ENX Magazine February 2018 Issue

Page 48

Christian Pepper

Sales and Marketing

OEM, Remanufactured, Compatible and Counterfeit Consumables: A Reseller’s Guide to Truth and Fiction “The World is changing and we must change with it.” Ragnar Lothbrok, Viking leader The aftermarket is increasingly lining up into two distinct methodologies. In the U.S. and western markets like Europe, the industry leaders’ business models are at least 90 percent invested in producing high quality, higher price remanufactured cartridges. However, in Asia more than 90 percent of cartridges produced now are lower cost, lower quality new-build compatibles. I believe in 2018 and beyond we are going to see increased competition between the companies involved in these two different aftermarket strategies as they fight for share in a shrinking market. Let me give you the backstory of how we got here: Around 2008, there was one legitimate alternative to OEM cartridges—remanufactured. Then, once Lexmark sued 60 companies for importing empty cores into the U.S., Chinese aftermarket companies began

to get serious about producing cartridges built from new shells. Perhaps the burden of recording where cores came from and where they then had to be returned to be sold was the tipping point that made remanufacturing in China less attractive than the capital investment and business model changes required to manufacture new compatibles. Or, as I and many others came to derogatorily refer to them as, clones. The clone term wasn’t accidental, either. What do you think of when you hear this term? Counterfeit? Low quality? Mea culpa…I’ve worked in remanufacturing for 16 years and actively promoted this narrative. In 2017, I moved to a new company, travelled to China and was forced to confront a new reality. The vast majority of “clones” do not infringe OEM intellectual property and, moreover, not all clones are low quality, either.

What is the difference between a reman and a new-build compatible?

Today there are more similarities than differences because remanufactured cartridges do not contain as much recycled content as they used to. The drive towards OEM quality has meant that nearly every component inside is now exchanged for new. Few items have been designed by the OEM to go a second lifespan, so they 48

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have to be replaced. The toner, chip, OPC, PCR, mag roller, doctor blade, wiper blade, drive gears, etc., are usually changed 100 percent of the time. Today, little more than the plastic casing is reused, which means that the fundamental difference between a reman cart and a new-build is the sourcing strategy of the shell—new or used.

Is a remanufactured cartridge more environmentally friendly than a new compatible?

Well, maybe. Let’s examine that. A new OEM cartridge and a new compatible are made from new plastic, but the carbon cost of these consumables can be lowered by utilizing recycled plastics in the manufacturing process and by how much recycling the company does of its sold/expired product. A remanufactured cartridge reuses the plastic shell, but how much of this carbon saving is used by shipping the empty cartridge to plants overseas for remanufacture? Then, as most/ all of the components inside are replaced, what happens to these items? Are they properly recycled or simply disposed of into the waste stream? I now believe the environmental benefits of a cartridge are largely determined by what happens to all spent cartridges after they are sold, regardless of whether they are OEM, reman or compatible. To determine (or diccontinued on page 48

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