Circular economy options in office furnishing

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Rype Office Circular economy options in office furnishing

Rype Office is changing how companies think about their office furnishings. Three options are available to customers; purchase new furniture and return it in a buy-back scheme, purchase remade furniture from existing feedstock or have existing furnishings refreshed and returned to an as-new condition.

While ownership may still be favoured for some items such as a classic car, guitar or teddy bear, companies and individuals may readily lease functional products such as washing machines or power tools. Office furniture is also ripe for such disruption, and UK company Rype Office is leading the way in changing how companies think about their furnishings.

A series of publications over the past five years has highlighted the success stories and untapped potential of remanufacturing. The reports of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation demonstrate the economic opportunities and outline some key steps to keep materials in the ‘inner loop’ of a technical cycle. The Next Manufacturing Revolution, co-authored by Lavery/Pennell, the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing and 2degrees, identifies areas of opportunity for remanufacturing in the UK, as well as barriers to adoption. Learning from this work, the team at Lavery/Pennell identified the potential for a dynamic remanufacturing business specialising in office furniture – an idea that the founders had been sitting on for over a decade waiting for the right timing.

The 2012 report Towards the Circular Economy vol. 1 outlined the significant business advantages of moving towards a more circular business model, and suggested circular principles that we designed into the company from the outset

- Greg Lavery, Rype Office

The resulting company, Rype Office, offers three furniture options for customers: New, Remade or Refreshed, each appealing to different client preferences and openness to new business models and remanufactured products.

For customers who desire brand New furniture, products can either be purchased outright with the option of a buy-back offer (the model used by Caterpillar for its engines), or leased for a monthly fee. Both allow Rype Office to recover the furniture for remanufacturing at the end of its first life, while saving customers money. The furniture offered by Rype Office in this model has been chosen for its quality and ability to be remanufactured, reducing the cost to renew it.

For their Remade offering, Rype Office applies interior design expertise to provide a made-to-order service that creates beautiful, productive offices, drawing from a range of feedstocks. Rype Office sources the appropriate cores and remakes them to suit the sizing, colours and materials specified by the client, who once again can lease or purchase the order with a buy-back offer. Customers benefit from substantial cost savings and reduced lead times as the furniture does not have to be made from scratch.

For their third offering, Refresh, the company takes a customer’s existing furniture and remakes it to as-new condition. Remanufacturing is currently locally outsourced by Rype Office to ensure sufficient capacity and skills to serve large orders and diverse furniture types. Their supply chain combines latest equipment with traditional furniture mastercraftsmanship. Refreshing provides a large cost saving for customers and has also proven attractive to companies struggling to replace furniture pieces no longer in production.

The Profit and Social Benefit of Remanufacturing
The Profit and Social Benefit of Remanufacturing

This range of service offerings enables customers to take big or small steps towards the savings available from the circular economy, depending on their level of acceptance of the new business model. Rype Office has found that while there are many success stories, barriers remain to circular business models. The most significant of these is perception; customers often confuse remanufactured products with second hand, used, cleaned, repaired or repainted. By definition, remanufactured products should be returned to as-new or ‘better than new’ quality, and many working examples of this exist, from photocopiers to engines and other car components.

We challenge our customers to tell the difference between our remanufactured products and new.

- Greg Lavery, Rype Office

The second main barrier is that pay-per-use is a relatively new concept, often accompanied by preconceptions of being more expensive or creating inconvenience through lack of ownership. In reality, the opposite may be true, as circular leasing models incentivise better maintenance and support by the manufacturer throughout the life of the product. Many encouraging examples exist, and the range of products that businesses and individuals are willing to access rather than own is growing all the time, with houses, white goods and even clothes now available through pay-for-access models.

While Rype Office has been designed with ambitious circular economy principles at its core, these are blended with more conventional approaches to meet the market where it is today, and help customers to understand the further savings available. In this sense, the company is playing a crucial role in identifying business models that work for the transition to a circular economy.

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