Technology Now

According to 2023 figures from the World Economic Forum, around 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste is produced every year worldwide.

Combating that is HPE’s Technology Renewal Center (TRC) at Erskine, just outside Glasgow in Scotland. It takes in around 3 million pieces of end of use tech every year to help it find a new life. In fact, according to HPE's figures, 9.2 million assets have been put back into use over the last 3 years.

This week, Michael’s been out visiting the Technology Renewal Center to discover how end of use tech is getting a second chance, with his guide, Ray McGann: Managing Director of HPE Financial Services Ireland, and Worldwide Enterprise IT Asset Lifecycle Leader.

This is Technology Now, a weekly show from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Every week we look at a story that's been making headlines, take a look at the technology behind it, and explain why it matters to organizations and what we can learn from it.

Do you have a question for the expert? Ask it here using this Google form:

About the expert:

Sources and statistics cited in this episode:
HPE's figures on the performance of the Technology Renewal Center:
World Economic Forum report on e-waste:

Creators & Guests

Aubrey Lovell
Michael Bird

What is Technology Now?

HPE News. Tech Insights. World-Class Innovations. We take you straight to the source — interviewing tech's foremost thought leaders and change-makers that are propelling businesses and industries forward.

Aubrey Lovell (00:09):
Hey friends, and welcome to Technology Now, a weekly show from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, where we take what's happening in the world and explore how it's changing the way organizations are using technology. We're your hosts, Aubrey Lovell and Michael Bird.

Now, Michael's been released into the wild this week to bring us a report all the way from Scotland, where old enterprise tech is given a new lease on life, saving money and the planet. Michael's guide for this episode is Ray McGann, managing director of HPE Ireland and Worldwide Enterprise IT Asset Lifecycle Leader.

We'll be learning about how renewing tech plays into the circular economy, we'll be exploring the impact that reusing technology can have on our organization's bottom lines, and we'll be asking if renewing rather than recycling is an important part of the future of green IT.

So if you're the kind of person who needs to know why what's going on in the world matters to your organization, this podcast is for you. And if you haven't yet, subscribe to your podcast app of choice so you don't miss out.

All right, Michael, over to you.

Michael Bird (01:18):
Thanks, Aubrey. Yes, I am here outside HP's Technology Renewal Center in Erskine, Scotland. It's early 2024. It is rainy, it is cold, and it is quite windy as you can probably hear. So I'm going to head indoors as quickly as possible so I can learn a little bit more about what this place is and why it is important.

Speaker 3 (01:46):
[inaudible 00:01:40] carry this.

Speaker 4 (01:49):
[inaudible 00:01:47]. Are you doing all right?

Michael Bird (01:49):
Hi, hello.

Speaker 4 (01:49):
How are you? [inaudible 00:01:50]

Michael Bird (01:50):
Hiya. Good morning.

Speaker 4 (01:50):
[inaudible 00:01:50], Jackie, [inaudible 00:01:50].

Michael Bird (01:50):
Hi Jackie.

Speaker 6 (01:50):

Michael Bird (01:50):
Hi Ryan.

Ryan (01:50):
How are you?

Michael Bird (01:50):

So I'm delighted to be taken on this tour by Ray. Ray, can you just give a little introduction to yourself?

Ray McGann (01:56):
So yeah. Hi, it's Ray McGann, and I am responsible for the asset management business within HPEFS on a worldwide basis for enterprise customer segment.

Michael Bird (02:08):
So Ray, can you just talk a little bit about what the technology renewal center is?

Ray McGann (02:12):
So our technology renewal center here in Erskine in Scotland is the destination point for all of our European asset upcycling and our end of lease business. So all of our assets that we have in the European market when they've come to end of use are returned here, and this is the home of our remanufacturing and re-engineering for all those equipment to go back out into the market.

Michael Bird (02:38):
Why was slightly rainy Erskine chosen for this location?

Ray McGann (02:42):
Circa 12 years ago, we were looking for a home for the renewal process, and we were very fortunate that at that time, Erskine, which was HPE's ISS manufacturing facility, became available. It really dovetailed extremely well with our plans within HP Financial Services to have a home where we had that expertise available to us to help re-engineer product, and particularly in the data center space, to put back out into the market. So timing was absolutely perfect for us to locate our business here.

Michael Bird (03:21):
We're going to start the tour. Where are we going next?

Ray McGann (03:22):
So we're now going to go into the TRC. You'll notice we're going through secure barriers. So that's ultimately an extremely secure facility.

Michael Bird (03:34):
So the next stage of the journey takes us to the first processing point for incoming tech on its route to a second lease of life. Stacks of equipment, some of which I recognize, but much of which is crated up, it's bought here to the technology renewal center, it's sorted, and then it's got ready for processing.

Where are we standing now?

Ray McGann (03:56):
So this is the receiving bay where all of the articulated lorries come in from various different locations across the UK, Ireland, and Europe. And you can see from where we're looking now, various different equipment types all coming in in pallets.

Michael Bird (04:13):
Can you just talk me through what happens? So the equipment appears here somehow?

Ray McGann (04:17):
Yes. Comes in on those trucks into these bays and received in, and as you'll see from the sign, this is the receiving and de-box area. So we take everything out. We will know what we were expected to receive, and we will be able to do an asset count, and confirm from this very early stage, did we get everything that we were expecting back from a customer. We have that control point from the very start, and you can see each one of the assets being brought, ready, and made available for the next phase of the production line.

You can also see bar coding on all of them. So effectively from this point, we will ensure we are tracing that particular batch of assets on that pallet all the way through the process because it's critical that we have secure chain of custody for all these assets.

Michael Bird (05:11):
What sort of volumes are we talking about?

Ray McGann (05:12):
So on an annualized basis, this facility, again, with the facility in North America, are handling several million devices on an annualized basis.

Michael Bird (05:22):
My goodness. And I've noticed that it's not all Hewlett Packard Enterprise stuff?

Ray McGann (05:28):
No, clearly from a HPE perspective, we're very proud of what we sell into the market and what we get back. But from an asset upcycling perspective, and also from a lease perspective, we know that customers are not purely dedicated and have just one vendor OEM. So right across the technology spectrum is brought back here to our technology renewal center.

Michael Bird (05:53):
Wow. Okay. So where are we going next on the tour?

Ray McGann (05:56):
So we're going next to the next processing station.

Michael Bird (05:59):
Amazing. Let's do it.

Ray McGann (06:07):
We are now at what we would call the Workplace Asset Creation Space. So we talked earlier about bringing it in and receiving it, de-boxing it, and the pallet has its unique identifier. Now we bring it from there to here.

Now what you're looking at here is each individual laptop, like I mentioned, getting its own unique serial number so we will know that came in off that pallet.

Michael Bird (06:32):

Ray McGann (06:33):
We know where that pallet came from. We now know which each one of these individual laptops has its unique number so that when we go to the next phase, you'll see how we take it from, now we know what it is, we know where we got it from, now we want to know what condition it's in. So that's what we'll do in the next phase.

Michael Bird (06:52):
Should we head over there now, then?

Ray McGann (06:52):

So we are moving, and you'll see it on the conveyor belt, we're moving to the Workplace Audit and Sanitization Space. So what we need to do with all of these devices is check the attributes of each device. So what has it got in it? If I say it's got certain memory, certain hard drives, we have to make sure that that's what's in these assets. The other critical aspect of what we do here is data sanitization. So using world-class, industry sanitization methods, we have to ensure that every device has been overwritten. Therefore, when it's released to wherever it's going to go next, it is secure.

Michael Bird (07:38):
So can we just talk through data sanitization?

Ray McGann (07:41):
Effectively, every one of these devices are all plugged into a network, and the network will run that sanitization software across all of the devices. So it's doing several things. One, it's picking up the attributes, like I've said. Second thing it's doing is giving us a sense of the grade, of the quality of the asset because that's critical for the next stage. And thirdly, it's doing that sanitization wipe. So when we're finished in this place, we know all the attributes of the asset, we know the grade of the asset, and we know that it has been sanitized and safe for onward production.

Michael Bird (08:20):
Do you ever get stuff that you don't recognize, that you've never seen before?

Ray McGann (08:23):
From an equipment OEM perspective, there would be, I would say, nothing that we haven't been familiar with, whether it's compute, storage, networking, or client devices, we see them coming through the facility. But in general, it kind of is in those three categories. It's either client device, storage networking, or compute.

At this stage, we will take all the components out because invariably when we are reselling these assets, it's not in full systems as standalone. It'll be configured specifically to the new customer. So we take the components, make the components available for resell at either a component level, or if a customer wants to reconfigure their specific attributes and requirements, we do that at a later stage.

Michael Bird (09:16):
I mean, this must also be quite specialized because I can see some appliances over there with brand names I've never seen before.

Ray McGann (09:24):
Yeah, and I think earlier we mentioned one of the rationale and reasons for being here in Erskine in Scotland is the experience and the staff that we were able to adopt from the other facility here when it was the ISS manufacturing. So that skill level and that competence with data center equipment was a critical piece in our decision to come here. Colleagues know what they're doing, they understand the product, they understand how to disassemble it in a way that is optimal, and they also have knowledge about how to reconfigure them. But yet, this is specialist area for sure.

Michael Bird (10:00):
What factors decide whether something has value and can be reused, and what decides whether it needs to be broken down and recycled?

Ray McGann (10:07):
It's really back to that quality component that I described of the quality output. So a grade A asset, if you want to use a letter, is re-marketable. We might have assets that are slightly defective, so they need to be an additional process added to them to make them back up to re-marketable standard. Or in cases where we cannot re-market the device, we will assign that to recycling. So again, it's part of the HPE recycling process, but some assets fail, and one thing we have to do here is ensure that an asset that is not viable for the medium to long term doesn't get released into the market.

Michael Bird (10:52):
This is quite an interesting location. Ray, where are we now?

Ray McGann (10:56):
So we are now in the, what we would describe as the warehouse section of our facility. We have 123,000 assets here on any given day. It rotates. As we have customers requiring particular assets, they will be brought from here into the production. And then when we've assets come in that we are holding for a period, they come back in here.

Michael Bird (11:25):
So Ray, where are we now? We look like we're on a runway, actually.

Ray McGann (11:28):
Yeah, we are on a runway and we have to be careful of the equipment coming down the runway. So if you think of it in a clockwise context, we saw the inbound, we saw the asset tagging, we saw the sanitization, the components, and then this point here is where we actually have outbound. So these are all assets that are ready, they're sanitized, and they have been placed on an order, and these will all go out the same red doors, either later this afternoon or tomorrow, on the frequent shipping out. So you can see one of our colleagues taking a pallet truck on these particular units. So again, that's a customer order that's being gotten ready for shipment. So this is kind of the end of the chain. Every one of these devices that we're looking at here will have or does have a new home to go to.

Michael Bird (12:24):
So we're effectively at the end of the tool here. So let's just summarize. So the hardware comes in through those red doors and gets looked at and sorted into what the different components are.

Ray McGann (12:35):

Michael Bird (12:35):
And then what happens after that?

Ray McGann (12:37):
So we've gone through the components, gone through the asset type, the quality types. We've made the assertion about what will continue as a viable asset. We also make a determination about the assets that do not have a future life, and that's the assets that are for recycling.

Michael Bird (12:55):
[inaudible 00:12:56].

Ray McGann (12:56):
Like I mentioned, if it does not have a valuable future, we ensure that it's going into a recycling program, which brings it back to raw materials, brings it back to its metals or its plastics or raw sub-components. So nothing gets forgotten, it just has a different destination.

Michael Bird (13:16):
Wow. Gosh, there is so much going on here. I have to say, it's been very eyeopening for me to see the sorts of process and just how much detail and how much every single item is tracked and processed-

Ray McGann (13:30):

Michael Bird (13:31):
... understood and stored and kept. It's amazing that actually so much of this hardware isn't just going into landfill. It's being reused and given a new home.

Ray McGann (13:41):

Michael Bird (13:41):
Yep. Wow. Well thank you so much.

Ray McGann (13:44):

Michael Bird (13:44):
Thank you so much, Ray.

Aubrey Lovell (13:49):
Thanks so much, Michael. And thank you to Ray for showing Michael around. You can find more on the Technology Renewal Center and other topics discussed in today's episode in the show notes.

Okay. We're getting towards the end of the show, which means it's time for This Week in History, a look at monumental events in the world of business and technology which has changed our lives. And the clue from last week was, six years after losing, Gary isn't feeling so blue. It was of course Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov finally overcoming his defeat by the chess computer Deep Blue in 1997 by drawing against a follow-up system, Deep Junior, in 2003. The Deep Blue loss was one of the highest profile achievements in computing at the time. After beating the computer in 1996, Kasparov narrowly lost in a six game contest to it the following year, scoring 2.5 to the machine's 3.5. Deep Blue had been upgraded between the matches, which was seen as an incredible sign of how fast computers were evolving.

But this week in 2003, Kasparov finally managed to draw against Deep Junior, an Israeli designed chess program. Deep Junior was revolutionary and is considered the first chess machine designed to make deliberate mistakes in order to probe players and learn their weaknesses. It was seen as quite the achievement for both players. The human was getting his name back, and the machine for being, well, able to hold a candle to Garry Kasparov.

Next week, the clue is, it's 1989 and where we're going, we don't need maps. Do you know what it is? Well, if you do, keep it to yourself, and producer Sam.

That brings us to the end of Technology Now for this week. Thank you to the team at the Technology Renewal Center in Erskine, Scotland, and our guide, Ray McGann, managing director of HPE Ireland and Worldwide Enterprise Asset Management Director. And to our listeners, thank you all so much for joining us.

Technology Now is hosted by myself, Aubrey Lovell and Michael Bird, and this episode was produced by Sam Datapolin and Al Booth with production support from Harry Morton, Zoe Anderson, Alicia Kempson, Alison Paisley, Alyssa Mitri, Camilla Patel, Alex Padmore, and Chloe Sewell.

Our social editorial team is Rebecca Wisinger, Judy Ann Goldman, Katie Garino, and our social media designers are Alejandra Garcia, Carlos Alberto Suarez, and Ann Bar Maldonado. Technology Now is a Lower Street Production for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. And we'll see you next week. Cheers.