by Kenneth Rudich
Re-use centers on strategies for reducing waste by using an item more than once. It may be used again for the same function, or it may be modified to serve a new function, which is also known as re-purposing. Unlike recycling, which breaks an item down into raw materials for manufacturing new items, re-use always involves the same item.
Re-use is not new and numerous examples of it will seem – and indeed are – commonplace or ordinary. For instance, it can be as simple as saving paper clips or rubber bands on incoming office material to use again for outgoing material; using cardboard boxes several times over to ship goods, or perhaps re-purposing them into long term storage containers; refurbishing an already existing property or building rather than constructing a new one; or re-gifting clothes and toys by giving them to charities.
In light of how simplistic these examples are (not to mention the “duh” factor as in “Thank you captain obvious!”), it spurs the question of why re-use should merit more attention than already afforded by common sense?
As it turns out, the answer to that question lies in the question itself.
re-use as part of the business strategy
It’s easy to under appreciate the potential value of re-use. After all, the paltry savings gained from turning around a few paper clips or rubber bands is hardly the stuff of business legend.
But what if the expectations for re-use got ratcheted up? What if they entered the realm of making a genuine bottom line impact? Would the rhetoric about it still fall on deaf ears?
In order to more fully recognize the potential benefits of a re-use strategy, it becomes necessary to understand that its real value derives from the cumulative effect it can have as it crisscrosses the value chain. By identifying products, services, facilities, technologies, applications and processes (or elements of them) that can be used over again, either for the same purpose or a new one, it becomes possible to amass a growing collection of savings due to significant reductions in wasted time, energy, and money.
Such cost containment can be relevant to small businesses and large businesses alike.
Let’s put an organizational face on the idea of re-use by establishing some significant objectives for it to accomplish, such as:
- increased quality
- reduced risk
- increased productivity
- rapid functional prototyping
- leverage technical expertise
- increased integration
- faster time to market
- bypassing costs that would otherwise be pointless, unnecessary, or imprudent to incur
- expanding the value lifecycle of items
Now we have visible benefits that can be monitored and measured, and that also make a material difference.
Take, for instance, a practice often seen in the auto industry, where the same car frame is used for different models of cars. If we compare this re-use practice with the objectives listed above, it is noteworthy to mention that nearly all, if not all, of the objectives are served.
formally implementing re-use in business strategy
Though re-use is already commonly seen across many aspects of the workplace, it doesn’t mean that all the available benefits have been captured. Nor does it mean that people actually think about it in any detailed way. In fact, there’s a good chance the benefits that have been realized are the tip of the iceberg variety.
Growing this practice to multiply the benefits requires an ongoing, systematic approach rather than one done ad hoc or as a byproduct of common sense. It must be formally treated as a discipline, and it must be thoroughly integrated into the organizational culture.
People must be geared to look toward the horizon and assess how something might be used or modified, and then work within the context of a modular design format to accommodate that possibility – so items can be plugged in and out without having to revamp the entire system. Whether its technical components, business components, or application templates, not everything always needs to be developed from scratch. A modular approach to maximize re-use (or re-purposing) supports rapid, nimble, and flexible development and customization.
Similarly, the organizational culture should avoid a “not invented here” mindset. Sometimes the best internal re-use solutions come from studying what other external industries, business, and disciplines are doing with comparable functional motives and concerns.
the value chain re-use strategy
Innovation doesn’t always have to be disruptive in nature. Small, incremental improvements derived from re-use can be just as fruitful over time. To that end, the three following examples aim to help with stimulating active thought and discussion about applying the principles of re-use in the value chain strategy.
Re-use in the market characteristics component stems from the belief that individual products and services are short-lived but relationships are enduring. Becoming better acquainted with the customers and consumers is crucial to developing a long-term relationship that keeps them coming back even though the products and services may change.
There’s also a social marketing value to re-use because it can have a favorable economic, environmental, and social impact. For instance, it can divert from landfills, or help families and communities by providing donated goods and materials.
Re-use in the communications component may involve reductions in material waste, such as the physical supplies typically associated with the communications function; or it may involve reductions in expended time and effort through the reuse of proven processes, practices, formats, treatments, messages, or communications objects (e.g., logo).
Additionally, message clarity, consistency, and continuity help reduce confusion and misunderstanding about an organization’s products, services, culture and values. This further explains why organizations employ a logo, catchy tag line, or memorable URL, and then reuse them across various media, as well as over time. An organizational vision developed around a few select themes suits the same purpose.
Reuse in the transactions/operations component can be deployed among three key system components. The first is the hardware component, the second is the software, and the third is the business architecture.
In the hardware component, for example, standardized network designs with replaceable building blocks, scalability, and interoperability are examples of reusable hardware strategies, both within an organization’s value chain, and also across its value system.
For the software, Trudy Levine of Fairleigh Dickinson University says, ‘The knowledge and skills of future software engineers must change from a “develop from scratch”/ “not invented here” mind-set to a software reuse mindset.’