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What are the usual steps during the refurbish process/Grading?

Every used products, which should become a refurbished one, will run through mainly the same 5 steps. These steps are often standardized to ensure a high quality at the end of the refurbished process. Within the industry the final result of refurbished products are separated into different grading categories for the shell of the product. This is really important as each refurbished product should be technically working like-new, but only be differentiated by the outside look though the individual grading. As each refurbisher could have their own wording for the grading, in the following I will use the most common categorization: 1. The best possible product quality for a refurbished product is an “A Grading”, which means that the product looks like-new from the outside (if you hold the product in your hand like 30cm away from your eye you will not spot any scratches or ditches on the surface). 2. The second best refurbished quality is a “B Grading”, which is a product that looks like-new on the first view, but could have really small scratches (2mm), not on the screen, when you are taking a closer look. 3. The “C Grading” already shows clear signs of use on the first look, with possible small scratches on the screen. And finally “D Grading” means long scratches, even on the screen, which often makes this product not attractive to refurbish.

1. Product quality check

When the used product arrives in the production facility, it will be running through an outside inspection for the first rating. Here the refurbisher is checking, which phones will be refurbished and for which ones the process would be too expensive. The ones, which are too broken to refurbish (Grading “D” and sometimes even “C”) are normally sold in large qualities to Asia, Middle East or Africa as the salary level in these areas is extremely low. (For products, which have a cloud connection, i.e. Apple iPhones, there will be an additional step to ensure that the previous owner has erased the icloud account from the phone as it cannot be used, if it would be still connected to the old user´s account.) The remaining products made it to step 2…

2. Data erasing & battery check

As normally all of the refurbished products have been used in the past, one of the most important steps is the Data erasing. Probably no one wants that another person is able to see all their private content. For this reason the refurbisher are using a special software, which erases every remaining data point outside of the required firmware. Therefore you will never find any old data on a refurbished phone (at least, if you buy from a trustable source).

In addition, the refurbisher is checking the current battery life of each product. The normal requirements for a refurbished product are stating that it needs to have at least 70 to 80 % (depending on the refurbisher) of the normal battery life, so that this part does not have to be replaced during the further process.

3. Check & Repair

As now all the remaining data has been erased, the surface and functionality gets into the focus again. Does the Touchscreen function correctly? What is about the Home Button? Does the products charges? Can I put my headphones in the opening? And many more questions, which have to be answered at this step (depending on the refurbisher these are often 40 to 70 individual check-points)! As you probably can imagine for each question, to which an employee answers with a “no”, this part has to be repaired or replaced.

So how does all of it can be checked? Is it all manually “hand-made”? For the large players in the industry the answer – probably not so surprisingly – is NO. The companies have developed different technical tools to support them in these checking processes. Nevertheless not all process can be automated and these have to be done manually by human hands.

4. Final check & cleaning

Nowadays the final check is still handled by a human hand, which finally checks, if all the refurbish processes have been done successful, so the product can have a happy second life.

To ensure that the new owner will receive the product clean and look like-new, the cleaning of the products surface is the last step before the product gets repackaged.

5. Repackagung

As mostly the used products are not coming with an original packaging the product will be delivered to the new user in a generic box (or branded box by the refurbisher). Often customers are thinking that therefore the product quality will be lower or a product is fake, but there is a really easy reason for this: The manufacturer just don´t want to provide the refurbishers with original packaging (probably as they are afraid that a product could be sold as original new instead of refurbished).

As you can see, the refurbishers do not work less professional then the manufacturers themselves! Often the products are also getting fully dissembled for the refurbishment and the quality requirements are extremely high and strict. There is literally no real reason to NOT buy a refurbished product, as long as the source (refurbisher) is trustable.

What exactly is refurbishment and refurbished?

One of the questions I have been challenged the most with during the last months has been “What exactly is refurbishment and who is doing it?

I have to say it is a valid question! Nowadays the term “refurbishment” is not really established in our vocabulary or society in general.

So what is refurbishment?

The term refurbishment means something has been repaired, cleaned, and made to look new again.

The phrase “look new again” mainly makes the difference to a classic “used” product, which usually has signs of usage.

In the past, refurbishment has primarily be used in the term of a renovation, i.e. of a building, but it is also used in a technical manner. In this case next to the “repaired, cleaned and made to look new again” attributes of the word, we would also add tested to function like-new.

Summarizing the meaning of the word “refurbishment” in a context of technical products it would be something like “a product which has been repaired, cleaned, tested to function and look like-new“!

As you now know what refurbishment is, probably the next question that you have is….

What kind of products can be refurbished?

Overall you can say that all products, which have electronic and technical contents can be refurbished: Phones, drilling machines, notebooks, kitchen devices, hair dryers, watches, etc.!

Nevertheless the most common refurbished goods nowadays are smartphones, tablets and notebooks. Especially products, which have a high selling price as the price difference compared to a “new” product makes a real difference, often up to 50%.

Who is refurbishing the products?

There are mainly 3 different ways how a product is refurbished:

  1. A small amount of manufacturers are refurbishing their products themselves (i.e. Apple)
  2. Many manufacturers are using large authorized refurbishers, who refurbish their products with an official manufacturer authorization (i.e. Microsoft)
  3. And the last group are third-party refurbishers, which are refurbishing products with their own capabilities, but without any official authorization (often through trade-in programs)

In general you can say that for nearly no brand there is only one of the above ways existing, which means that for example an refurbished Apple iPhones on the market can come from each one of the above 3 different refurbishment sources.

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