Optimising end-of-life product return

Fuser roll remanufacturing at our Eco Manufacturing Centre.

Material utilisation of products

In the year under review the total amount of end-of-life products gathered from our customers increased from 3,044 tonnes in 09/10 to 3,461 tonnes in 10/11, a 13.7% increase overall.

In 10/11 the percentage of parts and assemblies remanufactured in Australia decreased from 14.3 percent to 12.4 percent reflecting reductions in output from local remanufacture. Assets recovered in Australia increased marginally from 3.6 percent to 3.7 percent. Equipment recycled in Thailand decreased from 28.5 percent to 23.4 percent reflecting changes in the mix of components exported to Thailand (a greater amount of mechanical and electronic parts, fewer devices). In turn, parts and cartridges remanufactured or recycled in Thailand increased from 20.1 percent to 23.6 percent. Materials recycled in Australia increased from 30.6 percent to 34.1 percent reflecting the increased amount of equipment being sent for recycling in Australia (rather than to Thailand). Materials sent to land fill in Australia slightly decreased from 2.9 percent to 2.8 percent.

Reviewing product return systems

As a leader in product stewardship, we have invested significant resources in collecting and recycling our end-of-life products. Commencing in 10/11 we started a number of reviews and comprehensive assessments of our product returns systems and processes, including reverse logistics and local recycling options. This has been driven by the relocation of our Eco Manufacturing Centre, which has led to the establishment of an interim recycling solution, which involves using local recycling partners Close the Loop and SIMS. This interim solution will allow us to pilot aspects of a local approach while we design a long-term alternative to off-shoring e-waste. In 11/12, we will continue these activities to implement more efficient processes for responsible recycling of our products that meet both corporate objectives and imminent regulatory requirements.

Establishing product return measurement systems

For some years our goal has been to measure the rate of total product return from our customers to our remanufacture and recycling facilities as a percentage of new products distributed. Work is still required to improve procedures and measurement systems to ensure the volume of outgoing and returned products is appropriately recorded. The development of federal e-waste regulation will mandate that the company expedite this work in 11/12. The establishment of a ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’, servicing industry requirements under the new regulation, will provide a useful framework for that reporting to take place.

To date, we have continued to provide trend data on the weight of returned equipment, parts and cartridges and how those materials are used or responsibly disposed at our dedicated facilities or through recycling providers. Initial analyses of these data have identified gaps in knowledge that are being, and will continue to be, addressed in 11/12, and also take account of anticipated requirements of the forthcoming regulations. As a starting point, we have developed an interim process for recycling our products in Australia, commencing in second-half 2011. Experiences gained from these processes will guide the shaping of a longer-term process and provide significant inputs to building measurement systems in 11/12.

Identifying business efficiencies and new business opportunities

An objective during 10/11 has been to seek improvements in business efficiency of product return systems through a streamlined approach. Any new approach must take into account the increasing customer requirements we have to provide organisation-specific product return and recycling reports. As we develop our processes for Australian recycling, we will include requirements for better data to support more informative reporting to management, customers, government and other stakeholders.