How Prolaser made its mark in the recycled cartridge market
Published : 06/24/2021
Created more than 20 years ago, Prolaser specializes in the production, collection and recycling of ink cartridges. Operating in a highly competitive market, the Vendée-based company relies on the circular economy, Made in France and the ecological transition to get ahead.
It all started in the garage of Jean-Marc Aubineau, founder of Prolaser. He wanted to start his own business after his studies. "He used to collect cartridges from town halls, offices and stores and recondition them himself in a traditional way", says Edouard Brianceau, marketing manager. As the project took shape and the requests accumulated, Prolaser grew and industrialized. With its autonomy and know-how, which it has managed to maintain and improve through R&D, the company is now the European leader in its market.
Circular economy and Made in France production as drivers
In the highly competitive ink cartridge market, Prolaser has managed to distinguish itself by focusing on remanufacturing and the circular economy. "Today, we control 100% of the value chain, since we are able to collect empty cartridges via the Valorink initiative, to remanufacture them thanks to Prolaser's industrial process and the production lines designed especially for our activity by IJ Tech, and to distribute the cartridges to resellers," explains Edouard Brianceau. To go further in the global control, the three entities (Prolaser, Valorink and IJ Tech) merged in 2019 to better meet in a building of 6000m ², in La Boissière-des-Landes, in Vendée.
Thus, in addition to the green basis of recycling, the limitation of environmental impact has been reinforced. This is a good argument for differentiation for Prolaser: "Some of our competitors collect in France, send the goods back to China for reconditioning and then bring them back to France for distribution. Attitudes are gradually changing, and some of our resellers are sensitive to our added value, which means that a cartridge sold to us will return to the network with an extremely low carbon impact," notes Edouard Brianceau. This social advantage is matched by the financial advantage offered by Valorink, the company's "collection" counterpart.
Valorink: collect, buy, sort
Supervised for 10 years by Jacques Coudray, the Valorink entity of Prolaser takes care of the collection of empty cartridges for reconditioning. This work is based on the construction of a solid network, but also on a niche know-how linked to the sorting of ink cartridges. "On empty cartridges, there is a print head (a metal plate), which, if damaged, makes the collected product impossible to rework. So each cartridge must be carefully sorted," explains Jacques Coudray. This is manual work carried out by 25 people in the company, which, although it is on the road to automation, is still too precise and technical to be done by imaging. "The ink market and its technologies have not really evolved in 30 years. We are working to create new solutions, but manual work guarantees the best quality today," adds Edouard Brianceau. A race against the programmed obsolescence of cartridge producers, which nevertheless allows Prolaser to communicate on the quality of its cartridges to consumers who are still reluctant to choose the alternative remanufactured product.
And because in order to give a second life to the product, it is necessary to collect enough to oil all the cogs in the value chain, Valorink also relies on the financial aspect. Instead of collecting discarded cartridges from the kiosks installed for this purpose in chain stores, schools, companies and other local actors, Prolaser buys them back from its partners. This is an attractive counterpart to the strategy, which reinforces the system: "If some customers take part in the initiative for its ecological aspect (some by obligation, like the large groups, others by awareness of the issues of tomorrow), the development of the collection part is strongly supported by this give-and-take aspect", explains Jacques Coudray.
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