View inside a data center.

Sims Lifecycle Services invested about $7 million to open facilities in Illinois and Tennessee to inventory, configure and ship out used data center equipment. | Fishman64/Shutterstock

With the pandemic continuing to hamper supply chains for new electronics, Sims Lifecycle Services has made significant investments in helping data centers reuse their old equipment.

Sims Lifecycle Services (SLS) has opened two large redeployment facilities in Chicago and La Vergne, Tenn., where SLS staff receive used devices from customers, inventory and reconfigure them, and then ship them back out to those same customers.

The Chicago facility, where Sims first began testing the redeployment concept to ensure the reconfigured equipment met a specific customer’s needs, opened in July. The 100,000-square-foot facility in La Verne, a suburb of Nashville, officially opens this week. The two redeployment facilities represent a roughly $7 million investment.

Sean Magann, chief commercial officer for SLS, said the company already planned to expand its offerings to include equipment redeployment, because it wants to “be end of runway to our customers.” But supply chain constraints from COVID-19 led SLS to accelerate its plans.

“It’s been a good idea, but circumstances have forced it, and now people are saying, ‘Huh, it works,'” he said.

The openings also come as SLS recently cut the ribbon on an ITAD facility in Ireland.

Expanded service offering

Unlike ITAD and recycling facilities, the redeployment facilities aren’t oriented around refurbishment/device sales or dismantling/recycling. “It’s not a clean room environment, but it’s getting close,” Magann said.

Instead, hyperscale data center customers send used servers to the sites and SLS inventories and configures the equipment to meet that customer’s specifications. Referred to as “postponement,” the service essentially involves SLS assembling servers to partial or near completion and then holding onto them. Then, when the customer site orders equipment with a particular memory or processor, SLS installs those components and fulfills the order.

A customer site ordering the rebuilt server may be on the opposite side of the country from the data center that originally supplied it, Magann noted.

Magann emphasized the financial and environmental benefits of enabling reuse of the servers.

“These are highly engineered products, and the more we can reuse stuff it makes me happy, because it’s the right thing to do economically and it’s the right thing to do for carbon,” Magann said.

The Chicago building is adjacent to an existing SLS ITAD facility, and the La Vergne facility is about five miles from an existing SLS ITAD and recycling plant. A Sims fact sheet noted that La Vergne is “located at the heart of the established Tennessee data center hub, one of the largest in the U.S.”

The La Vergne redeployment facility plant employs 12 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, and the Chicago redeployment site employs 15 FTE, according to the fact sheet.

Equipping both redeployment centers cost about $7 million, including physical and electronic security upgrades and equipment installations, Magann said.

SLS is planning a grand opening event at the La Vergne location on Dec. 9, drawing city leaders, SLS Global President Ingrid Sinclair, Magann, and Mark Erickson and Tony Sciarrotta of the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA).

With its roots in metals recycling, SLS has been moving away from scrap recycling and toward refurbishing and redeploying electronics for years. The company is particularly focused on contracts with data centers. During the 2021 fiscal year, SLS resold or redeployed 2.1 million units, up from 1.6 million units the year before. It’s goal is to resell or redeploy 2.6 million units during the 2022 fiscal year.

Ireland plant comes on-line

SLS in November opened an ITAD facility in Kilbeggan, Ireland. With a head count of seven FTE employees, the facility will process electronics from Ireland’s booming data center industry, according to a press release.

“It has never been more critical for SLS to align our physical locations to be in close proximity to clients,” Magann stated in the press release. “Being local allows us to cut down on miles traveled (reducing carbon), as well as provide more prompt and faster service.”

In the interview, Magann said SLS has had a legal entity in Ireland for some time to facilitate billing, but the company has relied on partners there for processing. “For lots of different reasons, we felt the time was right for our own site,” he said.

SLS in August opened an ITAD facility in Guadalajara, Mexico that employs 20 FTEs.

The company now has 20 facilities throughout the world.

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