industry can pertain to anything from office furniture to heavy-duty equipment and is the key to a healthy, circular economy.
Remanufacture has many benefits and is a key component in reducing waste. It can also reduce lead times compared to ordering new parts. A lot of times remanufactured components can also be purchased at a lower price than new. Despite its many benefits, remanufacture can be easily misunderstood and even more difficult to distinguish from other repair-type processes.
What is Remanufacture?
Depending on where you look, you will get many definitions of the word. According to Merriam-Webster it is, “the rebuilding of a product to specifications of the original manufactured product using a combination of reused, repaired, and new parts.”
If you ask the Remanufacturing Industries Council, “Remanufacturing is a comprehensive and rigorous industrial process by which a previously sold, worn, or non-functional product or component is returned to a ‘like-new’ or ‘better-than-new’ condition and warranted in performance level and quality.”
Most definitions you’ll find amount to returning a component to a previous state of functionality. But doesn’t repair do that as well? If we take a look at other words that might be used interchangeably with remanufacture, things start to get a bit confusing.
How is Remanufacture Different Than Repair?
Both of the definitions above contained some variation of words or phrases like, “repair” or “returned to.” A lot of people use these types of terms interchangeably, and understandably so. Most often we use the word repair but, depending on the industry or environment, many other words can be used to describe bringing something back to working conditions. Take these dictionary definitions for example:
It is easy to see how these terms overlap. So, is remanufacture any different than repair and overhaul? It may be hard to decipher at first, but it is, and the key distinguishing factor is the resulting service life of the part.
Remanufactured Service Life Versus Repaired Service Life
When a part reaches the end of its use, you have two options. You can throw it out and buy a new one or you can try to get the existing one working again. To repair a part, you would identify the key issue causing its failure then repair that issue. If you chose to have someone remanufacture your part, that part would go through various, maybe multiple, processes and would end up indistinguishable from a newly purchased part. Each one gets the part in working order again but remanufacture practically starts the life cycle of the part all over from the beginning.
Think of it this way, say a part gives you “x” amount of working service life. When the part breaks down, simply repairing it may only give you “0.5x” in additional service life. Remanufacturing the entire part, by one or more of the methods mentioned above, would give you an additional “x” or more amount of life. Essentially, repair may only bring a part back to where it can function again for a little bit longer whereas remanufacture will bring it back to a “like-new” condition.
When to Choose Remanufacture Over Repair
To give a real-life example, say you have a print roll with some large divots and wear on the shaft. If you just did a weld repair and patched the divot it would probably function a little longer but soon breakdown again. But if you chose to remanufacture that roll by replacing the entire shaft surface with a new one; maybe you even enhance the surface with a thermal spray coating of wear-resistant material, you could extend the life of your part even further. You probably would still have to use a weld repair to fill in deeper divots before applying the new surface, but you would have a better-than-new part, machined to original equipment manufacturer specifications.
The important thing to remember when searching for a repair solution is that a remanufacture may involve a repair but a repair is not always a remanufacture.
Ask the Right Questions
For us, remanufacture and repair are synonymous because all of our repair processes result in a “like new” part. But that may not be true of every solution out there. Be clear when contacting a machine shop or repair shop and ask questions about their processes and quality standards. Don’t be afraid to ask what types of processes they intend to use and the benefits they offer.
Remanufacture encompasses a lot of things. Often times people think of car parts when it comes to remanufacture, but many industrial components can be remanufactured such as; print rolls, pumps and pump components, packaging and conveyance parts, hydraulic cylinders and much more.
Get the Best Solution
Sometimes a simple repair may be all you need to get by. But when you need more or want to extend the life of your parts, look to remanufacture to get the most for your money. You can either purchase remanufactured parts or find someone who will remanufacture the part you already own. Either way, ask the right questions and consider remanufacture the next time your machines or parts break down.