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Question:
You are the sustainability manager for a manufacturer of electric mobility scooters for the disabled. At present, your material and energy flows are entirely linear (no reuse or recycling). Your CEO has seen a presentation on ‘The Circular Economy’ and has asked you to investigate the extent to which this concept could be applied to the company and its products. You are primarily responsible for the sustainability of the manufacturing activities of the company, but your role also involves you in the planning of future products and the business model of the organisation, since all these also affect industrial sustainability.
 
1. Describe the different components used in your product and comment on the degree to which their material flows can be made circular. The main types of component are:
• Structural parts (chassis, wheels, suspension, seat assembly, etc.)
• Electrical parts (motors, switches, wires, circuit boards, batteries) and
• Miscellaneous parts (tyres, transmission, bodywork, upholstery, etc.)
 
Note: Some of the components are manufactured by your suppliers and simply assembled in your factory. This includes most of the electrical parts.
2. Describe a future sustainable industrial system in terms of the stages in the lifecycle of a typical product after the company’s material and energy flows have been made as ‘circular’ as possible.
3. For each of the types of component above, describe the short term and longer term steps that the company should take to get to the sustainable system you described above. Where possible, illustrate your arguments from case studies in the literature and indicate briefly any relevant policy implications. Deliverables to be submitted for assessment: Your report should be no more than 3000 words. Use appendices to include additional charts, illustrations and data as necessary. Appendices should be no longer than 5 pages in total.
 
The document should be produced in the style of a technical report (formal, factual and to the point). You should use a font of size no less than 10 points. How the work will be marked: Assessment will be based on the extent to which the learning outcomes listed above have been met, and the extent to which the above instructions, notes and guidance are complied with (for example regarding word limit, style, structure, referencing and citation, etc.). The criteria below relate to the current pass mark of 50%.
 
• To achieve a marginal pass of 50% to 54%, you should list the main processing steps for the three types of components, outline a future circular scenario and list a set of initiatives that the company should undertake to make the transition from a linear to circular operations, indicating the timescales over which they might be practically applied.
• To achieve a pass of 55% to 59%, in addition to the above you should suggest a bold and innovative approach to the supply, maintenance and disposal of mobility scooters, indicating how this affects the product design, manufacturing processes and business model of the company. You should also indicate the extent to which your changes are feasible in the short and longer term, highlighting any trade-offs between different approaches to industrial sustainability, for example the trade-off between longevity and ease of disassembly.
 
• To achieve a good pass of 60% to 69%, you should demonstrate the ability to critically compare different approaches to manufacturing in order to make a transition from a linear to a circular economy. You should demonstrate an ability to synthesise knowledge from relevant literature to construct responses that reveal good skills of critical analysis and insight.
• To achieve an excellent pass of 70% or greater you must demonstrate an authoritative grasp of the conceptual context of the assignment and show insights into current debates around this subject. You should demonstrate the ability to express your arguments clearly, concisely and accurately, with a high degree of technical competence. Work that is deficient in most of the respects outlined above, showing no evidence of critical analysis will be awarded an outright fail of 44% or less. A marginal fail of 45% to 49% may be awarded to work that demonstrates some understanding of the problem but where the understanding, accuracy, organisation and critical analysis fail to justify a marginal pass.
Answer:

This research paper is about the implementation of sustainability in the manufacturing of the electric mobility scooters for the disabled to replace the traditional linear flow of material and energy without any reuse or recycling. There is need to investigate the extent to which the concept of The Circular Economy can be applied to the company and its products for the purposes of future planning and business model of the company to enhance industrial sustainability. Some of the components that are used in the manufacture of electric mobility scooters for the disabled include the miscellaneous parts which include tyres, transmission, bodywork, and upholstery, the electric parts which include motors, switches, wires, circuit boards, and batteries, and also structural parts which include chassis, wheels, suspension, and seat assembly.

Some of the topics discussed in this report include a description of the components used to make the mobility scooter, description of the future sustainable industrial system, and the short term and long term steps towards the sustainable system. 

Product Components

Majority of these components used in the manufacture of mobility scooter are manufactured within the company such as structural and miscellaneous components, while others are manufactured by the suppliers and then sold to the company to be assembled to make the mobility scooter such as electrical components (Garrido, 2017). The components used in the manufacture of the electric mobility scooter for the disabled can be categorized into structural, electrical, and miscellaneous components as explained below: 

Structural Components

Majority of these structural components are manufactured by the company such as chassis, wheels, suspension, and seat assembly. The number of wheels used in the manufacture of the mobility scooter depends on the design of the vehicle being made. The wheels are used as the front, rear, and dummy in the vehicle before covering them with tires. The material flow of wheels can be made circular through recycling or reusing them after acquiring them from old and dumped vehicles. The recycling process of the wheels begins by first sorting them by removing the tires and then remaining with only the metallic rims. The next process of making the flow of wheels to be circular is reusing them to make new wheels by painting or shredding them through crushing and breaking them into tiny pieces for melting and purification (Accountability, 2011).

The melting of these rims can be done in the company by the use of huge furnace and resultant molten can be used to design other new wheels for new mobility scooters. The energy used in the process of melting recycled metal is less than the energy needed to make new rims from raw materials. The next structural components are chassis and suspensions systems. The chassis is an internal structural framework which supports the transmission system, steering system, and wheels. The types of chassis that are normally used in the manufacture of different designs of mobility scooter include backbone tube, perimeter frame, underbone, and unibody chassis. The types of materials used in the manufacture of chassis include magnesium, titanium aluminium, and steel (Benton, 2015).

The material flow of chassis can be made circular through recycling or reusing them after acquiring them from old and dumped vehicles by the company. The recycling process of the chassis system begins by first sorting it by removing the handle, wheels, suspensions system, and transmission system, and remaining with only the metallic skeleton. The next process of making the material flow of chassis to be circular is reusing them to make new wheels by painting or shredding it through crushing and breaking the metallic parts into tiny pieces for melting and purification. The melting of these metal chassis can be done in the company by the use of huge furnace and resultant molten can be used to design another new chassis system for new mobility scooters (Bergema, 2016).

The next structural system is the suspension system which is a collection of shock absorbers and springs. The types of suspension system used in the different designs of mobility scooter include rear and front suspension system. The seating assembly is specifically designed for the disabled to provide comfort making it comfortable and easy to ride. The metallic springs used in suspension and seat assembly can be recycled and reused just like other metallic components above through shredding them by crushing and breaking the metallic parts into tiny pieces for melting and purification (Brears, 2018).

The process of purification is performed to ensure that the final product is free from contamination and of high quality. The common method that can be used for purification by the company is electrolysis process. After the purification of the melted metal components, the molten can then be solidified into any required shapes which can be other structural components that are metallic (Charter, 2018).

Electrical Parts

Since the company only deals with the manufacture of metallic components, the electrical components are acquired through suppliers who a specialized in the manufacture of the electrical components such as motors, switches, circuit boards, and batteries. The motors are used in driving the wheels of the mobility scooter and each rear wheel has a motor coupled to it. The circuit boards are the electrical connections that have the responsibility if connecting the electric components to enable transmission of electric current and signals. The circuit boards are predesigned by the companies dealing with electrical components before they are supplied to be assembled when manufacturing the electric mobility scooters for the disabled (Columbia, 2012).

The batteries used in powering the electric mobility scooter are the lead-acid battery which is manufactured by other companies dealing in their manufacture and then supplied to the company to be assembled as a major source of power to the mobility scooter. Wires are the only electrical components manufactured by the company and then insulated for electrical connections in the electrical circuits (Macarthur, 2015). The flow of these electrical components can be made to be circular by the company through collecting the scooters that have broken down or damped and then removing the electrical components in them before sending them back to the suppliers to be recycled. The wires acquired from the damped scooters can be removed and used again in other electrical connection when manufacturing new mobility scooters (Elzen, 2010).

 The energy flow of battery can be made circular by recycling the batteries after they have been removed from the previous mobility scooter. Recycling of these batteries can be carried out by grinding them, neutralizing the acid, and then separating the polymers from the lead. The materials recovered can be used in numerous applications such as in making new batteries. The lead is cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces, after cooling, the molten lead can be used in making new batteries within the company (Gallaud, 2016).

Miscellaneous Parts

Some of the miscellaneous parts of the mobility scooter are manufactured within the company, while other components are supplied by other manufacturers dealing with their manufacture. The tyres used in the wheels of the mobility scooter are supplied by other manufacturers as well as upholstery and transmission systems (Abraham, 2017). The circular flow of the tyres can be ensured through recycling and reusing the tyres for a ground rubber application or construction material. The tyres can also be reused as artificial turf, slope stability, construction bale, fluvial protection, and erosion control. The upholstery is used in covering the seats and tires for beautification purpose and also to make them last longer (Garrido, 2017).

The body of the mobility scooter is made up of metallic material, majorly steel due to its availability. The metallic body of the can be recycled through shredding it by crushing and breaking the metallic part into tiny pieces for melting and purification. The process of purification is performed to ensure that the final product is free from contamination and of high quality. After the purification of the melted metal body, the molten can then be solidified into any required shapes which can be other structural components such as a new body (Higgins, 2014).

Future Industrial Sustainability System

After the implementation of the circular flow to the various components using in the manufacture of the electric mobility scooter for the disabled, there is the need for the company to think of the future sustainable industrial system in terms of the stages in the lifecycle for the mobility scooter.

The lifecycle of an Electric Mobility Scooter after System Sustainability

Composition and Source: The composition of the components used in the manufacture of electric mobility scooter for the disabled include tyres, transmission system, bodywork, upholstery, motors, switches, wires, circuit boards, batteries, chassis, wheels, suspension, and seat assembly (Higgins, 2014).

Manufacturing Process: The processes involved in the manufacture of the electric mobility scooter for the disabled include components manufacture, production of scooter body, chassis production, and the assembly of all the components. The company is involved in the manufacture of the majority of the components used in manufacturing mobility scooter. Some of these components manufactured by the company include the body, suspensions, chassis, seat assembly, and rims. The components supplied to the company by other manufacturers include motors, transmission system, batteries, wheels, circuit boards, and switches (Kruse, 2017).

The motor parts are supplied and assembled by the company. The production of the bodywork is normally formed by the sheet steel or even aluminium and plastic parts. The chassis is the major part of the vehicle and forms the skeleton of the scooter on which the suspension system, brakes, steering, transmission, wheels, and motors are mounted. The last step of manufacturing of mobility scooter is painting the body to protect it from special priming and corrosion. The painting process implemented by the company is the electrostatic painting in which the paint spray is given an electrostatic charge of approximately 60 kV and then attracted to the surface of the mobility scooter (Lovins, 2014).

During the process of assembly, there is an accurate parts flow and materials flow to avoid possible disruptions in the process of manufacturing and also avoid high inventory cost. The bodyworks are welded together, windows and doors installed, and the body trimmed and painted on the body assembly line. The powertrain (transmission, motor, and drive shaft), wheels, steering system, exhaust, and brake systems installed in the chassis assembly line. These two lines meet at the point where the body is bolted to the chassis (MacArthur, 2015).

Uses: The major use of the electric mobility scooter is to assist the persons who are disabled to move from one place to another by offering them a means of transport that is effective and comfortable. The vehicle also has a section in which the operator can carry light goods while moving from one place to another (MacArthur, 2010).

Environmental Impacts of Mobility Scooter Life-Cycle: The environmental impacts of the mobility scooter is advanced during the manufacturing stage and the usage stage. During the process of manufacturing, there is a lot of gases that are released into the environment especially when melting the metals into molten by the use of furnaces. These gases degrade the ozone layer and may also cause acid rain. During the usage stage of the vehicle, there is depletion of fuel energy from the environment. Some gasses are released into the atmosphere which may have harmful effects on the ozone layer.

Sustainability of Mobility Scooter: The sustainability of the mobility scooter has been ensured through sustainable practices such as proper disposal, recycling, and reuse after the intended purpose of the vehicle has been attained. Majority of the components used in manufacturing the mobility scooter can be recycled or reused in numerous ways within the company as discussed above (Weetman, 2016).

Short-Term and Longer-Term Steps for Sustainable System

There are numerous short term and long term steps that the company can take to ensure sustainability of its systems and the components. The short-term and longer-term steps for the sustainability of structural, electrical, and miscellaneous components are discussed below:

Short-Term Steps

The first step towards sustainability is understanding and recognizing what it means to the company. It is critical to define the meaning of sustainability for every stage in the manufacturing process of the electric mobility scooter for the disabled and also identify its significance. The investment decisions and development of alternative product components should be assessed for system sustainability (Ministerråd, 2015).

The next step is engaging with stakeholders concerning its strategies towards system sustainability. The stakeholders in the company are majorly the suppliers of electrical components that are used in the manufacture of the mobility scooter. The company will be sending the electrical products from recycled scooters for the purposes of recycling since the company does not manufacture these products (Webster, 2017).

The next step towards sustainability is setting goals and commitment towards sustainable systems. The major goal should be ensuring that the flow of all materials used in the manufacture of the mobility scooter are circular through effective recycling and reusing the majority of the components used in the product manufacturing. There is need for the establishment of sustainability goals and commitments whether driven by improved financial performance, innovation, or cost reduction. The next step is the establishment of processes and systems that will incorporate the processes of recycling and reusing of various components used in the manufacture of mobility scooter (Stowell, 2010).

The last short-term step that can be implemented to ensure system sustainability is tracking progress, communicating actions, and meeting expectation. It is critical for the company to measure the performance of the systems incorporated to ensure that the flow of materials is circular. There is need of defining the major indicators of performance to attain the objectives identified, this will enable improvement in the area selected and also gathering of relevant data to track the material flow process. Indicators and metrics are also central for communication and reporting activities of the company. The company should strive to attain the optimum circular flow of materials and any failure should be reported for evaluation and planning for the future system (Qi, 2016).

Long-Term Steps

The long-term steps that the company should take to attain a sustainable system for the components required for manufacturing of electric mobility scooter include creating integrated public policy, engaging in value chain members, building a national dialogue on responsible consumption, communicating sustainability goals in the entire organization, embedding sustainability in corporate culture, and creating conditions that support sustainability. The company should come up with policies that support sustainability and also the management of recycling and reuse of the used structural, electrical, and miscellaneous components (Ministerråd, 2015).

Building a national dialogue on responsible usage of the mobility scooters by the disabled is also another long-term step that can be taken by the company to ensure that the vehicle is properly used for the correct purpose or disposed of correctly. The company need the consumers to take part in national dialogues concerning the sustainability of the system components. There is also a need for the company to communicate the sustainability goals of the entire company since this is not a responsibility of a single employee or a single department.

There is also a need for embedding the sustainability in corporate culture such that new leaders will find the culture present and it will be their sole responsibility to maintain the sustainability culture. The company should also create conditions that support innovations related to sustainability such as the use of solar-powered motors to replace the batteries which pose a great difficulty during recycling or reusing due to high toxic nature of chemicals inside the lead-acid batteries (Ministerråd, 2015).

Conclusion

This research paper investigates the extent to which the concept of The Circular Economy can be applied to the company and its products for the purposes of future planning and business model of the company to enhance industrial sustainability. Some of the components that are used in the manufacture of electric mobility scooters for the disabled include miscellaneous parts which include tyres, transmission, bodywork, and upholstery, the electric parts which include motors, switches, wires, circuit boards, and batteries, and also structural parts which include chassis, wheels, suspension, and seat assembly.

The material flow of metallic components can be made circular through recycling or reusing them after acquiring them from old and dumped vehicles by the company. Some of the steps that the company should take to attain a sustainable system for the components required for manufacturing of electric mobility scooter include tracking progress, communicating actions, and meeting expectation, establishing processes and systems, setting goals and commitments, engaging with stakeholders, and also understanding sustainability and recognizing its benefits to the company. 

Bibliography

Abraham, M., 2017. Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies. Colorado: Elsevier Science.

Accountability, L. a., 2011. Business strategy for Sustainable Development. Michigan: WBCSD.

Benton, D., 2015. The Guide to the Circular Economy. Sydney: Do Sustainability.

Bergema, R., 2016. The circular economy and developing countries. Michigan: The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

Boyle, G., 2009. Energy Systems and Sustainability. Paris: Oxford University Press.

Brears, R., 2018. Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy. Colorado: Springer.

Charter, M., 2018. Designing for the Circular Economy. Melbourne: Routledge.

Columbia, B., 2012. Sustainability. Perth: World Bank Publications.

Elzen, B., 2010. System Innovation and the Transition to Sustainability: Theory, Evidence and Policy. California: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Gallaud, D., 2016. Circular Economy, Industrial Ecology and Short Supply Chain. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Garrido, S., 2017. Corporate Sustainability: The New Pillar of the Circular Economy. Toledo: Nova Science Publishers, Incorporated.

Higgins, K., 2014. Economic Growth and Sustainability. New York: Elsevier Science.

Kruse, M., 2017. The Circular Economy. Perth: GRIN Verlag.

Lovins, A., 2014. A New Dynamic - Effective Business in a Circular Economy. London: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

MacArthur, E., 2010. Towards the Circular Economy. London: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

MacArthur, E., 2015. Delivering the Circular Economy. Michigan: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing.

Macarthur, E., 2015. Potential for Denmark as a Circular Economy. Colorado: Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

Ministerråd, N., 2015. Moving Towards a Circular Economy. Berlin: Nordic Council of Ministers.

Qi, J., 2016. Development of Circular Economy in China. China: Springer.

Stowell, F., 2010. Systems for Sustainability. California: Springer Science & Business Media.

Webster, K., 2017. The Circular Economy:. Michigan: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing.

Weetman, C., 2016. A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains. Mumbai: Kogan Page. Appendix D: Metainformation of datasets for disposal of Mobility Scooter

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