Pre-owned pumps – towards a sustainable, circular economy
About 10 years ago, Sulzer’s customer support service in Finland started looking into the opportunity to buy back pumps and equipment from closed mills, refurbish them and sell them back to the market through our sales offices. Pekka Salmi, Head of Service Development at Sulzer’s Industry Business Unit explains the principle.
Sulzer’s pumps, mixers and high-speed compressors are designed to operate in demanding industrial processes as well as water and wastewater systems. Sulzer’s expertise also includes maintenance and service of rotating equipment. A circular economy has also been an important part of the business for more than 20 years, because we have carefully sorted the waste generated in our own operations and recycled it almost to 100%.
During this time, our process pump maintenance offering has included an exchange unit service for our customers. This makes it possible for the customer to order a process pump exchange unit as a fast delivery before a scheduled process downtime or sometimes due to a sudden failure. We keep the equipment information up to date in our system, and this allows us to deliver exactly the right type of exchange unit based solely on the customer’s location, the equipment’s functional location and Sulzer’s serial number.
We named this sustainable development project “pre-owned equipment business”. The condition of the refurbished equipment is as good as new, right down to the customer documentation. Because the design and materials of our equipment are first class, we are able to give them a second lease of life.
The replacement of the exchange unit is like a pit stop in Formula 1, but in slow motion. Instead of a few seconds, the exchange unit can be installed in just a few hours and the pump will be ready for use immediately. After this, the customer delivers the removed unit to Sulzer for service. Reusing usable parts enables significant savings for our customers.
In addition to process pumps, we also offer individual exchange units for some of our other devices, either in the form of rotating assemblies or other types of configurations. The equipment includes multistage pumps, medium-consistency pumps, horizontal mixers and, in the future, high-speed compressors.
Since 2010, we have delivered more than 700 second-hand units. Most of the pre-owned equipment we have supplied are process pumps, some of them have not even been used at all. We have, however, also refurbished units from other product lines manufactured in the Karhula Pump Factory in Finland, recently including HST turbocompressors. The pre-owned equipment concept is a very good example of the benefits of a circular economy, and it has become a solid and healthy business stream.
When customers want to renew their production process, they would either end up buying totally new equipment or using the existing units as far as possible in their specific case. Sulzer can assist with performing an evaluation of the equipment and by then suggesting which units can be given a second lease of life in the process. Sometimes the original equipment can even be enhanced by changing to more efficient hydraulics or better sealing. You could call this a life cycle assessment, and this is what we do.
Our customers have responded well to the pre-owned business idea. It represents a new way of thinking in the industry ─ a concept where the pump does not have to be manufactured from scratch but instead components of an existing pump can be reused. The advantages of this innovative mindset are obvious. Because less energy and raw materials are used, the carbon footprint is remarkably smaller. This makes the concept sustainable and environmentally friendly.