Profitably Turning Old Products into New Ones

Innovative and profitable strategies for the recovery, recycling and reuse of used products will be the focus of the first annual Georgia Tech Sustainable Enterprise Product Re-X Conference on June 21 at Georgia Tech College of Management (800 West Peachtree Street).

The conference, which will run from 8:15 AM to 5:30 PM in Rooms 316 and 317 of the Management building, will bring together scholars and representatives from industry, public agencies and non-governmental organizations to discuss business models, product design solutions, globalization and economic development opportunities in Re-X (short for recovery, recycling, remanufacturing and reuse).

Innovation is the overall theme of the conference, which is being organized by Expanding Closed Loops in Production Systems (ECLiPS), an interdisciplinary focused-research program at Georgia Tech. "By closing the loop, we mean taking products that have been used by businesses and consumers and turning them into products, parts or materials to be reused," says Beril Toktay, associate professor of operations management and coordinator of ECLiPS. "There are some companies like Interface that have figured out how to do this profitably."

Michael Bertolucci, who is instrumental in Interface's efforts to ultimately cut its waste down to zero, will deliver the conference's keynote address at 4:30 PM. Interface, a $1 billion company with operations in seven countries, is the market leader in the sale of modular carpet tiles and commercial interior fabrics. "Goals can be lofty," says Bertolucci, senior vice president of Interface, president of Interface Research Corporation, and chairman of the Envirosense Consortium Inc. "For example, eliminating dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels; that's a very scary goal. People think it's just not possible. What we've learned is that we can innovate towards a bodacious goal like that one step at a time."

More and more companies know they have to get serious about sustainable business practices now that consumers as well as domestic and international regulations are demanding it, Toktay says. For example, the European Union is enacting tough environmental legislation that restricts the import of electrical products made with certain hazardous materials, a development that affects U.S. manufacturers. The conference will educate attendees on the effects of that legislation as well as how to handle post-use products, make money on commercial returns, reduce packaging costs and waste, develop a remanufacturing strategy, design a global reverse-logistics network, and understand emerging remanufacturing technologies and biomaterials.

Panelists will include senior executives of IBM, Hewlett Packard, Ford, Canvas Systems, Jabil, Shaw, Cummins, and Interface, representatives of industry associations (CARE, Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation), managers from public entities (National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, Georgia's Pollution Prevention Assistance Division), non-governmental organizations (Medshare, INFORM Inc.), and researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, University of California at Los Angeles and Vanderbilt University.

Registration for the conference costs $95 before June 9 and $130 after that date for industry participants. Reduced rates are available for scholars, students, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and public agencies. To register or get more information, visit the conference Website at http://www.prism.gatech.edu/%7Ebt71/workshop/ReX_index.htm.

Writer: Brad Dixon, College of Management

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.