Apple CEO Tim Cook in his keynote speech while accepting Ceres' Sustainability Award opines that Refurbishing smartphones is the way of the future. At OptoFidelity, we have been providing several automation/grading products and solutions to smartphones' refurbishment industry for over 5 years. We have noticed that practices utilized in the refurbishing processes are sub-optimal. There is a lot of potential for improving quality of the refurbishment process and customer satisfaction, which will lead to faster adoption of refurbished smartphones.
Market for refurbished smartphones is projected to grow rapidly and is also indicated by the VC funding. Many companies have raised significant amounts of funds to speed up their growth. Main goal for companies is to restore value in circular economy of refurbished smartphones. This requires optimal, sustainable and scalable business solutions.
Based on a research funded by Nordic Council of Ministers in year 2017, the key growth factors are:
- lower prices,
- popularization of greener customer behaviour, and
- lack of major innovations in the new smartphones.
A study published for sustainable ICT conference in 2016 reveals that during its life cycle, majority of the smartphones carbon footprint is associated with the manufacturing phase. Additionally, electronics waste is the world's fastest growing source of solid-waste and the consumption habits related to smartphones play a crucial role and impact environment. All actions that extend lifetime of the smartphones are needed to tackle the ongoing climate change.
Based on the study related to circular economy practices by EESC 2019, there are certain barriers that are affecting the growth. These barriers are related to the lack of trust, standardization and awareness of the refurbishing process. This is evident when comparing shopping portals of different refurbished smartphone providers. There are no commonly accepted standards to guide the refurbishing and cosmetic grading process and make it possible for customers to do apples to apples comparisons. Instead, each company follows their own assessment criteria. As pointed out in Wired 2018 article, this leads to distrust towards the companies and make comparison of the alternatives complicated.
The cosmetic grade perceived by the operator is fundamentally subjective. The quality of visual inspection and individual's bias affects to what is the perceived grade for a given device. By introducing a set of explicit definitions for the different grade classes, companies can introduce some objectivity to the grading process. However, there are still challenges with this approach: measuring individual defects manually is slow and the whole process is bias- and error- prone.
Achieving repeatable grading process with manual inspection is slow and expensive. It will not achieve the speed, accuracy, and repeatability level of an automated solution. Other benefits of automating refurbishing process are easier process optimization, better predictability, and scalability, as discussed in previous OptoFidelity blog post.
To discuss how automation can bring value to your refurbishment processes, please contact Kari Järviö, Head of Smartphone Refurbishment at OptoFidelity.
Stay tuned for the next blog post. We will present how automatic grading machine OptoFidelity SCORE can be utilized for efficient grading and improved customer satisfaction.