Transitioning the Discrete Manufacturing Industry from a Linear to a Circular Economy

Markus Thomas Bockholt

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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Abstract

Our current economic system is fundamentally ill-structured. Its linear layout, which works under the take-make-waste premise, ignores the natural limits of planet earth, which makes its failure in the long run inevitable. 250 years after the first industrial revolution, human society sees itself confronted with consequences such as environmental pollution, global warming and critical resource depletion. There is academic and political consensus that a transformation to a sustainable, circular economy is an imperative. Circular Economy is a sustainable development initiative, aiming to eliminate the negative impact of human production and consumption on the environment. It aims at keeping raw materials, components and products in a cycle, following the example of nature. This is achieved by changing from linear material and energy flows to materials cycles and renewable and cascade-type energy flows.
First supranational laws have been passed that make discrete manufacturing companies responsible for the products they produce, and ultimately take responsibility for the point at which they reach the EoL (End-of-Life) stage and turn into waste. Over the past decades, the discrete manufacturing industry has produced and sold millions of goods to the consumer market. However, this has happened under the traditional take-make-waste paradigm without considering multiple product life cycles.
On the one hand, the conventional, transaction-based business model used here makes it very difficult to locate products at the end of their life cycle and, on the other hand, the absence of life cycle-based product design makes it very difficult to recover sufficient value. This makes EoL products a legacy problem for many producers, since economic exploitation is an unsolved problem. In contrast to the traditional forward supply chain, in which today's research and industry have great expertise, reverse supply chains, their functions and mechanisms are largely unexplored, especially with regard to EoL products.
The present thesis supports the discrete manufacturing industry in the current brown-field transition through its objective:

To understand transitional challenges and to develop reverse supply chain capabilities for closing resource loops in the discrete manufacturing industry

The insights gained in this thesis cover the most important basics needed to build a financially and environmentally sound reverse supply chain in the current transitional phase we are in. The special focus is on the short- midterm transitional phase targeting the prevalent legacy problem.
- Factors impacting the financial profitability of current EoL take-back initiative
- Supply chain strategies for the search of EoL products
- Supply chain strategies for the recovery of value from EoL products
- Maximization of resource effectiveness through utilizing product data
The solutions presented include structural supply chain elements, such as factors to be considered when designing reverse supply chains as well as supply chain strategies for the search and recovery of EoL product value. This dissertation contributes to literature in twofold ways. Firstly, contributing to existing literature on reverse supply chains with design element especially relevant for returning EoL products. Secondly, as a pioneer in classifying search and value recovery strategies enabling a structured transition in the current brownfield scenario
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAalborg Universitetsforlag
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-7210-829-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesPh.d.-serien for Det Ingeniør- og Naturvidenskabelige Fakultet, Aalborg Universitet
ISSN2446-1636

Bibliographical note

PhD supervisor:
Prof. Brian Vejrum Wæhrens, Aalborg University

Assistant PhD supervisor:
Prof. Charles Møller, Aalborg University

Keywords

  • Circular Economy
  • take back
  • resource effectiveness

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