All things have an end, except the circle Single use and then off to the dump: Our linear economic model exhausts vast quantities of finite resources. The circular economy is meant to change this. This paradigm shift poses a challenge to the mechanical engineering industry, but also presents opportunities, particularly through new business models.
Information and technology
As important as business models centered on maintenance and service are, the consistent recovery of materials must be a goal for the mechanical engineering industry. Two aspects are crucial for achieving this: information and technology.
The more complex products are and the more internationally networked a company is, the more costly it is to ensure information is passed on. However, even when no expense is spared, disclosing materials and composition is controversial. Many companies view these as their trade secrets.
In order for more comprehensive recycling to be possible, it must be known which materials were used where – a great challenge along the entire supply chain.
Christine Roth, Head of the Environmental Unit at the Swiss Industry Association
Processing materials requires efficient technology. This is particularly challenging with composite materials or when auxiliary materials are used.
We add an auxiliary to a material that makes it more elastic. This makes it more durable, which of course is explicitly required in the circular economy. Now we want to recycle the material, but notice that the auxiliary material is disruptive when it comes to the new product.
If the auxiliary material is left out, the original component is less durable. If it is kept in, the potential subsequent applications for the material are limited.
These conflicting goals must be resolved. To do so, what is necessary might not be squaring the circle altogether, but rather innovations in many different areas: responsible handling of raw materials, research in new materials and recovery techniques, new business models, and not least of all customers who engage in these and want to benefit from them.
Does the circular economy already play a role in development?
Christoph Rüttimann, Chief Technology Officer of the Bystronic Group expresses his opinion on the matter with a clear "yes."
Previously, Bystronic had many different types of machines. This complexity has been reduced over the past years, in favor of standardized platforms equipped with various options according to customer requests.
We are pursuing a modular approach and keeping the number of parts as low as possible. This not only speeds up assembly and makes production more cost-effective, but also facilitates maintenance and repairs.
Read the entire interview and learn more about how the circular economy is already being implemented at Bystronic.