Engineering Design for a Circular Economy

Future business is circular

9 May, 2018

Would you consider renting all of your production equipment? In the future, the concept of ownership may become obsolete, while a circular economy may become a major competitive factor for companies that want to expand. By thinking sustainability at all stages it is possible to both reduce costs and develop your business. 

Efficient manufacturing and recycling are common starting points for increasing sustainability – but it is not enough. In order to achieve sustainability goals, circular systems are necessary at all stages – in manufacturing, utilisation, reuse and recycling. The truth is, there is money to be made from circular business models.

The rise of circular entrepreneurship

The company 3TEMP is one example of circular entrepreneurship They manufacture exclusive coffee machines for professional use, and their services go beyond delivering new machines. By means of digital technology, 3TEMP has developed a service which lets customers know how their machines are doing.

This means they receive notices when a machine needs to be descaled or when other problems arise so that these can be addressed in good time. For example, 3TEMP can quickly dispatch new parts if something breaks down. As a result, customers experience greater quality and can sell superior coffee – and the machine lasts longer, too.

“IoT technology produces new, advantageous business models for us and our customers, which benefits both the environment and the economy,” says Peter Larsson, Technology Manager at 3TEMP.

Free training platform for a circular economy

At Swerea, researchers develop methods and help companies to think circularly. 3TEMP will be one of several examples in a training platform, in a European collaborative programme in which Swerea participate. The aim is to increase knowledge of how to design products suitable for a circular economy. The courses will cover several aspects, including the development of products which:

  • function in a sharing economy, with multiple users.
  • are easy to repair.
  • can be reused in part or in whole.
  • are designed so that the materials can be recycled or recovered.

In the future, we will probably not buy or sell products as we do at present. Being careful with resources already extracted from the Earth will become completely natural for all, and will result in circular economy becoming the norm. Perhaps no one will ever buy a new car, but rather pay for how often they use it. Perhaps the only things purchased will be those that we actually consume.

“Current patterns of consumption are untenable, as vital raw materials will be depleted. Many companies recognise this, and see it as an opportunity to work circularly. Companies that don’t will have considerable difficulty in coping with legal and customer requirements, as well as maintaining competitive prices when raw materials become increasingly expensive or impossible to procure,” says Anna Karin Jönbrink, researcher at Swerea investigating circular economy.

The course titled Engineering Design for a Circular Economy is funded by EIT KIC Raw Materials.