How Dell plans to reuse old motherboards to build jewelry

The technology company, Dell, announced on January 9th during the CES(Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas that they would be partnering with the jewelry company Bayou with Love. The limited edition collection, The Circular Collection, is conformed by pieces made out 14 and 18 carat gold extracted from the motherboards of Dell’s recycling program.  Any electronic device can be be dropped of Dell to recycle at any associated Goodwill Store.

This news, as frivolous as it seems, is directly correlated to Dell’s supply chain and process strategy. On our first class we learned that supply chain is the interrelated processes that produce services and products for a customer. This week, we studied process analysis which is the pattern of decisions made in managing processes so that they will achieve their competitive priorities. There are four process decisions to be made that directly affect the process itself and indirectly the service and the products that it provides. These are: process structure, customer involvement, capital intensity and resource flexibility.

  • Process structure is the determination of the process type relative to the kinds of resources needed, how resources are partitioned between them and their key characteristics. In the case of Dell’s extraction of gold a small batch process is what fits them best since it handles moderate volumes and the gold reclamation process to extract gold from the devices is fairly repetitive.
  • Customer involvement is the way in which customers become part of the process and the extent of their participation.  High involvement from the customer is essential to make the jewelry. Without a conscious effort that comes from a customer’s decision to recycle an electronic device, the line would not be possible. Currently, only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled in other products.
  • Capital intensity is the mix of equipment and human skills in the process. For the extraction of the gold fixed automation, a manufacturing process that produces one type of part or product in a fixed sequence of simple operations, is used. A partner company, Wistron GreenTech, is in charge of the gold reclamation process. The precious minerals are dissolved in eco-friendly chemicals and then the gold is filtered and separated from the chemicals.
  • Resource flexibility is the ease with which employees and equipment can handle a wide variety of products, output levels, duties and functions. Unskilled workers can control the automated process of gold extraction, which  means the workforce is flexible. But on the other hand, high equipment investment is needed since the process is very specific but repetitive.

These are just a few characteristics that go into this very interesting process. If you are interested in learning more about the Circular Collection a link to a video about the project is provided! 

9 thoughts on “How Dell plans to reuse old motherboards to build jewelry

  • January 25, 2018 at 8:43 am
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    Maria,

    This is a very interesting topic. For me, the most interesting term in your explaination is resource flexibility. In most cases this would not really be a key characteristic or requirement for a company producing a product. However, in this case it is essential. Being able to take an old computer and sell it for a further profit.

    Dell’s supply chain process strategy is something that I have never heard of. I did further research and realized that other computer companies have employed the same strategy, but dell seems to do this at one of the highest levels.

  • January 25, 2018 at 8:37 am
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    Maria,

    The news about Dell partnering with Bayou with Love is incredibly interesting and innovative, and shows what a good process strategy can produce. Particularly, the point about customer involvement attracts me. It proves that customers are, in fact, a vital piece of the supply chain. From a marketing perspective, this is a great marketing strategy for Dell from an innovative, environmentally-friendly, and customer-oriented stance. According to a 2013 study from International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, consumers, mainly those who are financially able, are “willing to pay more money for a product they consider (environmentally) sustainable.” Again, this reinforces the savvy strategy implemented by Dell; by involving their customers and having an environmentally sustainable product, both Dell and Bayou with Love will reap the benefits and be able to sell their jewelry pieces at a higher price point. Environmentally-friendly supply chain processes, of course, are also important to practice for any business and can help build or maintain a strong brand image.

    (link to website that mentions 2013 study: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/consumers-affect-supply-chain-management-81664.html)

  • January 25, 2018 at 12:30 am
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    Maria,

    This is awesome! Although I’m not necessarily that interested in the jewelry business, this concept and partnership is extremely interesting to me. To start, I really like how you went through the four process decisions and related them to this Dell example. I think this shows that although this may be a headline, there are many other factors and decisions that go on behind every headline in business. I think you did a good job in relating the four to Dell.

    I also find it very cool that Dell is partnering with a jewelry company to use old, unused products to create something else in a more ecofriendly way. If it wasn’t for this case, I may have never heard of something like this, but realizing it is a possibility might open the door for a number of other ideas.

    Something Dell and Bayou are doing here I believe is a direct reflection of what many firms and consumers are turning towards: more efficient and ecofriendly processes. From the consumer perspective, people are starting to become much more aware and concerned with the earth and what we are putting into it. The process here is said to be much more ecofriendly. Since consumers are now looking at this, firms are also starting to look to become more ecofriendly, even if that means wearing a higher cost at times. For example, the company I interned for this summer was using a lot of paper for signs and decorations. This turned out to be tedious and very time consuming while also catching a little backlash from some customers. Because of this, the company has turned to a more digital approach for many of its operations and promotions. Although this turned out to be more costly up-front, it became a much more efficient process for employees to work with and many customers seem to be pleased with the switch.

  • January 24, 2018 at 7:03 pm
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    Maria,

    I found the topic of your blog post very interesting! I hadn’t heard about this collaboration and actually have never heard about a tech company partnering with a jewelry brand. I seems like Dell is really working to involve their customers in the process more than they have before.

    As some of the other comments mentioned, I would argue that the customers do not have a high involvement from the beginning to the end the process. If Dell changed the system so that each individual customer could customize the pieces of jewelry and could voice their opinions and thoughts during each step of the manufacturing process. I liked Joe’s idea of creating a higher customer involvement by giving them the option of choosing different forms to recycle their computer parts to.

    With a growing trend in younger generations on the importance of environmental responsibility, this is a great move on the part the company to attract and retain their younger customers. According to a study by Nielsen, members of Generation Z are more willing to pay a higher price for product made by companies who are committed to a positive social and environmental impact (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html) This could have been a strategic move on Dell’s part for repositioning themselves in the tech market. This movement is also great demonstrating corporate responsibility and adding a layer transparency to the company.

  • January 24, 2018 at 11:34 am
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    Hi Maria,

    I found this video and topic to be very interesting. It is something I have never heard of a tech company doing, but at the same time something that seems so practical: re-purposing fully exhausted asset components to fit a new demand.

    You discussed the four process strategy decisions very well I thought. The way you described the the process structure made it seem rather middle of the road in regards to the product-process matrix (Small batch process, automated, repetitive). However, you described the customer involvement as high. While it is true that the customers are highly involved in the process of actively recycling their old parts, I do not think they are highly involved in the way the textbook describes it. The person who recycles their motherboard does not describe how they want their motherboard to be crafted. Their recycled motherboard gold just gets processed into the same way as the next person’s after they drop it off at Goodwill. Then (as far as I know) Bayou uses said processed gold to craft a standardized line of jewelry that is not tailored to any specific customer.

    Although the process does not have high customer involvement by the textbook definition, I do think that the decision for Dell to enter into this partnership was driven by values they saw in their customers. As you said, only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled in other products, and other e-waste figures are astonishingly low, mostly because people are not aware of how to recycle electronics (https://www.thebalance.com/e-waste-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878189). I think Dell believes their customers want to recycle, which is why they made this partnership. So the high customer involvement, although not directly related to the jewelry production and purchase process as you discussed, is very present and important to Dell from a marketing and brand building perspective.

    • January 24, 2018 at 12:47 pm
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      Joe,

      I agree with what you said about the consumer involvement, it doesn’t really follow the textbook definition of consumer involvement. I think that one potential way to increase involvement would be to allow customers to “upcycle” their old computers into jewelry that they choose or design. Upcycling is defined as “to process used or waste goods so as to produce something that is often better than the original” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/upcycle). Whether or not you agree that jewelry is better than a used computer, allowing consumers to upcycle their waste technology materials would be a good way to raise customer involvement and customization.

      • January 24, 2018 at 3:26 pm
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        Adam,

        That is a term I have not heard before, but it fits perfectly with this scenario, and it would be a great way to raise actual customer involvement. Whether or not it is practical within this business partnership is another thing, given the volume they would be dealing with. Either way, I like the idea.

      • January 24, 2018 at 7:45 pm
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        I also have never heard of this term, but I think it is a really innovative idea that would increase customer involvement; however, I think it is something Bayou with Love should to consider instead of Dell. If Dell starts promoting that you can design jewelry from your laptop through their company their message and branding will get diluted. They would stray from being at technology company. Bayou with Love on the other hand is a jewelry company, so customer involvement in design would be perfect for their brand. This is especially true because customization is a growing trend. In fact, Forbes rated it as one of the “Five Trends that Change the Way Your Customers Shop in 2018”. People want items that are distinctively theirs and having a part in the process makes it even more special.

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/harleyfinkelstein/2018/01/10/5-trends-that-will-change-the-way-your-customers-shop-in-2018/#2b2d74d624d0

      • January 25, 2018 at 7:51 am
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        Adam,

        I agree with your idea to promote customers to “upcycle.” I think this kind of customer involvement is the only way Dell’s recycled diamonds can be successful. Otherwise, I think a real diamond would have a greater intrinsic value than a recycled “Dell” diamond, and the consumer would be more likely to purchase a real diamond from the jewelry store. Involving the customer from the beginning of the process will go further to ensure the sale of the “upcycled” diamonds.

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