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Fuji Xerox has pioneered recycling in its sector with a new approach to product creation.

Hitting the green button on the office copier is such an everyday occurrence that few of us would give much thought to the environmental

consequences. Were we to do so, it's likely that our thoughts wouldn't

go much beyond the use of recycled paper. But for printer and copier

maker Fuji Xerox Australia, it's not just the paper: much of the

machine that is processing it is also likely to be recycled from old

components. Surprisingly, while the green argument is these days a

compelling one, the main motivation behind Fuji Xerox's push into

manufacturing environmentally friendly products was to enhance

profitability.

The company has had a predilection for reconditioning components of

its printers, publishing systems and photocopiers since the 1960s.

Indeed, in 1986 it had to redefine the use of the word "new" in its

customer contracts to mean "newly manufactured".

In more recent years, its Eco-Manufacturing facility in inner-Sydney

Zetland has taken this concept to a highly refined commercial level.

In a world where goods of all cost and complexity are becoming

increasingly disposable, it is demonstrating that an adherence to

ideals of sustainability can benefit the environment, its customers,

and its own bottom line. The Zetland facility reconditions more than

20,000 products a month while sending less than 1 per cent of its

output to landfill. In doing so it saves on energy and materials, and

ultimately on the cost of producing devices that are nevertheless

guaranteed to be as good as new.

The centre has been written up as a case study in strategic

sustainability by professors Dexter Dunphy and Suzanne Benn at the

University of Technology, Sydney, who conducted interviews with the

managers and staff. "Fuji Xerox has championed a culture which has

fostered innovation and the growth of intellectual capital,

demonstrating that, in this case, what is good for people and the

environment is also good for business," Dunphy and Benn write.

"The principles behind this work are applicable to a wide range of

other products such as automotive systems, computers and electrical

equipment, cameras and photographic equipment and household electrical

goods."

Much of the success of the facility is owed to its manager, Dan

Godamunne, a veteran of Fuji Xerox from the UK and US. Godamunne had

actually left the company and emigrated to Australia in 1992 to work

for Ford Australia, before being approached by an old friend at Fuji

Xerox who asked whether he could help improve the profitability of

operation.

Godamunne could see how the tyranny of distance from other facilities

was impacting Australia, so he set about investigating the economics

of repairing and reconditioning units here, rather than sending them

to the scrap heap and importing new ones. It also gave him a chance to

indulge his passion for reducing waste.

"We were spending so much on material imports to service our

products," he says. "So the facility was established to see how we

could cut down the waste cycle in our product support. The corporate

objective is to go to zero landfill and do things in an

environmentally friendly manner."

The cost savings are also significant. For instance, a Raster Optical

System, a vital component of industrial copiers, costs around $12,000

to manufacture from scratch. A remanufactured device costs only $2000,

and the facility processes around 120 of these each month. Similarly,

a new developer tank costs around $1800, whereas a remanufactured unit

costs only $740.

The remanufacturing philosophy extends right back into the product

design stage, based on the three "R's" of designing for remanufacture,

remanufacturing, and recycling.

Those components that cannot be remanufactured are either recycled

locally or shipped to a Fuji Xerox facility in Malaysia. Godamunne has

gone so far as to even try sending discarded toner (which is

essentially just carbon powder) for use by a local cement company.

With remanufacturing so important to product lifecycle, Godamunne and

his team also provide input into the design teams. This makes

remanufacturing easier, and hence more economical. And while

remanufactured goods must already be rated as good as new, at times

his team has been able to suggest solutions to inherent problems with

components, leading to their upgrade and the probability that a

remanufactured device might outperform its original specifications.

"We are trying to promote a message that if we are doing it cleverly,

and bringing in the right technologies, we can remanufacture products

to be very cost efficient when compared with the new item. At the same

time, you can also re-engineer and redesign products to be better than

new."

The facility has produced more than 80 technologies and 600

remanufacturing processes. One of the most significant is signature

analysis, a patent-pending technology for testing components such as

motors, magnets and electronic components. The system is significant

in determining the true lifespan of an otherwise healthy device.

The repository of signatures and information collected is shared

around the world within Fuji Xerox, and the facility has become well

regarded for its innovative and pioneering work. The Zetland facility

is the only one regionally that can remanufacture the optical

assemblies used in many heavy-duty machines, and Japan is now its

biggest customer for remanufacturing of these devices.

What is also unusual about the facility is the lack of automated

assembly processes. While machines perform much of the testing,

assembly itself falls to the many goggled and bunny-suited

technicians. Godamunne says the complexity and variation of the work,

plus the relatively short runs for individual processes, means it is

too difficult and expensive to automate.

"Remanufacturing needs a lot more human intelligence than

manufacturing, where you get all the parts and put them together," he

says. "In this case you have to be studying and evaluating each part,

so we are relying on human observations."

But despite the benefits, Godamunne says the facility initially ran

into resistance internally from the company's service engineers, who

feared their diagnostic skills were being challenged by the facility.

"It was a case of bringing these guys around to understand the whole

technology behind this," he says.

"Once I started communicating to my team that it is not only us doing

our job in terms of saving the company money, but that we are actually

using every opportunity and doing something big for the environment,

then motivating them was very easy. We were pioneering most of the

work, and they could get very energised because it had never been done

before."

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