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Electric Mobility Scooter and Company

1. A systematic understanding of the activities of industrial organisations at all points of the product life-cycle from raw material extraction to disposal and a critical awareness of current approaches to mitigating the associated environmental impacts.


2. A comprehensive understanding of assessment and analysis techniques that can be applied to the student's own research into ways to reduce the environmental impact and energy consumption of industrial organisations.


3. A conceptual understanding of the energy requirements of the components of common industrial processes such as motors, pumps, heaters and compressors that will allow students to critically evaluate research methodologies and outputs from a range of related academic disciplines.


4. Originality in tackling the problems of meeting consumer demand for products and associated services in a competitive globalised industrial context while minimising the associated life-cycle energy consumption


5. The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment in tomorrow's low-carbon industries, specifically the skills of decision making in unpredictable situations and the ability to research and learn independently, required for continuing professional development.

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 andsimply 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.

Electric Mobility Scooter and Company

The Circular Economy concept has been gaining significant momentum, because the existing linear economy traditional model, which works on the basis of model of ‘TAKE – MAKE – DISPOSE’ keeps falling to meet the environmental protection, sustained economic growth and societal wellbeing, all towards increasing sustainability challenges, worldwide. The circular economy opportunities and socio-political dimensions are pursuing and promoted towards growth and prosperity of national economy (Leuven et al, 2011). However, technical aspects and challenges from the circular economy are not well focused, because of political agenda shadow pushing to a greater level with no considerations of technological aspects. 

Sustainable value is a new and growing concern in multiple means and forms in the context of manufacturing and strategic significance towards manufacturing process analysis stands as an engine for any nation’s wealth generation. Both the developed and developing countries have been showing the manufacturing’s pivotal role, in national economic advancement, societal well-being and job creation.

Circular economy, historically, is relied heavily upon 3R principles, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Hence, optimum production is aimed with reduced utilization of the natural resources, emissions, producing minimum pollution and waste with the 3R principle. So, for green manufacturing 3R stands as a foundation (Wu et al, 2014) and this concept is derived from lean manufacturing with the basis of 1R or Reduce. So, manufacturing requires lean manufacturing to green manufacturing to sustainable manufacturing, to achieve sustainable value (Jawahir &, Dillon2007). However, unfortunately, this is far beyond the simple projections of socio-political, for any geopolitical region or country’s strategic objective.

To achieve a fullest and complete form of circular economy, it is important to gain in-depth understanding of the technological framework and integral elements.

Electric mobility scooter is an equivalent to a wheelchair with a mobility aid however, it is configured as a motorscooter. It is also known to be a electric scooter or power operated scooter or vehicle. The electric scooter, here in this company is designed and manufactured for the disabled people. Having a potential and service oriented product development rather than commercial oriented, the vision and mission is expected to extend, by expanding the operation with the vision of sustainable manufacturing (Gradel, 2011).

The electric mobility scooter consists of one seat, over maximum five wheels, foot plates or flat area for the feet, delta-style steering or handlebars arrangement to turn the wheels that are steerable.

The production of the electric mobility scooter is mostly an assembling process. Hence, most of the components and parts are received by the suppliers, rather than manufacturing the components. While this is the present process of production, the future process is expected to have own components to get them assembled (Su et al, 2013).

Production

The production and assembling process of electric mobility scooter for the disabled need the following components,

  1. Structural Components – Chassis, wheels, suspension, seat assembly, etc.
  2. Electrical Components – Switches, wires, batteries, circuit boards, etc.
  3. Miscellaneous Components – Bodywork, upholstery, tyres, transmission, etc.

There are various models used to design and manufacture the electric scooters, globally. So, there are varied technologies doe exist, for energy recovery, brake, average distance range, for them. Eventually, the specifications of these models also do vary. And it is possible to assert, without losing generality, to assert that the primary variation stays in the technologies of battery. One important battery is lead battery that has less performance and lower price. (MacArthur, 2015) 

 There are four groups for the electric scooter.

This system encompasses the wheels, suspensions, steering system, transmission, and braking system with their subsystems

It involves the system with battery, power source and electronic control system is used to manage the devices, like lights, horn, indicators, etc.

This group consists of tank, silencer and engine. This group represents motion from the power source.

This group consists of parts that are designed to obtain solid structure to this transportation means. It has the principal parts as steel frame, seat, polymeric body and chassis.

Sustainable manufacturing is a complex system problem, essentially, because it involves considerations of three integral interacting levels, products, processes and systems (Jayal et al, 2010). Though there is no universal or accepted definition for sustainable manufacturing, there are several insufficient attempts that include integral approach partially and almost fall short, since they deal largely with processes and products, however fail to emphasize the three integral elements interconnectivity involved in the system of manufacturing and show the sustainable value creation basis, for economic growth (Zhao, 2012).

Sustainable manufacturing offers a new production way that make the products to be functionally superior with the advanced manufacturing methods, sustainable technologies, however, only if the production, design of supply chain and design of product and enterprise and management level logistics are well understood, managed and developed in a integrated and holistic ways.

Figure: Sustainable Manufacturing integrated elements (Jawahir et al, 2006)

Closed loop sustainable manufacturing is a new approach of sustainable manufacturing that focuses on innovation and broader based methodology of 6R over multiple life-cycles for products (Jawahir et al, 2006).

Figure: Sustainable Manufacturing Multiple product life-cycle (Joshi et al, 2006)

In the methodology of 6R, the main focus of Reduce is on the product life-cycle’s first three stages and refers to the resources reduced usage in pre-manufacturing, reduced materials, energy and other resources usage during manufacturing and reduction in waste and emissions during the stage of usage. Here, reuse refers to the product reuse as its components or as a whole, for first and following life-cycles so that virgin material usage reduction to produce newer components and products.

Components

The focus of Recycle is on the material conversion process for the materials considered as waste, into new products or materials. Recover is the process of products collection at the end of each of the stage of usage, disassembling, cleaning and sorting towards utilization, for further product life-cycles. The activity of Redesign involves the next generation products redesigning act that make use of materials, components and resources recovered from the previous products generation or previous life-cycles (EPA, 2014). The process of Remanufacture is already used products’ re-processing towards restoration to the like-new form or to their original state form, through the many parts usage as possible, with no functionality loss.

Figure: Closed Loop System, based on 6R (Jaafar et al, 2007)

6R based closed loop system enable material flow as ‘near-perpetual’, with the optimal usage of raw materials, energy and many other resources and able to product reduced emissions and wastes by the end (Jaafar et al, 2007).

Figure: 6R Application Sequencing, within Total Life-cycle with Multiple Close-loops and Decision Points

Sustainable product life cycle is a much modified and amended product life cycle with several technological added elements.

Figure: Sustainability Product Life-Cycle

Technological Elements – Identifying and Developing

A simplified material flow show clear interactions among the activities of 6R and the four stages, pre-manufacturing, manufacturing, use and post-use stages. Red-coloured flow in the following diagram shows the first life-cycle and the blue colour process shows subsequent life cycle, on the basis of 6R elements.

Figure:6R Elements Closed-Loop Material Flow

An assumption is made here that the Reduce activity is blended in almost every life cycle stage. In the post-use stage, the first necessary step is Recover, from which originate all the remaining four Rs that are based on innovation, Reuse, Redesign, Recycle and Remanufacture. Here, backbone or technological elements of circular economy is defined and developed by the principle of 6R, from the simplified flow of closed-loop material. These elements when used in the circular economy applications lead to the sustainable value creation end goal, ultimately, in the environment, society and economy. In the sustainability context, this creation of value is referred as the TBL or Triple Bottom Line that drives the innovation (Nidumolu et al, 2009), got an impact significantly on the three sustainable manufacturing integral elements: products, processes and systems (Zhang et al, 2013).

The above material flow process can be extended to the multiple life cycles or multiple generations, for the product and so the electric scooter for the disabled, with the activity called, Redesign.

Functional Groups

(Bradley, 2015)

Figure: Material Flow Helical Movement and Technology Advancement through events of Redesign across Multiple Generations (Bradley, 2015)

It also shows the near-perpetual flow of material to flow from one to another generation. This Redesign activity progressively concurrent and inevitable and for circular economy implementation, it needs to think beyond a single circular loop. Helical movement can describe it best, in both the advancement of technology and material and stands as an essential element for the circular economy application.

Mechanisms are must to develop the circular economy with 6R inclusion, so that the sustainable value creation is driven.

Figure: Sustainable Value Creation from Circular Economy, through Integral Technology Elements and Respective Characteristics

These mechanisms are visionary thinking, process or production innovation, novel methodology and quality education and training. Process or product innovation includes technology advancements along with current systems, processes and products optimization. To achieve the sustainable value creation can be achieved with education and training, which play a vital role that includes wellbeing of societies (Jawahir, et al, 2013).

Sustainable value creation can be a viable option and procedure, for education from formal university, in the respective field and it also demands equal need for the training programs from technical schools that enable the education and training with new workforce entirely in the industry, for the following manufacturing generations. Apart from the education, another prerequisite for the sustainable value creation is the novel methodologies that stand as the underlying infrastructure. These novel methodologies demand both the qualitative as well as the quantitative methodologies that define assessment and direction, together. It also demands one more important mechanism and the most significant probably is the visionary thinking usage. Apart from drawing map, with different education programs and methodologies to pave the circular economy development, there is still another need for visionary thinking that would blend the creativity along with the established technical basis that stands as the foundation for the implementable solutions creations to the problems of real world.

After the relevant mechanisms scope identification and definition, there needs an implementation of essential element, involving development of the toolkit of assessment. An assessment is conducted so that the metrics and indicators creation is involved, however, the methodology of the assessment has to be focused.

These possible methodologies and metrics driving assessment of sustainable value creation at system, process and product levels, segmented into sustainability’s three pillars. The economic performance can be assessed with the usage of the cost model, including the 6R elements, from the total life cycle view. There are certain methodologies that exist today, like LCA or Life Cycle Assessment. This methodology can be extended and expanded so that the 6R elements can be incorporated, towards the environmental burden or impact determination. In the context of society, more scientific and quantitative social indicators and metrics need to be developed (Gradedel et al, 2011). And these metrics and indicators are used for societal well-being assessment. All these processes and assessments are fed back into the stages of development and also design so that sustainable value is improved.

Sustainable Manufacturing

These assessments and mechanisms can be combined and this development becomes the primary approach of 6R elements implementation as the basis of technology, for success and materializing circular economy.

Exploration of Economy

Such assessment can have generic application and the scope shall be reduced to the generic material selection evaluation activity, when a specific generic component is considered, for the cost benefit of overall life cycle, of 6R elements implementation. In this context and paper, only the sustainability economy pillar is considered for exploring and so the same only is addressed in this report.

Let us consider that the company is manufacturing the mobility electric scooter for the disabled. In this context, as discussed before, the components are supplied by the suppliers.

Here, the emphasis and opportunity for low impact manufacturing and circular economy is Recycling. Recycling can be done with different parts, like disposal of accumulators, batteries, etc. Recycling has the benefits of both protection and healthier human being and environment. 

Waste management has a central issue called ‘waste hierarchy’ and the same is significant for the development of product. The designer or engineer has to design the product as recycle-friendly and should be done during the phase of product ‘conceptual design’ (Luttropp & Lagerstedt, 2006).

In the future, the main focus should be on the weight ration of recovery and reuse and weight ratio of recycle or reuse thresholds. The directive mainlines are basically,

  1. Limit the production of waste
  2. Organize the collection of waste
  3. Organize the treatment of waste
  4. Prioritize the waste reuse and recovery
  5. Dismantling facilitate, through information on materials and components
  6. Evaluation through implementation reports

The company has to initiate dismantle processes, as part of the waste management and end of life of the electric scooters (Sullivan & Gaines, 2012). The important aspects to consider are,

  1. The normal procedure to the standard of scooter acceptance

It should be accompanied with a certificate, so that the last owner is held harmless and new life starts as part of waste management.

  1. Disassembly process flow

Disassembly and dismantle process should involve,

  1. Safe stock
  2. Disassembly of valuable parts, which has higher value of second hand spare parts market. Some material can be tyres, polymer and metals. And more useful metal for recycling can be magnesium, aluminium and copper. Polymers can be either used for thermal recovery or recycling.
  3. Hazardous component treatment to remove the fluids, fuel, batteries, oils, etc. Lead batteries can be recycled as 95% of the lead is considered for the secondary usage in the vehicle battery market.
  4. Treatment of electric scoote

One of the two technologies, Pyrometallurgical or Hydrometallurgical technologies can be used for lithium battery waste management. It can be reused for many portable technologies, like full electric vehicles, smartphones or laptops.

Usually iron, neodymium and boron materials are used for permanent magnet. The three opportunities of recycling can be disposal, using large magnets for electric vehicles, wind turbines and for magnet manufacturing.

  1. A new 12th plan of five years, from 2011 – 2015 is proposed and adopted for social and economic development promotion by circular economy continuous implementation in industrial sector, in China (Su, et al, 2013).
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundations emphasizes strongly the need for embarking for Europe, on circular economy, to remain productive and competitive in manufacturing, globally (McArthur, 2015).

Short Term

The immediate step can be to initiate the waste management with the specified processes and procedures as specified in the above sections in this report.

The following is the long term future sustainable electric scooter industrial system.

Low impact raw materials have to be used for the manufacturing procedures and processes of mobility electric scooters.

The design must be in the way that every aspect of design must focus towards robustness, reliability and sturdiness of the product. And manufacturing processes must ensure that each and every method and sub-operations must not decrease the strength and quality of each of the parts and overall parts of the scooter.

Production methods and procedures of the electric scooter must be potential so that their usefulness with increased life must be emphasized, so that reliable and long life can be assured.

Supply chain partnership should be effective and accurate and it should not deteriorate the quality and strength of each of the supplied components and parts.

Accurate and safe usage of the product can increase the life of any product and so each of the steps and safety precautions must be clearly and easily communicated to the consumer, so that the overall life of the electric scooter can be increased to a better extent, for increase return of investment, both for the manufacturer and customer.

Longetivity protocol must be used as a potential mechanism so that robust ways of testing and durability of the electric scooter can be obtained.

After the end of life, collection of the waste electric scooters and bringing into one place is important aspect, as there can be more benefit when higher volume of scrap or waste is gathered in one place.

Separation of the parts is to be done so that each of the part can be repaired and reused for the electric scooters, in the future, as second hand spare parts. So, the parts can be used again as normal parts.

Recycling is an important aspect to be focused for the parts of electric scooters that cannot be repaired and reused.

Conclusion

Circular Economy is a concept, emphasized and focused globally, considering focus in three dimensions, socio, political and economy. Though there are several obstacles to implement circular economy towards low impact manufacturing perspective, governments from several countries have been emphasizing and encouraging such initiatives. For the manufacturing industry, such as for electric scooter manufacturing, the opportunities for circular economy are more, though it becomes a tedious and huge process demanding more time, effort and money. However, being sustainable manager, the best of the aspects, methodologies, approaches, methods and opportunities are discussed in the report. Various stages of life cycle of electric scooter are considered and the best methods and opportunities are explored to justify circular economy, wherever it is possible. The same exploration is continued for the stage, after end of the life of the product with best possible waste management aspects, to repair, reuse and recycle the material used for various components and parts of the electric scooters.

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