What makes a repair Economy?

We are big advocates on the promotion of the Circular Economy, with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation leading the charge! One of the key pillars of the Circular Economy is to design waste out of the system, where products are designed so that they can be repaired and upgraded.

But we are in a world where this isn't the "opus memorandum" and we remain someway from a circular economy.

So what is needed today to promote and support a self-service repair economy?

There needs to be several components:

1) Easy diagnosis of the fault.

2) Readily available supply of parts

3) Repair instructions.

4) Government, industry and community support and awareness.

To make an effective difference we believe all 4 of these elements are equally important, but for now let’s focus on point 2 — readily available supply of parts.

Clearly there is a market mechanism for buying replacement parts out there already, albeit at times an inefficient one, but where it would get really interesting is if two additional dynamics could be created:

i) Mobilising the huge amounts of parts that are still attached to a now defunct or un-serviceable machine or device

ii) recreating parts that are no longer made or exist in very limited supply

Mobilising redundant parts

There is a demand for parts that are already in existent in machines that are no-longer serviceable, but the search cost for those parts is to great, the marketplace is not efficient enough to make the sale of those parts viable.

This could be improved in a number of ways. Individuals need better training and information on how to dismantle electronics and mechanical equipment. Video tutorials could be prioritised by demand for parts, so that people are able to focus on what the market demand is. Governments could introduce policies and incentives for individuals or businesses operating in the dismantling sector as Sweden has to encourage repair over dispose/consume.

Breakers yards or scrap metal merchants could also evolve their services to include reclaiming parts and components valuable to the repair economy.

There needs to be an efficient market place where sellers and buyers can easily find one another.

Recreating parts that are no longer manufactured or available

Until now there has been no cost-effective way to manufacturer limited runs of parts. However, the advent of 3D printing (additive manufacturing) changes the landscape considerably.

There are some obvious hurdles to this though: Does replicating a spare part breach patent rules? Who owns the IP behind the part itself? What was the original manufacturing process and materials employed?

However, none of these issues are insurmountable. Manufacturers could make available patterns for a fee, 3D printing agencies could pass that on and regardless of whichever way you voted perhaps Brexit affords an opportunity to consider the Intellectual Property and Patent implications of a repair economy.

Underlying all of the above points though is the need for an efficient market mechanism for discovering demand for and creating supply of parts, spares and components. That’s where we come in.

The first iteration of BuyAnyPart is really to list OE and replacement parts that are already being manufactured or reconditioned. Clearly that is a massive universe and will keep us busy for a while but the magic will happen when people look to our service as THE destination for registering their interest to find a part and where they know they can source every kind of grade of part including those that are very hard to find.

We are a nascent offering and welcome any feedback via our contact page. If you have parts you wish to find or sell or even if wish to be a guest contributor to this blog we would love to hear from you.