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Pilot city’s remanufacturing journey on solid foundations

Zhang Wei from National Remanufacturing Key Lab makes a keynote speech.

Zhang Wei from National Remanufacturing Key Lab makes a keynote speech.

NINGBO, which prides itself as China’s first pilot city to implement a smart manufacturing plan, is seeking to be a vanguard on remanufacturing to bolster the nation’s industrial upgrading.

Last week, the city held the first China (Ningbo) Remanufacturing Industry International Cooperation Forum as part of the China Zhejiang Investment & Trade Symposium, attracting 150 experts and entrepreneurs specialized in machinery remanufacturing to help its development.

Echoing a call for innovation and “green economy” as the guideline of “Made in China 2025,” the nation’s plan to forge into the world’s advanced manufacturing front by upgrading technologies while saving energy, Ningbo’s vice mayor Song Yueshun said at the forum that remanufacturing will help the city succeed its role as the “Made in China 2025” pilot city.

Topping China in over 140 industrial sectors, Ningbo provides a solid basis for remanufacturing, which aims to produce advanced machines from reused and repaired components, Song said.

Remanufacturing contributes over US$100 billion to the world’s output annually upon now, which would save 60 percent of the energy and 70 percent of the raw materials while cutting 80 percent of the carbon emissions compared with the conventional manufacturing process, said Xu Binshi, academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Such processes differ from repair and maintenance of machines which only mend the broken parts. It adopts up-to-date technologies to refresh machines, replacing the obsolete modules while adding new parts to ensure the updated products meet customers’ newest demands, a measure to extend products’ life cycles and multiply their values, said Zhang Wei, director and professor at National Remanufacturing Key Lab.

As a time-honored industrial city, Ningbo has developed eight hundred-billion-yuan industrial clusters, leading nationally in car making, equipment and household appliance manufacturing, which would provide affluent industrial know how and resources for remanufacturing, Song said.

Meanwhile he said Ningbo will “catch the opportunity” to serve the national remanufacturing market, which provides enormous potential for the years to come as China has had 8 million machine tools, over 6.5 million heavy machines and over 170 million cars.

Over 60 percent of the machines nationwide have been used for more than a decade. By the end of 2020, 1.2 million heavy machines and 12 million cars will be scrapped, predicted Su Zimeng, secretary-general of the China Construction Machinery Association.

Companies in Ningbo have been elbowing into the remanufacturing realm.

SKS Hydraulic Technology Co, a Ningbo-based hydraulic components producer, started remanufacturing four years ago to reuse its raw materials, while Ningbo Donghai Battery Co established a plant in 2013 to recycle batteries.

The hydraulic producer has reused 70 percent of its products thanks to remanufacturing, which thus not only saves its costs, but also saves the environment as it cut the use of newly made steel. The battery producer meanwhile aims to recycle over 54 percent of the batteries by 2020, helping to clear the wastes harmful to people’s health.

Questions exist though, on how to generalize such practice.

While the United States have several decades’ experience in remanufacturing China has been a fledgling. But by 2020 China expects a total of 3 trillion yuan (US$442 billion) will be generated by remanufacturing, and the government will work out over 300 rules to standardize the industry, regulate how to recycle industrial parts and how to evaluate their value and prices, according to the nation’s 13th Five-year (2016-2020) Plan.

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