PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Going green may be fashionable right now, but sooner or later everyone will be doing it - not through choice, but through necessity. The thing is, going green is not just about social responsibility; if it’s done correctly, it can also increase profits. Aerodynamics are a popular way of going green. They save fossil fuels and that’s good for the planet and good for the bottom line.
Recycling is also good for the environment and can be good for the pocket too; one such area in which trucking companies can recycle is to use remanufactured parts. That is recycling in its purest form. It turns something that would go to waste into something new. Manufacturing processes are the same for remanufactured parts as they are for new. They are not to be confused with reconditioned parts - they’re a completely different thing altogether.
There are many parts on a truck that wear out and need replacing. Manufacturing new parts requires new raw materials, and this is where remanufacturing really starts to make sense. With the booming economies of Asia and the Indian subcontinent, raw materials are in high demand; this hits supply and also increases their value. China alone is currently using 50% of the world’s iron ore supplies. All those worn out metal parts on trucks can contribute to the supply of new raw materials by being recycled as scrap, but why stop there?
I recently visited a Meritor remanufacturing plant in Plainfield, Ind., to see how the remanufacturing process can benefit heavy truck operators. Similar plants exist in Canada. Meritor has its primary remanufacturing plant in Mississauga, Ont. and others in Edmonton, Alta.; Boucherville, Que.; and Moncton, N.B. To make the remanufactured parts readily available, Meritor has eight distribution centres operated by third-party logistics companies from Vancouver, B.C. to St John’s, Nfld., so wherever you are in the country, you’re within reach.
So how does remanufacturing work? Many parts do not suffer any wear at all. Specific components within them may wear out, but many do not. Drivetrain components are one such example of this. Take a transmission; they are prone to breakage from a number of factors, but the complete transmission doesn’t break, only certain parts within. So why throw the whole unit into the dumpster?
A remanufactured transmission will have new bearings, snap rings and input shafts. The gear assemblies will all be checked for wear or failure, anything that doesn’t meet as-new standards will be replaced. Replacement parts are sourced from the original equipment suppliers, so you can be safe in the knowledge that the remanufactured part is really as good as new, in some cases it can be better.
One such area where they can be better is in brake shoes. The core of a brake shoe doesn’t wear out; it’s the friction material that wears out. Relining the original core is the basis of remanufacturing here, although it is not that simple. Meritor has invested $3.5 million in the past two years on equipment and production facilities for brake shoe remanufacturing, so it isn’t a case of a couple guys hammering new friction material onto old shoes. This is a highly detailed process.
The process starts with a good wash to remove all the dirt and grime accumulation, then follows a thorough inspection of the core. There is only one standard and that is 100%, everything else gets recycled. Last year that amounted to more than 30,000 tons. Once a core is passed it is then de-lined by hydraulic pressure rather than chiseled off, this helps protect the core from any damage. Once the core has had the friction material removed it is then inspected again to check for rustjacking. This is where water and chemicals have got in between the lining and the brake shoe causing corrosion; it has become more common with the aggressive compounds used by the Highway Departments’ to keep the roads clear in winter.
Once it is clear there is no evidence of rustjacking the process continues and the core moves along the line to the next step, which is paint. In 2009 Meritor launched its Platinum Shield paint finish to eliminate rustjacking; it is so successful that it takes three times the work to remove as regular paint, which makes Meritor a victim of its own success during remanufacturing. So confident are they, that brake shoes with the Platinum Shield finish are covered by a three-year/300,000-mile warranty. To date over 15 million shoes have had the Platinum Shield treatment and not one has been returned, Meritor claims.
This is evidence that remanufacturing not only works to bring down costs, it can actually give you a better product. Instead of buying a budget brand you can buy a premium product at a similar price. The savings are up to 30% and when you consider that the Plainfield plant alone remanufactures 28,000 brake shoes per day, five days per week, there is a lot of money being saved by vehicle operators who use the remanufactured parts.
The remanufacturing process can be applied to much more than brake shoes; there are transmissions as well. Meritor currently remanufactures 200 Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions per month. Differentials, drive and trailer axles, steering boxes, air dryers. In fact pretty much everything back from the clutch to the rear bumper can be remanufactured. Meritor stocks 125,000 separate parts and some of their competitors use Meritor as their distribution partner. This can be very useful for work shop staff; they make one phone call and source everything they need, rather than calling around individual suppliers.