The place do refurbished smartphones come from? Final week, we have been invited by Rebuy, one of many largest retailers of refurbished smartphones in Europe—primarily based in Germany. We have been in a position to go to one among their logistic facilities that’s positioned on the outskirts of Berlin, the place all of the smartphones have been acquired from people and need to endure a sorting course of, the place they’re subsequently processed, cleaned, and examined earlier than discovering a brand new endlessly house.
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, nicely, 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 learn about you, however when I hear about refurbished smartphones I consider Again Market and every little thing else that goes with it. However Rebuy does issues just a little in another way.
Let me clarify. Again Market is a market, mainly 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 consumer to the reconditioning course of (and probably repairs), all the way in which to delivery the handset to the brand new proprietor, every little thing is finished “in-house”, as they are saying.
This idea was given start to within the early 2000s, the place the unique thought got here from a bunch of mates who wished to resell used video video games, is now a actuality. This very thought has since grown to be one of many European leaders of the round financial system in our microcosm, particularly the technosphere. Along with 13 million books and different media, Rebuy additionally bought greater than 500,000 digital gadgets corresponding 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 staff and processes about 12,000 gadgets per thirty days. Once you go to Rebuy’s website, choose 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 should then move by means of 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 computerized pilot
What caught my consideration once I arrived at Rebuy was how trendy your complete facility is. The ambiance is industrial in nature, which makes it considerably tough, full with gear and workstations which are nicely organized, in an virtually symmetrical method. In brief, German-style. However your complete setup additionally had just a little little bit of a startup nation really feel to it, brimming with youthful power 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 blended. As is commonly the case, as many duties as doable are entrusted to robots and AI, to “scale” manufacturing. What do the people do then? The human factor is maintained to function a safeguard and make sure that the robots haven’t gone off the rails or carried out one thing that they weren’t speculated to do. We’re retaining tabs on you, Skynet.
The smartphone goes by means of a number of preparation levels—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 check it completely from the highest to backside. The concept is to verify it’s useful and to guage 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 every little thing is carried out utilizing robots. Synthetic fingers scan the display screen of the smartphone to examine the state of the contact display screen. The machine plugs a complete collection of cables into the machine’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 achieved in lower than 5 minutes by a machine, however hey.
Extra apparently, even the evaluation of the smartphone’s look is finished utilizing AI. The smartphone is photographed 22 instances and a home made algorithm spots doable imperfections if any. I feel it is fairly loopy. After all, the final phrase at all times goes to a technician who checks that the method went nicely and may finally make the required changes.
Shopping for increasingly more smartphones: a lean enterprise mannequin
You might have seen that I’ve talked about little or no about repairs. The actual fact is that the variety of circumstances the place a smartphone, having gone by means of Rebuy and must be repaired, is sort of uncommon. In line with Johannes Meier, they characterize 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 corresponding to new, excellent, good situation and common, nonetheless permitting consumers to seek out what they want.
However throughout the reconditioning course of, repairs do not need to change into a obligatory step. The concept is to purchase again smartphones to resell them. There’s this concept of returns of funding inherent in any enterprise mannequin. And at Rebuy, to be able to resell extra telephones, you merely have to purchase extra. “At present, 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 absolute best situation primarily based on the state during which it arrived sans the prices of reconditioning exceeding the resale value.
To make sure this high-quality steadiness between buyback and resale is maintained, Rebuy does every little thing to maximise its acceptance price. Acceptance of customers who’ve despatched of their smartphone for trade-in and to whom Rebuy makes a proposal primarily based on the situation of the machine. That is why this “grading” course of which you simply noticed within the video is so vital.
If the product the consumer 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 consumer 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 throughout the “grading” course of.
Earlier than, we did this in a really technical method, however now we actually attempt to clarify to individuals what’s unsuitable with their telephone, we additionally present them utilizing movies. And since we have made that effort, we have managed to extend our acceptance price to 94%.
— Johannes Meier
In brief, at Rebuy, it’s a matter of give and take. However in any case, when you refuse their provide, you will not need to pay something and your smartphone might 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?