In 2021, a survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) indicated that Britain’s manufacturers were struggling with their worst supply shortages since the mid-1970s. Today, the same problem has extended to the rest of the world. Supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic has clearly taken its toll, but manufacturers can mitigate its impact by managing maintenance effectively. Here Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, discusses the role of reconditioned parts in reconnecting global manufacturing supply chains.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented shortages in labour and products, this reflected larger shocks to manufacturers’ supply capacity and the inability to respond quickly to changes in demand for goods and services. According to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), 16 per cent of businesses experienced supply chain disruption, with almost one-third (30 per cent) of manufacturing companies reporting problems. The UK is not alone in this: supply chain disruption has reached a global level and impacted manufacturers worldwide.

If manufacturing firms are to reconcile their supply chains, improving sustainability, ensuring product quality and minimising costs must be the focus. One solution is replacing failed components with refurbished parts, which are quality tested and a safer option than second-hand alternatives.

In with the old

Refurbished or reconditioned parts refer to used original components that have been cleaned and thoroughly inspected, with any worn or damaged elements replaced. Although it’s easy to confuse recondition with repair, the term “repaired parts” refers to components that have broken down and been restored to functionality. When repairing, only defective parts are investigated and replaced. On the other hand, reconditioning involves giving the product a new lease of life and bringing it back to its original factory condition.

Refurbishment also brings quality assurance benefits because these parts have been tested to ensure that they function as well as brand-new ones. Therefore, their warranty usually matches that of equivalent new components, both in length and specification, and the manufacturer can be safe in the knowledge that they won’t just break down.

The circular economy

Waste — whether it’s discarded material or bloated inventories — can severely impact efficiency and manufacturing productivity unless its source is eliminated. As the world’s manufacturers adjust post-pandemic, there is now greater pressure than ever to reduce costs, maximise return on investment (ROI) and manage scarce resources. However, when equipment breaks, the supply chain crisis might cause long lead times for new spare parts. By retrofitting refurbished parts and bringing them onto the factory floor, manufacturers can minimise the wait and be up and running in no time.

It’s also worth remembering that reconditioning involves upcycling parts from unwanted equipment, meaning less waste is sent to landfill than simply buying direct from the supplier. Therefore, not only does this process reduce unnecessary waste at a time when minimal costs are vital, but it’s also helping to minimise a factory’s e-waste production.

Shortening lead times

Lockdowns in key supplier countries like China combined labour shortages and increased demand. This all helped extend lead times, whether this was for critical technologies like medical devices or other manufacturing products. However, as the balance between supply and demand starts to level out again, ditching new parts for reconditioned alternatives can help manufacturers shorten lead times once again.

Ordering new parts from suppliers can take several weeks before they arrive. For manufacturing firms, this can create long periods of unplanned downtime due to faulty equipment, damaging factory floor productivity and holding back projects — and this is before we think about the reputational impact!

Meanwhile, investing in refurbished or reconditioned components can shorten lead times. With like-new machinery up and running, manufacturers can go back to doing what they do best — making things for customers.

If manufacturers are to overcome the worst supply issues in nearly 50 years, reconditioned or refurbished parts can go a long way by contributing to the circular economy, maintaining efficiency and shortening lead times.

When ordering reconditioned parts, always look for a trustworthy supplier. EU Automation offers a 12-month warranty with its reconditioned components, order yours today by visiting