Design for Circular Machine Building

collecting and returning materials for reuse


What is it?

Mechanical engineering in Flanders scores strongly in terms of added value, employment and exports, but also has one of the highest material footprints. A solution could be reverse logistics: collecting and returning materials for reuse.

Product-as-a-Service business models, in which the manufacturer retains ownership of its product, could provide a solution. But PaaS models for machine builders (often SMEs) appear to be a step too far. The switch from manufacturer to service provider impacts diverse aspects: product design, customer relations and employee deployment, legal and financial framework.

In a living lab we create an environment in which 3 machine builders can test the PaaS via the methodology of design thinking, supported by experts (finance, legal, business model, technology, service design, eco design) and in interaction with fellow companies.


Good practices

We used the double diamond as a guide:

DISCOVER: Each expert shared knowledge during a plenary session, e.g. what is the tax difference between renting and leasing, or what are the different eco design strategies.

DEFINE: We defined the focus of each use case and drew up the design letter for the concept.

DEVELOP: We implemented the concept per use case and adjusted where necessary. E.g. we set up a customer journey and service blueprint, defined a complete business model canvas or look at what technological architecture is needed.

DELIVER: We launched the use cases and captured feedback and rework.


Use cases:

  • Eliet is a manufacturer of horticultural machinery. For a new machine offering lawn tillage where water is retained longer in the soil, Eliet wants to move away from the traditional way of offering machines. Through the product-as-a-service approach, they want to offer the machines to garden contractors. Under this, a network of rental companies should be built, tracking systems should be set up and renting the machine should be as smooth as possible.


  • Cyago makes machines specialized in blow-off and drying of products. E.g. a drying machine for reusable cups. This is a machine where energy consumption, adjustment and quality are important. With a more data-driven approach and ownership by the machine builder himself, there could potentially be a quick sustainable and financial gain.


  • 3Dtools machines are made to easily fill paints and coatings. The modular design makes this machine easily upgradeable and customizable. This also facilitates the reusability of parts. Keeping ownership of the machine and parts can be crucial here, in a future with more and more scarcity of raw materials.





Stijn Debaillie
Designregio Kortrijk


F U R T H E R   I N F O R M A T I O N

click here