Cleaning in re-manufacturing industries

In some industries, customers can buy re-manufactured products instead of a newly manufactured one. This fast growing segment of re-manufacturing is the industrial practice of returning a used product to at least its original specification & performance with an equivalent warranty.

Such a definition makes it clear re-manufacturing is much more than only repairing or refurbishing products. Re-manufacturing is done in specified processes which are highly industrialized and must apply to strict procedures & quality standards. In many cases it is the OEM’s who dictate these, as they sell the re-manufactured products under their own brand. An important reason for re-manufacturing is environmental care, as it can significantly reduce the environmental footprint. Research proved that the average savings in re-manufacturing automotive components compared to normal production are considerable (88% materials savings, 53% lower CO2 emissions and 56% lower energy consumption)¹. Closely linked to this is a second important reason for the growing interest in re-manufacturing: attractive margins for re-manufacturers and OEM’s.

Clearly, for lower cost parts, re-manufacturing may not always be an economically viable option. However, for some product categories there are some clear opportunities e.g. expensive parts associated with cars, trucks, rolling stock, airplanes, heavy duty off road vehicles, medical equipment, etc. Normally the parts of these devices, in the industry referred to as ‘cores’, all go through the following 6 stage process:

  1. Disassembly
  2. Cleaning
  3. Inspection
  4. Remachining
  5. Remounting
  6. Reassembly

As cores are covered with dirt, corrosion, grease and in many cases old paint, the cleaning stage is very important. Coming from all over the world and having served under various circumstances no core is the same. Cleaning therefore is a joint challenge for re-manufacturers and their suppliers of chemicals and cleaning equipment.    


Cleaning is the practice of removing unwanted contaminations from a substrate. In re-manufacturing it is essential to have the cores free from all dirt and corrosion which will have accumulated the period of the parts life. In the first place the cores must be cleaned to be able to inspect them and see what repairs are necessary. Secondly, we don’t want the contaminations to have a negative impact on subsequent stages in the re-manufacturing process or on the machine itself.

Generally, every cleaning operation is based on 4 interdependent fundamental parameters:

  1. Chemicals: Chemistry used to dissolve the contamination
  2. Mechanics: Mechanical impact acted on the substrate (e.g. pressure in case of spraying, brushes or ultrasonics)
  3. Temperature: Temperature influences the cleaning effectiveness of a cleaner and should be optimized for its purpose
  4. Time: Every cleaning operation needs to be given enough time to remove contaminations from the surface

This powerful concept was introduced in the late 1950’s by Henkel chemist Herbert Sinner. He found these were the main parameters on which a cleaning operation should be based to optimize cleaning results. In summary, this is exactly what Henkel do when supporting re-manufacturers in optimizing their cleaning applications, which might include degreasing, derusting, decarbonizing and deoxidizing. Equally as important as the cleaning products, is our expertise in optimizing the cleaning processes. In subsequent articles we will have a more detailed look at some examples of challenging cleaning applications in re-manufacturing environments.

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