Sustainable IT:
What’s the difference between Remanufactured and Refurbished?

imageRUNNER Advance C5500 ES

Sustainability is riding high on the consumer and business agenda. Increasingly, making business operations more sustainable means scrutinising IT infrastructure.

That’s because e-waste is a huge deal. Products such as PCs, laptops and smartphones represented 1% of the world’s carbon footprint in 2007, but this figure has already tripled and is on its way to exceed 14% by 20401.

When it comes to making sustainable choices, considerations for businesses should not just account for the carbon footprint of a printer during the product use phase but over the entire product lifecycle. This means acknowledging that carbon footprint is not a one-time measurement. It’s an assessment of everything over the entire product lifecycle, from the sourcing of the raw materials, to the product manufacturing, transportation, use and end of life processing. Canon estimates that at least 50% of the carbon footprint of a multifunction printer arises from the early raw material sourcing and manufacturing stages2, which is why a lifecycle approach to calculating the carbon footprint of a device is crucial.

This is where remanufactured and refurbished devices come in. Both are great methods of breathing new life into existing hardware and components, significantly reducing environmental impacts from the raw material sourcing and manufacturing stages of the product lifecycle3, while contributing to the circular economy. But the two shouldn’t be confused, as they’re fundamentally different. Here’s why.

What is a refurbished device?

Refurbishment is the process under which products – usually electronics and electricals – that have been previously returned to a manufacturer or vendor are redistributed. These could be ‘new’ items that were unwanted, defective products returned under warranty, or products that were due an update (often this is true of smartphones).

The process for refurbishing involves anything from running a few simple tests to undertaking a thorough clean-up and rebuild of the product. Unlike second-hand products, refurbished goods are tested to ensure that they perform and function properly. Warranties on refurbished equipment also range from matching those of their new product counterparts to being non-existent.

Refurbished products can be a good option for businesses looking to add to their print portfolios affordably, without the risk carried by unvetted second-hand devices.

How do we refurbish our devices?

Canon-approved refurbished printers, branded CU or certified used, need to meet our stringent quality and performance standards. They also need to help businesses fulfil their sustainable procurement rules.

Our refurbishing programme is run by our regional offices, reducing the carbon footprint incurred by potentially lengthy transportation from a single, centralised European location. Our local offices grade and sort devices at end of life to find machines which are suitable for refurbishment. When these devices are selected, the local refurbishment facilities rigorously test, clean and repair them, ready for a new owner.

What about remanufacturing?

The key difference with remanufactured devices is the rigour, standardisation and completeness of the process. A remanufactured machine is re-built from individual components to match the same customer expectations as those of new machines. This is achieved by rebuilding of a product to the specifications of the original manufactured product using a combination of reused, repaired and new parts.

For a product to be classed as ‘remanufactured’, it requires the repair or replacement of worn out or obsolete components and modules. It’s important to note, however, that as part of quality control during remanufacturing, any worn parts are replaced.

Our remanufacturing process

At Canon, we ensure our remanufactured devices meet our exacting standards for quality and output at every step. Our imageRUNNER ADVANCE ES range of multifunctional devices are designed to decrease resource consumption and environmental impact through the remanufacturing method.

Canon has a long history of investing in the circular economy and the ES range reduces the use of raw materials associated with manufacture by at least 90%, when compared to like-for-like new models. Here’s how it works:

  • Our best-selling models are collected from across Europe and sent to Canon’s dedicated remanufacturing facility at Giessen, Germany.
  • They are then checked to ensure suitability for remanufacturing.
  • Next, they’re stripped down to the bare frame and every component is thoroughly cleaned, checked for quality and if necessary, repaired or replaced.
  • The machine is then reassembled on a standard factory production line, using a combination of existing and new parts. Hard drives are erased and reformatted and the machine is upgraded with the latest firmware. The counters are set to zero, essentially bringing it back to as new.
  • Every remanufactured machine is also given a brand-new warranty that is the same standard as the warranties offer for new machines, demonstrating the confidence we have in our machines.
  • Finally, each ES range device is put through a series of tests and given a stringent quality control inspection before it leaves the factory to guarantee it is in pristine condition before it is sold.

Such is the stringency of our remanufacturing process, the entire ES range has achieved British Standards Institute (BSI) certification under the BS8887-220 code – The process of remanufacture – Specification, underlining our commitment to quality.

The circular economy: can your business contribute?

Remanufactured products should not be understood as “used,” “refurbished,” “repaired” or “reused.” Instead, we talk about the process of recovering, disassembling, repairing and cleaning components for resale at the same quality, performance and specifications of a brand-new product.

The process we go through with ES range devices is critical, because over 100 million printers and copiers are sold worldwide every year4. For customers that want to contribute to a circular economy or bolster their eco-credentials, a remanufactured device can take off some of the pressure on resources, while continuing to give them excellent quality of output.

By choosing remanufactured devices, a company contributes to the circular economy by extending the lifetime of reused elements and creating value. As a result, businesses that use one or several remanufactured products also contribute to a more sustainable society.

While remanufacturing is more costly than refurbishing, the end-result is a higher standard of product – which is partly due to how thorough the process is. Of course, what is right for one business isn’t always right for another, and any organisation considering green IT or more eco-friendly devices needs to ensure it doesn’t compromise on quality or function. This is why we recommend looking into what remanufacturing can offer your business in terms of balancing your social responsibility credentials with excellent business function.


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