Monday, 13 January 2014

Putting more babies into each pram!

Image courtesy of Dorel UK Ltd
We’re not talking about multiple births here but about increasing the useful life of products – particularly expensive ones!

Most baby and nursery equipment have two things in common – they are expensive to buy and they are used only for a limited period of time!  For example, a baby pram can cost anything between £400 to over £1000 – and it’s only used until a baby can walk.

The pram then either needs to be disposed of or stored for the next new addition to the family.  Whilst some of the pram components, such as fabrics, do not last long, other components like the frame do.  And it’s this frame which often gets thrown away into landfill when the pram or pushchair has completed its useful life with that family. But, with some professional refurbishing and tlc, this unwanted frame could made serviceable to another family.

An innovative project, led by Maurizio Catulli from the Hertfordshire Business School’s GRIE (Group for Research on Innovation and Enterprise), is researching new ways of providing pushchairs to new parents. This ground-breaking scheme featured as an exemplar in HM Government’s Waste Prevention Programme published in December 2013.

The research project, Re-engineering Business for Sustainability (REBUS), is funded by Defra.  It aims to get more life out of products that we use – by exploring and developing ways to help people increase the useful life of products. Maurizio, along with colleagues from the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the School of Creative Arts, plus the NCT and, pram manufacturer, Dorel UK Ltd are working together to maximise the useful life of pushchairs.

The project explores the potential of a business model where the consumer purchases the use of the product rather than the product itself – that is they purchase access to the use of the pushchair rather than own the pushchair.  In practice, the new parent rents the pushchair which can be then exchanged or upgraded as the baby grows and needs change.  The used models are then thoroughly refurbished by the suppliers as new for the next customer.

There are environmental advantages connected with the resource recovery and reuse of the pushchairs, as well as social advantages - families only pay to use the product when they need it.  With a Baby & Nursery equipment scheme like this, new mums and dads will save money and space – and will have peace of mind knowing that the products are professionally refurbished and certified by the original manufacturers.

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