In today’s world, the purchase of a product often marks the end of a supply chain. But the end point has to change, and change fast, as consumers question the traditional linear process of “take, make, dispose”. More and more consumers are demanding that manufacturers and retailers ensure that the products they buy do not end up as waste. “Waste can be defined as anything that has no ultimate liable owner and no economic value,” says Geneva-based professor Walter Stahel, one of the leading thinkers on the circular economy. In the circular economy, products and services are redesigned to eliminate waste and extend the life of physical assets through reuse, remanufacturing and recycling – and logistics companies have an important role to play in managing the life cycle of these assets.
New research into the circular economy to be presented in May
To this end, Panalpina and its research partner, Cardiff University, together with a number of other leading industry partners, have been awarded a substantial research grant from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) for additional fundamental research into the supply chain implications that arise from the circular economy. The research is being carried out at the Panalpina Centre for Manufacturing and Logistics Research.
“The take-make-dispose supply chains of the past are morphing into the distributed, circular and sustainable supply chains of the future,” explains Mike Wilson, Panalpina’s global head of Logistics and Manufacturing. “But the transition to the circular economy brings challenges to traditional manufacturing and retail supply chains and the grant has allowed us to intensify our research and help our customers address these challenges.”
Dr. Borja Ponte Blanco, who recently published a paper on the topic (more in a later post), is leading the new research and in May 2018, Cardiff University and Panalpina will present the early findings from it at the CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems in Stockholm, Sweden.
New member of the European Remanufacturing Council
In another move that underpins the company’s thought leadership in the area of circular supply chains, Panalpina has also become the first logistics company to join the European Remanufacturing Council. The Council represents companies from all sectors intent on extending product life cycles through remanufacturing. The aim of the Council is to grow remanufacturing sales in Europe from €30 billion to €100 billion by 2030.
“There is a new generation of consumers that questions why waste is regarded as normal and Panalpina provides the enabling services for a global circular economy that reduces such waste,” says David Fitzsimons, director of the European Remanufacturing Council. “We are delighted to welcome Panalpina as a new important Council member. The company’s contribution to the research agenda in remanufacturing is already significant and its foresight in this domain is impressive.”
As the circular economy grows more in importance, Panalpina is seeing increased demand for reverse logistics, which includes screening and repairs for its customers’ products. “We are well aware of the challenges that retailers and manufacturers are faced with as they shift towards circular supply chains, and with our global network and remanufacturing capabilities we are in a position to help them succeed in the transition,” says Wilson.
Extended Product Life Cycle Management
Panalpina provides an Extended Product Life Cycle Management service, which allows its customers to return, screen and repair products anywhere in the world. The company uses its global freight forwarding network, its logistics and manufacturing facilities and a selected network of suppliers to provide its customers with a range of circular supply chain services, including pickup and return, screening (in-house), remanufacturing (refurbishment and repair), reselling and recycling.
“The circular economy demands a new mindset and behavior from all stakeholders – consumers, politicians, manufacturers as well as third-party logistics providers. Our strategy is to enable the circular economy by providing in-house and subcontracted services through which our customers can manage their assets more efficiently. We look forward to playing our part and working with all our partners as we continue to shape the future of supply chains.”