ACtronics - the detail of remanufacturing

The reman specialists show Aftermarket around their facility in Holland

Published:  04 July, 2014

That was twelve years ago when I worked in retail and concerned mainly water pumps and alternators. Today's cars are more sophisticated, with many more electronic components, so the level of knowledge in the repair of these items has increased. However, remanufacturing is more than just repairing faults, it is about learning from each product that comes in and remanufacturing it, based on what you have learnt and then using this knowledge with every subsequent piece of work. The item that comes out of the process should work and look like new, with a lifetime equal to, if not beyond, the original manufacturer's intentions.

This is the philosophy of ACtronics, whose headquarters in Almelo, Holland, I was invited to tour. My trip allowed me to witness first-hand the journey of products from arrival to shipping, with extensive work in between to ensure they leave the premises in the best possible condition, no matter what state they arrive in. The company is well established in the UK, with its services covering a range of electrical components including ECU, instrument cluster and turbo actuator work. What I was met with, apart from a sea of purple (the brand's colour and identity), was a clean, efficient and busy workplace with staff trained in its own dedicated technologies, together with a number of machines aimed at making the process of remanufacturing easier.

Understanding

At ACtronics, each technician has their own station and tools. The atmosphere within is quiet and serene, with a garden located in the middle of the building featuring palm trees and two robotic arms, the only purpose of which is to play 'catch' with products running between logistics and diagnosis. This diagnosis is conducted on a piece of equipment known as a Vision Five. With an ECU plugged in, the machine is able to simulate a vehicle, allowing technicians to see the data when a fault occurs. For example, if the complaint is that the engine cuts out at 2,500 rpm in third gear, the ECU can be tested under these conditions to help determine where the fault may lie.

Every item that is worked on adds more to the technical database that the company is building. This means they are able to understand a fault as soon as it is reported. Some products will have common issues, areas where a wire can become weak over time; a resistor may fail and so on. The difference with remanufacturing is the process of correcting these well-known faults, as well as carrying out the original repair that was required - if this repair is not related.

During the visit we were shown one such unit where a small metal wire had become detached. Rather than solder the wire together, we were told how the board was cleaned to ensure that new contacts could be made and that would adhere better. In addition, every wire in the row, not just the one that was broken, was replaced by a machine that bonded wires to the board. They were then tested to ensure their strength before a new top casing was applied. As Sander Speek, Sales Manager at ACtronics in the Netherlands commented: "What is the point of repairing one wire and sending the unit back if it is likely that another wire, which has been subjected to the same stresses, could break and the unit will be returned sooner rather than later?"

Items that have been through the remanufacturing process are finally sandblasted to remove dirt and grime, ensuring that they look as new as possible. This is a far cry from the days I remember, as Sander notes: "When the technician opens the box, they need to know that the component inside has been cared for, repaired well and brought back to an almost new status. They may not be able to see the quality of the work inside but the look and even smell of the product out of the box should ensure they believe in the quality of work inside."

Beyond repair

The knowledge gained with every device does not just filter into the repair segment of the remanufacturing process. From the ability to remove casings through to the diagnosis process, even onto the 'no fault found' segment, learning about products provides opportunities that move the process beyond repair.

Remanufacturing therefore is a service rather than a remedy. Gone are the days of greasy products having a part replaced ready for resale, today there is a meticulous attention to detail around the fault and all potential issues that may arise. This gives the workshop peace of mind that the customer will not return for related issues, while giving the customer the satisfaction of their vehicle being repaired with a product that is as good as new.

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