“Scale without mass”: A decision-making tool for scaling remanufacturing practices in the white goods industry

Claudia Franzè and Danilo Pesce and Matthias Kalverkamp and Alexandra Pehlken
Journal of Cleaner Production
Despite the well-known benefits of remanufacturing as a value recovery strategy for end-of-life products, its implementation is still highly industry-dependent and much more complex than traditional manufacturing. Digital technologies play a key role in overcoming the complexity that currently characterises - and at the same time limits - the successful large-scale implementation of remanufacturing activities. However, they can also engender new shortcomings in the implementation of remanufacturing activities, whose effects are not unidirectional or unambiguous. In this study, we explore how digital technologies can help overcome the shortcomings that prevent the scalability of remanufacturing activities in mature and complex industries which produce highly polluting waste. We conducted a longitudinal case study on the implementation of a white goods remanufacturing project that was launched in 2016 by a leading European distributor of spare parts for household appliances. Our results show that data centralisation – which creates efficiency at a local scale – does not guarantee the replicability of decision-making processes at a large scale; in fact, the opposite occurs. The study contributes to the circular economy and remanufacturing literature by unveiling the idiosyncratic shortcomings that are triggered by digitalisation, which limit the replicability of remanufacturing activities, and by proposing a decision-making tool that exploits platform logics in order to scale remanufacturing activities in mature and complex industries that produce highly polluting waste.
July / 2023