Bottlenecks in the second hand business

Production and manufacturing is a complex web of processes and operations. Whether it’s creating new items or selling used products such as clothing, each step in the production cycle and handling has its challenges.

Let’s explore why the bottlenecks in second-hand production on a larger scale differ markedly from those in new production of goods.

Photo documentation

An unexpected but major difference between used production and new production lies in the need for extensive photography. When manufacturing new products, a single product photo can be enough to sell thousands of identical products. However, used items vary greatly in condition and appearance, making it necessary for sales to take a picture (sometimes several) of each item. This can be a time-consuming process with traditional ways of doing product photography. Photo quickly becomes a bottleneck if not automated.

Buffers and storage

When producing new products, manufacturers can often predict demand with reasonable accuracy, enabling efficient inventory planning. But in second-hand production, predicting the influx of products and demand for specific items becomes much more challenging. The absence of predictability requires flexible and sometimes larger storage solutions, adding another layer of complexity to the production process.

Throughput challenges

Determining the rate at which used products can be processed is another significant bottleneck. Unlike new items, which follow a structured production schedule, the needs for updating, repackaging and repairing used items can vary widely. This uncertainty in the required operations makes throughput planning difficult, leading to potential delays and inefficiencies.

The order of operations

The sequence of operations is a decisive factor that distinguishes used manufacturing from new manufacturing. Depending on the business model, some companies choose to sell products first and tackle renovations later, while others prefer to update, repair or redo items before listing them. This decision also affects the bottlenecks in the production process, but also how sustainable the business can be.


Two approaches to second-hand production

A) On demand, i.e. no unnecessary operations that create a sustainability impact are done before it is known whether they are desirable from the customer.

This results in lower costs for each incoming garment but means more complex storage. This means minimal handling, making it quick to list used products, often with only basic refurbishment. Although this minimizes the need for extensive initial operations, it can create storage problems due to more complex storage and possibly greater storage needs when the item is in demand.

B) Operations to create an estimated value are done on all products. In other words, an attempt to make the goods salable is made with the risk that they will not sell anyway and the operations are “unnecessary”.

Here, storage can be minimized by addressing renovation, repairs or rework in advance. However, this can lead to sustainability and profit problems. This approach requires performing more operations because there are actions on each item regardless of whether it is sold or not, which can be costly and time-consuming. Additionally, it can result in unnecessary work on products that may not provide sufficient value at resale. However, operations and above all storage are becoming more stringent.

Focusing on several loops makes other demands

While today’s production of luxury goods often places great emphasis on sorting items, there is room for innovation and improvement. By rethinking labeling strategies and implementing efficient product handling mechanisms, it may be possible to reduce the sorting bottleneck, especially with smart labeling for the next collection. A well-structured system that effectively categorizes items can streamline the process and reduce the need for extensive sorting on the next loop. In second hand, assuming that the product will be returned several times creates different possibilities for what is worth doing with the product.


In conclusion, the bottlenecks in used production are really different from those encountered in the manufacture of new products. The need for extensive photo documentation, challenges in predicting product flows, uncertainty in necessary operations and choosing the order in which tasks are performed are examples of things that contribute to the complexity of used production. Recognizing and addressing these unique bottlenecks is critical for businesses that want to thrive in the world of used goods.

By doing so, they can unlock the full potential of this sustainable and ever-growing market.