If you’re reading this publication, you are well aware of the ultra-competitive nature of electronics recycling. E-scrap businesses must adjust to market shifts and be quick to make smart choices about pricing and material sales.
In the mobile recycling and repair space, those challenges are amplified.
At HYLA Mobile, for instance, we are constantly innovating in mobile device reverse logistics, specifically in the areas of collection, processing and disposition. The ultimate goal is improved customer experience during the device trade-in and recycling process.
That customer element is what makes the mobile recovery space particularly challenging. To truly develop a mobile repair and recycling enterprise, ecosystem vendors must find ways to get ahold of consumers’ devices in an environment where upgrades are happening all the time and customers are well aware of the value of their used products.
From there, mobile recovery businesses must find increasingly efficient ways to determine the value of material and then process it accordingly.
Creating easy and intuitive collection
Our company works with mobile operators, OEMs, retailers and other distributors of mobile devices to make their material recovery systems as efficient as possible. Such experience has made it clear how technology advances and market forces are pushing mobile recovery forward.
To keep pace, operators must make the collection process easy and intuitive to the consumer while also providing real-time pricing valuation to maximize profitability.
One compelling innovation example is an emerging “beacon” technology that dovetails with Wi-Fi recognition to improve the mobile recovery experience for both consumers and repair professionals.
The idea is that when a customer enters a mobile-device retail store or repair shop, the beacon technology identifies the type of device in the consumer’s pocket. That information might be used in trade-in offers, special deals, upgrade options and more.
Once a device connects to the store Wi-Fi, a number of key metrics can be collected from it. Then push messaging can be used to communicate to the customer and provide for a more seamless and personalized retail experience.
Innovation is also opening up helpful avenues when it comes to the pricing structure used to garner material from the consumer market.
Systems that constantly analyze market and pricing data from buyback companies, carriers, independents and other vendors help operators understand potential device value in real-time. Such information, for example, may prompt savvy companies to run early or just-in-time upgrade promotions.
It’s also important to understand that because consumers are more conscious of the value and the cost of smartphones, they are also better caring for these devices. That, in turn, lengthens the device life cycle. Operators should stay on top of this trend and build their offers around the fact that consumers are becoming more informed and conscientious about their devices.
Automation in action
Further innovation is helping lead to greater efficiency and data security on the processing front.
Devices must be inspected, tested and graded, and their data must be cleared before disposition decisions are made. The more automation at this stage, the faster the processing. Some processes are still manual, yet robotics and assembly line innovations enabled by IoT are contributing to faster and more accurate processing. We continue to look at ways to implement automation in this stage.
At the processing point and after grading, a decision is made on whether the device is at “end of life.” Devices that do not present a sufficient reuse value are sent downstream, and parts may be reusable for repairing broken devices.
When it comes to those parts, management systems are key. Apple currently does not sell OEM parts to vendors or consumers. At the same time, the most-often repurposed devices are Apple products and we continue to see vendors saving Apple parts to be used for repair purposes.
Advances are being seen throughout the processing stage. In device receipt, for example, most items are currently manually scanned, but the use of video to visually receive a device is being rolled out as we speak. When it comes to device cosmetic inspection, in many instances manual is still the norm; however, technologies like Google Glass are being evaluated for machine vision-enabled inspection. Automated solutions are in place to test and grade devices. Additional innovation is enabling automatic routing to the appropriate type of disposition by connecting all the components and analyzing the test and grade results in real-time using sophisticated recommendation algorithms.
Clearly, mobile recovery is an area where evolution is current and opportunities are opening up, but it takes dedication and a willingness to experiment in order to grow in that sector.
Biju Nair is president and CEO of HYLA Mobile. He can be contacted at hylamobile.com.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in an op-ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.