Bringing old appliances back to life
A simple broken part can often signal the end of a major appliance, sending a consumer out to shop for a new refrigerator, stove, air conditioner or clothes dryer.
To make matters worse, if that old appliance isn’t collected by the retailer, it’s hauled to the curb.
A Glendale Heights business, however, has a better idea.
CoreCentric Solutions remanufactures electronic and electromechanical controls, taking previously useless items and putting them back in circulation.
“We’re in the green business, the sustainability business,” said Badal Wadia, CoreCentric’s president and CEO. “We’re providing a service where there’s a need. Parts cost a lot today. And we’re keeping parts from going into landfills.”
There are several components to the 16-year-old company’s operation: It remanufactures nearly 30,000 pieces a month; it is a supplier of parts for all major brands in the appliance, fitness and heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries; it has a booming return for repair service; and last year it started an appliance recycling program that has gone national. Advances in technology are opening doors.
“Basically, you have to keep service parts alive seven years,” Wadia said. “Some expensive brands keep them alive longer. In the old days with a washer, say, the colors would change, the knobs would change, but the guts stayed the same 15 years. … Today, technology is speeding up. Things change quicker.”
As manufacturers move on to products with more advanced parts, consumers will have a 4-year-old dishwasher that is outdated.
When a manufacturer can no longer supply a part, consumers, service people and third-party warranty providers turn to CoreCentric (corecentricsolutions.com).
“It can be an economic catastrophe, global conditions or it’s just not economical for them to produce the part,” Wadia said. “We fit in. We’re between the original supply manufacturer and the consumer. From the end consumer to manufacturers to third-party service providers, we run the gamut.”
CoreCentric repairs nearly 5,000 parts, he explained. “In most cases, unless it’s broken into pieces or burned up, we can make the repairs.”
The process begins with CoreCentric’s 30-person electrical and mechanical engineering staff, which analyzes and tests each item. They then write the book, literally, on repairs, preparing a work instructions book that is used on the production floor.
“From an engineer’s perspective, (the job) is great because they get to see so many lines of products: microwaves, dishwashers, ranges, built-in ovens, all kinds of cooktops,” Wadia said.
When the engineers are finished, the repair crew has a detailed road map for each product, including its specs, possible areas of trouble, how repairs should be made and how the remanufactured item should be tested.
Donna Barbic, vice president of sales, said that when the engineers are done, all the questions have been answered and the issue has been debugged. Mechanical parts are torn down into individual components, then rebuilt. The finished product has essentially been remanufactured.
“We’re not just going to repair the flat,” Wadia said. “We’ll replace all four tires.”
He said that consumers are often surprised not only that CoreCentric’s service is available, but also at the cost.
Replacing a refrigerator with a decent model can cost $1,500 to $2,000, and a built-in range can cost from $500 to $7,000. Typically, though, a failed part can be replaced for $60 to $120. Some are a little more, of course, such as parts that are not as frequently called for. Others can run a little less.
Also impressive is the turnaround. The return-for-repair service, for example, generally takes 24 to 48 hours. And even that time frame may be a little misleading.
“Most of our repairs come in through a parcel service,” Wadia said, “so by the time they arrive and we get them into the system, a day is gone.”
And with 10 employees dedicated to the return-for-repair service, some customers can wait for their part to be worked on.
“We even had somebody drive from Indianapolis to get a part fixed,” Wadia said. “He called and arranged it ahead of time, and came in and waited for it.”
Wadia said that in the last two years the company has added more than 100 employees as it has expanded its offerings. (One of 2011’s successful strategies was the appliance recycling program. Recycling units were set up at six Chicago-area locations of Automatic Appliance Parts. Later, D&L Parts Co. instituted a program at locations in North and South Carolina, and Dey Distributing did the same at locations throughout the North Central U.S.)
Wadia plans to add 40 or 50 employees this year. Down the line, the company could grow more, tackling small appliances, for example.
“We see that depot repair is an area where we have room for growth,” Barbic said. “Refurbishing the entire product, not just the components as we do today.”
And, she said, “We’re always asked about nonappliance items. Games, musical instruments all have electronic components. We could parlay that into depot repair as well.”