The place do refurbished smartphones come from? Final week, we had been invited by Rebuy, one of many greatest retailers of refurbished smartphones in Europe—based mostly in Germany. We had been capable of go to certainly one of their logistic facilities that’s positioned on the outskirts of Berlin, the place all of the smartphones had been acquired from people and need to bear a sorting course of, the place they’re subsequently processed, cleaned, and examined earlier than discovering a brand new without end dwelling.
Final Monday, we embark on a guided tour of the Rebuy Electronics premises in Berlin Falkensee with Johannes Meier, head of the standard management division, to take a look at how a refurbished smartphone is, properly, refurbished. Thoughts you, it is refurbished and never repaired, as a result of they don’t seem to be fairly the identical factor.
First issues first, what is Rebuy? I do not find out about you, however when I hear about refurbished smartphones I consider Again Market and all the things else that goes with it. However Rebuy does issues a bit in another way.
Let me clarify. Again Market is a market, principally a digital market that places you in contact with completely different sellers of refurbished smartphones, however Rebuy manages the entire course of internally. From the second of buy from the person to the reconditioning course of (and presumably repairs), all the way in which to delivery the handset to the brand new proprietor, all the things is completed “in-house”, as they are saying.
This idea was given delivery to within the early 2000s, the place the unique concept got here from a bunch of pals who wished to resell used video video games, is now a actuality. This very concept has since grown to be one of many European leaders of the round economic system in our microcosm, particularly the technosphere. Along with 13 million books and different media, Rebuy additionally bought greater than 500,000 digital gadgets similar to smartphones, laptops, wearables, and cameras in 2021 alone.
The subsidiary, Rebuy Electronics, whose logistics middle I used to be privileged sufficient to go to and present you what goes on behind the scenes, employs some 550 workers and processes about 12,000 gadgets per thirty days. Whenever you go to Rebuy’s web site, decide to have your smartphone evaluated by sending it to them, that is the place the place it arrives – in a big 4,500 sq. meter facility. It would then move via a manufacturing line that includes a number of sections, some manned by people whereas others are robotic in nature, to finish the reconditioning course of.
Sufficient phrases, it is time so that you can expertise how this technological ballet works:
Reconditioning on automated pilot
What caught my consideration after I arrived at Rebuy was how trendy your complete facility is. The environment is industrial in nature, which makes it considerably tough, full with tools and workstations which are properly organized, in an nearly symmetrical method. In brief, German-style. However your complete setup additionally had a bit little bit of a startup nation really feel to it, brimming with youthful vitality and stylish vibes, the place in all places you flip, you might be greeted by devices and robotic arms a la Tony Stark.
On this logistics middle of Rebuy, automation and human intervention are combined. As is commonly the case, as many duties as potential are entrusted to robots and AI, to “scale” manufacturing. What do the people do then? The human aspect is maintained to function a safeguard and be sure that the robots haven’t gone off the rails or carried out one thing that they weren’t presupposed to do. We’re preserving tabs on you, Skynet.
The smartphone goes via a number of preparation phases—unpacking, resetting, cleansing – earlier than going to the absolutely automated section of the chain. At this level, it’s positioned by robotic arms in machines that take a look at it completely from the highest to backside. The thought is to verify it’s useful and to judge its high quality. There are two elements on the coronary heart of the method right here: “high quality” and “grading.”
What’s fascinating is that all the things is carried out utilizing robots. Synthetic fingers scan the display screen of the smartphone to test the state of the contact display screen. The machine plugs a complete collection of cables into the system’s numerous ports. The smartphone additionally undergoes digicam, audio, and even a battery life benchmark. It is fairly scary that my job as a reviewer will be performed in lower than 5 minutes by a machine, however hey.
Extra curiously, even the evaluation of the smartphone’s look is completed utilizing AI. The smartphone is photographed 22 instances and a selfmade algorithm spots potential imperfections if any. I feel it is fairly loopy. In fact, the final phrase at all times goes to a technician who checks that the method went properly and might ultimately make the required changes.
Shopping for an increasing number of smartphones: a lean enterprise mannequin
You will have seen that I’ve talked about little or no about repairs. The very fact is that the variety of circumstances the place a smartphone, having gone via Rebuy and must be repaired, is kind of uncommon. In keeping with Johannes Meier, they symbolize lower than 1 / 4 of the merchandise processed.
The minimal requirement is that the smartphone is 100% useful, with all technical features working correctly. As for the state of its look, Rebuy is much less rigid, since there are completely different grades similar to new, excellent, good situation and common, nonetheless permitting patrons to search out what they want.
However through the reconditioning course of, repairs do not need to turn into a obligatory step. The thought is to purchase again smartphones to resell them. There may be this concept of returns of funding inherent in any enterprise mannequin. And at Rebuy, with the intention to resell extra telephones, you merely have to purchase extra. “At the moment, 90% of the smartphones sourced come from people who undergo the corporate’s web site,” CEO Philipp Gattner defined to me.
The aim is to not restore smartphones and systematically refurbish them. Reconditioning a smartphone means returning it to the very best situation based mostly on the state during which it arrived sans the prices of reconditioning exceeding the resale value.
To make sure this nice stability between buyback and resale is maintained, Rebuy does all the things to maximise its acceptance charge. Acceptance of customers who’ve despatched of their smartphone for trade-in and to whom Rebuy makes a proposal based mostly on the situation of the system. That is why this “grading” course of which you simply noticed within the video is so essential.
If the product the person sends in is as described, Rebuy will purchase it again from them on the agreed value. But when one thing goes unsuitable, Rebuy has to re-evaluate the buy-back value, however extra importantly, it has to make the person settle for it and make a decrease revenue. To do that, the corporate performs the twin roles of being an educator, and a clear one at that, with a full report drawn up by a technician that denotes the irregularities discovered through the “grading” course of.
Earlier than, we did this in a really technical method, however now we actually attempt to clarify to folks what’s unsuitable with their cellphone, we additionally present them utilizing movies. And since we have made that effort, we have managed to extend our acceptance charge to 94%.
— Johannes Meier
In brief, at Rebuy, it’s a matter of give and take. However in any case, for those who refuse their provide, you will not need to pay something and your smartphone will probably be despatched again to you in a a lot better situation than the one it was in earlier than. That is definitely a win-win state of affairs, is it not?