The circle of lifecycle
Early in 2019, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology began a collaboration with Lund University’s International Institute for Industrial and Environmental Economics (IIIEE). The goal? To help its business become more sustainable. Master’s student Ricardo Losa has since begun a research project to help the company’s Load and Haul division adopt a circular model. He sat down with Solid Ground to discuss what he found and how implementing those changes can bring a myriad of benefits to the division and ultimately to customers.
Q: How did you get involved in the research project to bring a circular economy to Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s Load and Haul division?
A: Christina Hansson, senior global EHS specialist at Sandvik, is an alumna of IIIEE. She contacted one of our professors to gauge the interest of students at our institution to work with Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology in general, and with its Load and Haul division in particular, on this goal. Sandvik understood that implementing a circular economy could bring definite economic, environmental, social and sustainability benefits. I began my research journey by attempting to understand the context in which Load and Haul operates, and I found that they were already doing a lot of circularity-related work.
Q: What suggestions did you make based on your research on the division?
A: After assessing the methodology I used to see if it was effective in supporting the implementation of a circular economy, I provided some suggestions for improvement. Together with Sandvik, we prioritized these suggestions into three categories: working with suppliers, strengthening the rebuild programme and focusing on product design.
Q: Let’s start with suppliers. How can they help the division attain a more circular economy?
A: One of the pillars of a circular economy is improving resource and energy efficiency. Suppliers can provide Sandvik with more sustainable materials to make equipment lighter or more fuel-efficient, or with materials that are themselves already recycled. Sandvik already has a target of being 90 percent circular by 2030, and it wants its suppliers to do the same, so this is a good place to start. Sandvik also plans to introduce a circular model throughout the company’s supply chain.
Q: What about the rebuild programme? How can that support the circular model?
A: The rebuild programme, in which older equipment is refurbished with new parts at a lower cost than completely new equipment, is the embodiment of a circular economy. It’s a great source of competitive advantage, so it should be made as efficient as possible. One way is to standardize the rebuild kits to serve customers quicker, reducing downtime and increasing productivity. One small obstacle to that suggestion is that customers lose out on customization with standardization. This can be solved by targeting the parts that would most likely wear out and preparing them for substitution. The rest of the rebuild could be customized according to the customer’s request.
It’s also beneficial that parts and services experts are responsible for the rebuild programme, as they can share vital information about what customers need in their rebuilds with the Load and Haul division, which can then include these upgrades in the latest iteration of the equipment.
Q: How can design improvements affect circularity?
A: Several experts in the field of circular economy believe that design is the first and most important step to enable a circular economy. For the Load and Haul division, that means creating durable, long-lasting components out of recyclable material so they can be easily disassembled at the end of the life cycle. This should be done in such a way that all the valuable components can be separated in order to be recycled effectively. Also, the equipment should include as few material combinations as possible, so that separating components – plastic from metal, for instance – is not a problem when it comes time to recycle.