A revolutionary project by Renault: its Refactory project, or industrial reconditioning of used cars…

At the end of January next year, we will test for you, dear reader, the Renault Arkana E-TECH Hybrid, and this will prove highly interesting indeed. But Renault has further stunning news in store, which your servant reserves for you in these columns.  

Renault Group presented namely the actual progress of its Refactory project, an initiative launched a year ago to transform the Flins site (Yvelines, France) into the first European factory dedicated to the circular economy of mobility. Circular here means re-using second hand vehicles…no less!  

On this occasion, the group is inaugurating its Factory VO (Used Vehicles), the first factory specializing in the reconditioning of used vehicles on an industrial scale. This conversion is part of the group’s overall transformation plan, focused on value creation and sustainable development. Just so interesting!

Read more about it here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A wonderful initiative…

Your servant can only applaud this bold initiative, which in my opinion is visionary to say the least. We just cite here Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group, on this project.

“We are keeping our promise: one year after its launch, the Refactory embodies an innovative and ambitious project for the Flins site, a new source of economic, social and environmental value. The Refactory is emblematic of the Renaulution, which engages the group in a deep, rapid and lasting transformation, driven by the creation of value. At the heart of this project, our 1st used vehicle factory demonstrates our ability to industrialize our know-how and activities linked to the circular economy. This Factory OV (or used vehicle factory) puts us in an excellent position on the growing used vehicle market, with a unique industrial tool capable of reconditioning up to 45,000 vehicles per year ”.

4 poles…

According to Renault, the Refactory is based on an ecosystem articulated around 4 poles:

RE-TROFIT: this division brings together the retrofit and reconditioning activities of used vehicles. Operational since September 2021, the Factory VO has already reconditioned more than 1,500 vehicles. In the next two years, it is planned to increase its capacities and introduce new activities, such as important body repair. A retrofit offer to convert commercial vehicles to electric will also be studied by 2023.

RE-ENERGY: this pole contributes to the development of applications around the second life of batteries and new energies. With the rise of electric mobility, Gaia, a subsidiary of the group specializing in battery repair, is preparing to change its scale of activities: by the end of 2021, 2,000 battery repairs will be carried out and this will grow to more than 20,000 repairs per year by 2030. In coordination with Mobilize, the Flins site hosted in 2021 a stationary energy storage device from batteries, with a capacity of 15 MWh (“Advanced Battery Storage” project). The development of mobile or stationary energy storage systems for multiple uses (construction sites, solar energy storage, on board ships, etc.) will represent a capacity of 30 MWh over the years 2021 and 2022. In the As part of the Hyvia joint venture dedicated to hydrogen mobility, the Flins site will also host, from 2022 onwards, the assembly activities of fuel cells, recharging stations and the supply of hydrogen.

RE-CYCLE: this division brings together recycling and re-use of parts and materials. The gradual arrival between 2021 and 2022 of the teams from the Choisy-le-Roi plant, experts in the remanufacturing of mechanical parts, will make it possible to maximize the use of reconditioned and spare parts within the Factory VO and the group. It is also planned to extend the strategic activity of repairing electronic boards (mechatronics) as part of this transfer of activity. The division is continuing to implement short loops for the recycling of materials and parts, such as catalytic converters or bumpers.

RE-START: this cluster encompasses the innovation and training center project. It brings together 3 entities: an innovation center at the service of Industry 4.0 to develop specifically prototyping, 3D printing, the retrofitting of our robots, a commercial vehicle prototyping activity, as well as a campus where professional training leading to diplomas are offered to employees of the Flins factory. At the start of 2022, this cluster will integrate an incubator dedicated to research and innovation in the circular economy, as well as new academic certifying training courses with the support of the region.

A state of the art factory, creating value…

To preserve product value and respond to the growth of the second hand vehicle market, the Flins used vehicle reconditioning plant is based on a unique model, designed to offer the best level of the market in terms of lead times, cost and quality.

The Factory VO is a 100% digitized site, which ensures excellent traceability and real-time monitoring of the repair stages. Developed to recondition all types of vehicles, of all brands, the site is mainly based on 4 major assets:

Economies of scale:

Spread over an area of ​​11,000 m2, the Factory VO in Flins is presently the largest reconditioning site in Europe. Organized into three teams, it can recondition 180 second-hand vehicles per day, or 45,000 vehicles per year by 2023, with the possibility of doubling this figure in the medium term.

Lower costs…

The site’s competitiveness is a result of the high productivity rate, driven by an online organization and optimized production systems for new vehicles. The Factory VO benefits from short delivery loops of parts and materials from group subsidiaries such as Gaia, Indra, and Choisy in order to limit the replacement of parts as much as possible, favouring repairs instead. Pooling logistic flows with those of new vehicles also cuts costs and reduces the impact on the environment.

Short repair and reconditioning times…

Equipped with 4 production lines, the Factory VO is organized in such a way that there is no going back. Carried out by SGS Automotive Services, technical inspection and control is integrated on the line in order to increase efficiency and reduce delays. The site is equipped with a photo and video studio installed on a turntable to generate automated shots (up to 10 vehicles per hour). This high-resolution scanner gives access to a virtual 360-degree inspection (interior, exterior, underbody and tires). Designed by specialist Twinner, this tool allows the vehicle to be offered again for sale immediately, without waiting for it to be returned to the dealership. On average, the Factory VO reconditions a vehicle in 8 days instead of 21 days.

“New vehicle” quality standards…

Reconditioned vehicles benefit from the same quality standards as the manufacture of new vehicles. An independent quality control device is integrated into the production, as well as a battery qualification system for electric vehicles. By 2022, 200 employees will have joined the Factory VO. These internal recruitments at the Flins plant are accompanied by a certified training program, made up of a general section (after-sales strategy, durability of materials, recycling, etc.) and more specific training geared to to the Factory VO (electromechanical, smart repair).

The Refactory project is, still according to Renault,  at the heart of the Group’s sustainable development strategy. It is a global industrial project, which is intended to be deployed more widely, recently also at the factory in Seville, Spain.

All this has a very good reason: these activities contribute, at their scale, to the decarbonisation trajectory to aim for the group’s carbon neutrality in Europe in 2040.

A very interesting initiative, which we will follow closely in the future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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