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
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
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
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
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
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