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Structural Components

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 ?

Structural Components

The Circular Economy is an environmental sustainability approach characterized by the creation of economic models where there is no generation of advanced environmental impacts. This is an alternative model to the traditional model where the flow of energy and materials are linear with no recycling and reuse of materials. Attaining a circular economy does not need variations in the life of the disabled or extra cost on the mobility scooter manufacturing company, or loss of revenues. The sustainability of the manufacturing activities involves equipment, services, infrastructure, and products and how their flows can be made linear through recycling and reuse as well as planning the future products and business model for the scooter manufacturing company.

The components that are required for the manufacture of electric mobility scooter for the disabled can be categorized into structural parts, electrical parts, and miscellaneous parts. The miscellaneous parts include the bodywork, tyres, upholstery, and transmission systems. The electrical components include the sires, batteries, wires, circuit boards, and motors. Some of the subtopics discussed in this paper include description of the components used in the manufacture of electric mobility scooters, the description of the lifecycle of the mobility scooter after sustainability, and the short term and long term steps that can be taken by the company for ensure sustainable system for the components required to mobility scooter manufacturing (Abraham, 2017).

Structural Components

The structural components required during the process of manufacturing the electric mobility scooters for the disabled include the seat assembly, chassis, suspension, and wheels. The number of wheels that are needed in the manufacture of mobility scooter depends on the particular design of the scooter that the company is manufacturing at that particular moment. The wheels can be made circular by first collecting all the used wheels from the dumped scooters and those bought on second hand by the company, and then sorting them. The sorting process involves removal of other components making the wheels enable effective recycling or reuse (Batavia, 2010).

The metallic rims in the wheels can be reused in the manufacture of other wheels after painting and repairing them. The rims can also well be recycled by melting is a large furnace with a considerable amount of energy and then purification to remove contaminants and to ensure that the final product is of high quality. The molten metal can then be solidified through cooling to make specific shapes of another structural component. The suspension system is a collection of shock absorbers and springs. There are two different types of suspension systems that are used in the manufacture of the mobility scooter, namely rear suspension and front suspension. The suspension is used in the insulation of both vehicle and rider from the shocks of roads and also in keeping the wheels in the closest possible ground contact and provides control of the scooter to the operator (Bergema, 2016).

Electrical Components

The suspension system is majorly made up of the metallic materials and can be recycled through sorting the springs and shock absorbers separately and then carrying out melting, purification, and solidification processes. The molten metal can be solidified into new suspension system which can be used to replace the old one in the operating mobility scooters or used in the manufacture of the electric mobility scooters. The chassis is primarily an internal structural section or the framework which supports the steering system, wheels, and transmission system. Both the rear and front wheel are connected to the frame of chassis indirectly through the system of suspension that is coupled with the wheels directly (Bompan, 2018).

The types of chassis that are used in the manufacture of mobility scooter by the company include backbone tube, perimeter frame, underbone tube, and monocoque chassis. The materials used in the manufacture of this chassis material include steel, aluminium, titanium and magnesium. The flow of chassis materials can be made circular by recycling the chassis through sorting to remove the secondary materials coupled with the chassis, and then melting the scrap metal in a huge furnace as a huge amount of energy. However, this energy needed to melt and recycle the metallic chassis is much lower compared to the energy required to produce metals by the use of virgin raw materials. Before melting, the chassis should first be shredded to fit inside the volume of the furnace. After melting, the resultant molten metal can be used in the manufacturing of different structural components that can be used in manufacturing new mobility scooter (Brears, 2018).

The seat assembly is specifically meant for the disabled through the provision of greater seating and riding comfort. Some of the attributes that are incorporated and determined while designing the seat assembly for the mobility scooter by the company include foldable armrest, possible rotation of 45o to assist in outgress and ingress to the operator, and bucket type seat. The flows of the materials used in assembling the seat can be circular through recycling by first sorting the old seats. During the sorting process, all the components used in making the seat are separated and the metallic components recycled through shredding, melting purification, and solidification processes (Cavani, 2010). 

Electrical Components

Majority of these electrical components are manufactured by other manufacturing companies and then supplied to the mobility scooter manufacturing company by the company. The motors are used in driving the wheels and are coupled in all the rear wheels. The flow of motors can be made to be circular by after the old vehicles or damped components have been acquired, the company can then sort the motors together and send them back to the suppliers to be recycled or dismantled and the components used for other electrical purposes. The circuit boards assembled during the manufacturing the mobility scooter is supplied to the company by suppliers who specialize in the manufacture of the electronic components (Charter, 2018).

Miscellaneous Components

The major source of power for the electric mobility scooter is the lead-acid batteries. Depending on the design of the vehicle, there can be two or more batteries powering the mobility vehicle. The energy flow of batteries can be made to be circular by carrying out the recycling process, namely lead refining, lead reduction, and battery breaking. Before the commencement of the recycling process of the batteries, they should be first drained and the acids treated and neutralized. The next process is to break the batteries by the use of hammer mill. The scrap from the broken battery is a mixture of antimony, copper, calcium, lead sulphate, lead oxide, and metallic lead (Dastbaz, 2016).

The lead can be reduced through recycling process of lead-acid batteries by trapping the metal from the kiln and transferring to the refining kettles for processing to generate the quality lead. Just like motors and circuit, the switches and wires are also removed from dumped mobility scooters of the scooters that have broken down, and then sorting them to remove other structural components attached to them. The assorted switches and wires can then be sent to the suppliers of these electronic components for them to be recycled or reused (Elzen, 2010).

Miscellaneous Components

These are majorly those components that are used in the final assembly of the electric mobility scooter for the disabled. Many of these components are supplied to the company by suppliers who deal in these components. The tyres supplied to the company to be used in the wheels are imported, hence it is a sole responsibility of the company to carry out its sustainability to ensure material flow in the economy. The flow of tyres can be made to be circular in the business by carrying out sustainable practices such as proper disposal, recycling or reuse. The tyres can be recycled through shredding and then used as a construction material and ground rubber application. The tires can also be reused for fluvial and coastal protection, slope stability, erosion control, construction bale, and road furniture (Weetman, 2016).

The transmission oil is also supplied to the company by the suppliers and used in the manufacture of the electric scooter for the purpose of ensuring smoother shift of gear system. The used transmission oil can be removed from the system and reused as a lubricant to lubricate the moving parts of the vehicle in order to reduce friction. Therefore, there is no need for the company to returning the used transmission oil to the suppliers such their reuse can be to reduce friction on moving parts of another mobility scooter. Upholstery is also supplied to the company by other manufacturing companies and then assembled when making the seat assembly. The upholstery is used in covering the seats for beautification purposes and also to protect the seats from getting dirty. Old and worn out upholstery can be reused for other purposes like marts (Wirtenberg, 2014).

Life-Cycle of Mobility Scooter

Life-Cycle of Mobility Scooter

After the material and energy flow within the company has been made as circular as possible, the lifecycle of the sustainable electric mobility scooter for the disabled can be described from source and composition, manufacturing process, uses, environmental impact, and sustainability. The components used in the manufacture of electric mobility scooter for the disabled include chassis, wheels, suspension, seat assembly, tyres, transmission, bodywork, upholstery, motors, switches, wires, circuit boards, and batteries. The source of these components is either manufactured within the company supplied by other manufacturers dealing in their manufacture (Toliyat, 2009).

The components that are manufactured by the company itself include chassis, seat assembly, suspension, and wheels. The other components that are supplied to the company and then assembled when manufacturing the mobility scooter include motors, switches, circuit boards, transmission system, upholstery, and tyres. The manufacturing process of the mobility scooter can be categorized into motor and parts manufacture, bodywork production, chassis, painting, and assembly. The first process of manufacturing the mobility scooter is the manufacture of components used in making the vehicle, or buying from suppliers the components that the company may not be manufacturing such as the electrical components (Taticchi, 2013).

The production of the mobility scooter body is normally made out of steel, however, the company is currently moving towards replacing the steel with aluminium and plastic parts of the bodywork. The dimensions of the bodywork depend on the design of the mobility scooter that the company is manufacturing at that particular moment. Other materials such as reinforced plastic, fibreglass, and aluminium are applied in certain applications as a result of their special properties. The next step of manufacturing is the production of chassis which is the major structure of the mobility scooter on which brakes, mechanisms, motors, transmission, wheels, and steering mechanism are mounted. The step is the assembly where there is controlled the flow of parts and materials. The motors, transmission system, drive shaft, wheels, springs and steering gear are installed on the chassis (Muthulingam, 2014).

The last process of manufacturing the mobility scooters is the painting of the bodies to protect the body from special priming and corrosion through successive cycles of painting to give the hardness required and maintain the visual quality of the paint. The company is currently using the alternative technology that uses infrared-curing to save production time and energy and reduce the dryer size. After painting, the mobility scooter is finished for shipment to customers and dealers (Mulder, 2017).

The major use of the electric mobility scooter is to enable the movement of the people living with disabilities from one place to another. Transportation is a major hindrance for the people living with disabilities, and it is through the use of these vehicles that their movement can be enabled. This means of transport also provides protection for adverse weather conditions which may be dangerous for the persons living with the disability. The environmental impacts of the electric mobility scooter lifecycle are greatly advanced during the manufacturing process, usage, and disposal of the vehicle. During the manufacturing process, there is the emission of gasses especially during the melting of metals using furnaces. These gasses may result in degradation of the ozone layer or cause acid rain which may be harmful to the life of plants and animals (Mulder, 2017).

During the period of usage of the mobility scooter, the fuel energy can be lost through unnecessary movement of the vehicle by the disabled person. This may lead to shortening of battery lifespan and wear out of tyres and other moving parts before their speculated time depletion is reached. Improper disposal of the used parts of the mobility scooter or entire vehicle by the consumers who are incorporative of the issue of sustainability. This is majorly observed in the cases where the operator wishes to replace worn out parts and components with new once hence disposing the old once and resulting to environmental pollution and linear flow of materials (Ministerråd, 2015).

Short-Term Steps to Sustainable System

The short term steps that can be taken by the company to attain the sustainable system for the structural, electrical, and miscellaneous component include understanding sustainability and recognizing its meaning to the manufacturing process, engaging with stakeholder, commitment to the sustainability goals, establishment of processes and processes, tracking the sustainability progress, and meeting the expectations. The first step is to define the sustainability of the systems ranging from the individual components and the entire mobility scooter. The definition of sustainability involves the steps that the company can take to ensure that the all the recycling processes of the structural electrical, and miscellaneous are incorporated in the production process (Melamed, 2009).

There is need of making decisions regarding the processes of recycling of components that the company is willing and ready to incorporate into the company and then change the practices that are not supporting the system sustainability. The next step is engaging with stakeholders on their role towards sustainability. The major stakeholder includes the suppliers who supply electrical and other structural components to the company to be assembled when manufacturing the electric mobility scooter. The next step is setting goals on the level of sustainability that the company wishes to attain after a given duration. After setting the goal, the company should strive to attain the goal (McCotter, 2009).

The next step is to establish sustainability processes that will ensure that the flow of structural, electrical, and miscellaneous components are entirely circular. The processes involved include recycling, reusing, and proper disposal of waste in every process that the company is undertaking. The company should also track the processes of recycling and reuse of components as well as those returned to the suppliers for reuse to ensure sustainability. All the mobility scooters should also be tracked from their manufacture, until their disposal by the operators (Melamed, 2009).

Longer Term Steps to Sustainability

Long-term steps towards sustainability are those steps that will take some time s before their implementation and also their effects will be felt after a longer period of time compared to the short-term steps. The long-term steps that can be implemented by the company include the creation of policy, engaging in value chain members, building the national dialogue on responsible consumption, and creation of structures in the company that supports sustainability. The first long terms step that can be implemented by the company is the implementation of the integrated public policy. The policy may be its commitment to sustainability and the role of the public to ensure sustainability. With integrated, consistent, and clear policies, the company can confidently invest in staff training, new standards, and new technologies for sustainability (MacArthur, 2010).

The next long-term step is the engagement of value chain members such as the customer, suppliers, and NO who will assist in the collection of dumped structural, electrical, and miscellaneous components and then send them to the company for their reuse and recycling. There is also need for the company to build a national dialogue on responsible usage of the mobility scooter and also its disposal on selected branches of the company. The company need consumers who are majorly the disabled, to engage in national dialogue concerning sustainability so that the company can make informed decisions regarding the responsible operation of the vehicles and responsible consumption (Lacy, 2016).

The company also need to communicate sustainability goals in the entire organization which may not be an easy task since it requires time and capital. Communication of the company’s intentions regarding sustainability is a responsibility of every employee and not just an individual or a department within the company. The company should create conditions that support innovations related to sustainability. The latest innovation that the company is considering is the replacement of battery with solar panels which will eliminate the problem of difficulty in recycling batteries (Johansso, 2018).

Conclusion

The Circular Economy is an environmental sustainability approach characterized by the creation of economic models where there is no generation of advanced environmental impacts. The components that are required for the manufacture of electric mobility scooter for the disabled can be categorized into structural parts, electrical parts, and miscellaneous parts. The first process towards sustainability is collecting all the used components from the dumped scooters as well as those bought on second hand by the company, and then sorting them. The sorting process involves the separation of components based on the materials used in their manufacture to enable effective recycling or reuse. Majority of these electrical components are manufactured by other manufacturing companies and then supplied to the mobility scooter manufacturing company by the company. Therefore, they can be recycled or reused by first sorting them by removing other structural components coupled with them, and then sending them back to be suppliers to be recycled and reused.

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