What does remanufactured mean?



What does remanufactured mean? It’s a question I got asked by a friend’s son when I was talking to him about different engineering approaches.

Have you seen remanufactured or refurbished products? They are slowly becoming more available in places like Amazon or eBay.

In the last few weeks, I have been on a journey to learn and understand sustainability and the impact of a Circular Economy

I want Earth to be a better place, and I want manufacturing companies to understand the path to Operational Excellence must include sustainability.

If you want to know how to be more sustainable and the benefits of remanufacturing for a business, keep reading.

What is remanufacturing?

In simple terms, remanufacturing is the process in which an item is brought back to its new condition.

When I talk about remanufacturing, I refer to component-level remanufacturing. A product combines different components that work in harmony to achieve something.

For example, cars and airplanes are not remanufactured as a whole. Instead, different components or subcomponents are remanufactured to bring them back to life.

An engine might have its injectors remanufactured, or a steel cog might be melted and re-machined to be used again.

A used product within the definition of remanufacturing might include:

  • A product that is close to the end of its life cycle, where the integrity is affected, reducing its efficiency.
  • A product that is compromised in any way, for example, an item under severe corrosion or after an accident.

Remanufacturing is a multi-billion dollar industry which means we can learn from the best to increase our revenue and minimize our impact.

But how do you remanufacture efficiently? What does it entail?

The 7 remanufacturing steps

Have you ever watched one of these videos?

What you see in that video is a good example of the different steps needed to remanufacture a product and bring it back to life.

These are the 7 steps required in the remanufacturing process.

Product inspection

The first step is inspecting the product.

This is about checking the product’s functionality, what works and what doesn’t. Is it achieving what it is set to achieve?

If I inspect that watch, I can tell without being a professional that it is worn out and damaged.

What is more important is to understand the functionality issues, as that will lead to identifying what parts need remanufacturing.

Product disassembly

Now that we know what might be wrong, we must dismantle the product to access the compromised components.

Component Cleaning

As you can tell, we have multiple pieces covered in debris after its use.

We must carefully clean all of those to ensure the product’s functionality and avoid any potential contamination.

Some items are discarded at this stage, like the low-cost ones. This doesn’t mean we need to throw them away, simply that it might be better to recycle them.

To clean the products we will need different techniques. Like ultrasonic cleaning or utilizing different chemical solutions and washes.

Component remanufacturing

At this stage, we know what is available to use, and everything is cleaned.

This is the most important step when we return internal components to their new functionality.

It involves testing the cleaned components for fitness for reuse and identifying the type and extent of work required to bring the component to at least its original condition.

It involves replacing parts that can’t be remanufactured due to:

  1. The component design does not permit it to be returned to at least its original functionality because of the manufacturing method or the material used.
  2. The replacement is mandatory, for example, due to legislation because of prohibited substances.
  3. The component is damaged beyond the point of remanufacturing.
  4. The remanufacture doesn’t make sense financially (too costly).

Product reassembly

We have cleaned parts and remanufactured parts. Now, what we need to do is put them back together.

It is not the same as an assembly because mating all new components differs greatly from used and new components.

Testing the remanufactured product

In this step, the whole system is tested.

We need to verify the integrity of the remanufactured product to ensure we meet the customers’ expectations!

The testing, measurement, and quality control methods are similar to those in the original manufacture. 

The difference, though, is that we need to be much more rigorous to ensure the product performs as intended.

At this stage, we assume all parts are faulty, and we need to prove that theory wrong one by one.


This is the last step in which we look at carrying out any finishing touches to the product.

It normally involves anything cosmetic or visual to give the product a brand-new vibe.

Once the finishing touches are finished, the whole system gets inspected again and then packaged in a way that clearly identifies it as remanufactured rather than new.

What products should be remanufactured?

There are no specific rules about what products can be remanufactured.

In the example above, you can see an expensive watch being brought back to life.

This process is ideal for high-value items where the components have long lead times, or there is no access to any new parts.

Oil & gas, jewelry, luxury cars, and limited edition items… are perfect candidates for it.

Benefits of remanufacturing

  1. Cost savings: Compared to manufacturing a new item, we are saving between 60% to 80%
  2. Increased margin: Even when we sell the product at a lower price because of remanufacturing, we still make more money because of the higher cost savings.
  3. Positive impact on the environment, allowing Earth to regenerate its natural resources.

As a simple example, if I had a clothing brand that sells white T-shirts with a logo, I could recycle every T-shirt I sell.

If this were the case, I would remove the manufacturing steps to the point of assembly (which is adding the logo to the T-shirt)

You can see how we get the cost savings and increased margins, right?

Disadvantages of remanufacturing

The previous example was quite simplistic. Let’s apply it now to something more complex like the watch we previously saw.

We need to invest in equipment to remanufacture and disassemble, skilled people that know the steps to remanufacture, and perhaps testing equipment.

  1. Capital expenditure to get ready to remanufacture components, the equipment needed to follow the 7 previous steps. (Initial outlay required)
  2. Higher wages and better talent are needed to execute the remanufacturing of complex/high-value products.

Before you go…

I believe remanufacturing can change the way we manufacture products.

Especially when combined with things like design for remanufacture and disassembly.

Even though, in principle, there is a cost to enter the market, the return on investment is clear when you can save up to 80% of the manufacturing costs and increase your profits.

I would like to know what you think about remanufacturing, do you have any experience to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Comment