Rheaply makes underused resources more visible with its asset exchange manager software. The B2B software opens up sharing opportunities for the global economy, enabling organisations to make the most of tools and equipment that would otherwise remain idle.
Why it’s an example of the circular economy
By surfacing and sharing unused assets between and within businesses and institutions, the value of the items is preserved and there’s also a greater emphasis on maintenance and repair. In turn, there’s less demand to purchase new, often costly items that are only used once or twice in a lifetime.
How it works
Rheaply’s asset exchange manager:
lets users keep track of inventory
allows items to be sold, donated or rented
provides data insights to build a picture of asset use with its visualised waste diversion report
If a piece of equipment is not being used, a Rheaply user can quickly and easily find the asset on the platform and post items to a different part of a business, university campus, school or city.
The platform is populated in 3 distinct ways:
Individual users or user groups can post directly to the site (admins and teams).
Via batch processing and inventory data uploads (for example, through integration with ERP (enterprise resource planning) or AMS (automated manifest system).
For large facility clear-outs, via the company’s concierge team.
Enabling seamless transfer of assets is the reason why Rheaply has earned its circular economy stripes. However, what often seals the deal for a wide range of organisations including Google, Abbvie, MiT, and the US Air Force is Rheaply’s ability to access data. Users can access volume, model number, condition, and other details about hundreds of millions dollars worth of stuff, with just a few clicks.
Back in 2014, sitting in his laboratory at Northwestern University, something had really started bothering neuroscience student Garry Cooper, founder of Rheaply. How could university research departments be so underfunded when great volumes of unused equipment and waste were generated by these same departments?
Garry persuaded the managers of his resource-rich neuroscience faculty to allow him to collect labware, machines, shelving, and other stuff that wasn’t being used. He then loaded it onto a trolley and distributed it to less well-off departments in his university that needed the equipment. This trolley service became a regular Friday afternoon ritual for Garry. In his last few years of his PhD, he redistributed 55 items, ranging from antibodies and glassware to research equipment, saving labs across the campus more than USD25,000 and keeping those resources out of landfills.
Years after he left Northwestern University, now designing supply chain solutions with Ernst and Young, Garry still received emails asking about his trolley - and these begged the question that redirected his focus. What could an asset redistribution and recovery platform look like that would allow users to better visualise, quantify, and use surplus resources?
Connecting community in a crisis
The success of companies like Rheaply clearly demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of the transition to a circular economy, but what about the social benefits?
One way that Garry sees Rheaply contributing to this is by supporting poor neighbourhoods in his home city of Chicago. The Covid crisis has brought many societal disparities into the spotlight. Higher morbidity rates among Black and Hispanic people, mean that business owners from these communities have had to shield themselves and withdraw from commercial activity.
Rheaply’s platform helps connect these vulnerable groups back to the wider community, allowing them to participate safely in their local marketplaces. Taking a page from Rheaply’s book, companies can foster a culture of inclusion, equality, and belonging while applying the principles of a circular economy.
Since its inception, Rheaply’s technology has enabled organisations (including higher education institutions, federal and state governments, and Fortune 100 companies) to divert over 14.5 metric tons of material waste and save USD1.5 million by recapturing valuable resources internally. Key highlights include:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology saved over USD 44,000 in its first 6 months on the platform in a pilot of ~800 users.
A City of Chicago partnership led to 2,100 new businesses and non-profits signing into Rheaply within the first week of the platform going live to procure PPE (personal protective equipment) for the city’s phased reopening plan.
The University of Chicago saved ~USD 300,000 in a single endocrinology lab clear-out.