Decommissioning Process Flow for Equipment

Published on
February 28, 2022
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Decommissioning is the process of shutting down and/or removing a building, equipment, asset or facility from service at its end of life. This blog will give a comprehensive overview of a decommissioning process flow for equipment and a decommissioning process flow diagram.

At the end of a decommissioning process flow, the following steps vary depending on many factors, including the value of the equipment. If the equipment has reuse value, it will likely be resold, and if not, it will be recycled or sent to a landfill.

Examples of assets that are decommissioned include:

  • Oil rigs
  • Public telephone exchanges and legacy telecommunications equipment
  • Power stations
  • Data centres and servers

The decommissioning of equipment can occur for several reasons, including reducing operational expenditure (OPEX), replacing legacy systems with new technology, or emptying a building before lease contracts end.

Decommissioning projects can be complex, requiring careful planning and management by specialist asset recovery companies to ensure efficient and safe completion. Thus, a decommissioning process flow should be clearly outlined.

This blog outlines a general decommissioning process flow for equipment, focusing on IT and telecommunications equipment. This process can be used for the basis of more complex plans and scopes of work.

Decommissioning Process Flow Diagram

The decommissioning process flow diagram below represents the decommissioning process that occurs after the end of the operational life of equipment. In telecommunications and IT, this equipment could be an antenna, switching equipment, servers or generators.

Be aware that this is a general process flow - there may be additional requirements or steps depending upon the asset or building being decommissioned and your customer’s needs.

Decommissioning Process Flow and Checklist for Equipment
Decommissioning Process Flow and Checklist for Equipment

Why Decommissioning is Challenging

Decommissioning is a slow, manual process. It is also often time-sensitive; whether you’re trying to reclaim value from redundant assets, build up internal spare reserves, or aim to clear a building, you need to complete things quickly. This must all be done while ensuring you don’t put your company, assets or employees at risk.

Slow and manual processes often stem from paper and Excel-based inventories. A lack of standardisation is common, and additional equipment audits may be needed so that companies can adequately complete a decommissioning project based upon an accurate asset register.

Additionally, especially in older buildings, if you’re removing equipment that has been there for a long time, you’re likely to encounter access problems, asbestos, and, more recently, COVID restrictions.

Once decommissioning is completed, the challenges don’t disappear; the Excel spreadsheets continue to cause problems as it’s challenging to bring together information from multiple sheets, particularly when they’re unstandardised and become out-of-date over time. This lack of standardisation in e-waste logistics only creates additional manual processing, particularly when bringing equipment back to a warehouse from multiple sites across the globe.

Equipment Decommissioning Checklist and Best Practices for Equipment - 8 Steps

This section outlines a general decommissioning process flow for equipment, focusing on IT and telecommunications equipment. This process can be used for the basis of more complex plans and scopes of work from the perspective of a company completing decommissioning work in-house.

As already explained, decommissioning is slow, manual and takes resources away from your core business focus. As such, it may be appropriate to outsource decommissioning to an experienced asset recovery/decommissioning company. Feel free to contact the RECOVAR team, and we will happily put you in touch with a company that best suits your needs.

1. Decision To Decommission

A department decides they are going to decommission their equipment - this may come through a manager submitting a decommissioning request to their Director, including the rationale for the decision. This may be off the back of an internal service update, regulation in the industry or ambitions to reduce CAPEX.

Given old and outdated equipment can drain CAPEX, it makes sense to invest in newer, less resource-intensive equipment that will save money in the medium-long term.

2. Conduct Site Survey/Inspection

It is usually best to complete an equipment survey or inspection before planning decommissioning. How can an appropriate plan be formulated if you don’t know what you’re dealing with?

Engineers should be tasked to locate the equipment that needs to be decommissioned in the facility and record all required information (including manufacturer, serial number, equipment specs, part number, suite and rack, location/area etc.).

This inventory should be recorded using specialised software. Excel and paper-based inventories only lead to problems later on regarding decommissioning work.

Taking photos of each piece of equipment to the inventory can also help when it comes to decommissioning work. Adding notes to each image allows the engineers responsible for decommissioning to locate the right equipment, which can be challenging at larger or older sites.

Decommissioning process flow Step 2: Identify the asset to be decommissioned
Decommissioning Checklist Step 2: Identify the asset to be decommissioned

Once this inspection is completed, you can move to step three before planning the decommissioning work.

3. Get Approval

It is best to get approval for the decommissioning work once the inventory has been built. This inventory should be sent to all relevant IT Directors and facility managers to review and approve.

After approval, establish and maintain clear communication channels for key stakeholders to stay updated and act if there are any blockers with the decommissioning progress.  

4. Decommissioning Planning

The decommissioning project manager should identify who is responsible for each process stage while also speaking to all relevant departments and users impacted by the decommissioning work.

Within this plan should be a sense check for decommissioning project managers to assess all other steps which may be required alongside decommissioning, including:

  • Wiping data and migrating services (particularly important for data centres and telecommunications equipment);
  • Checking processes for backup and disaster recovery are fully functional;
  • Identifying any SLAs, licenses and warranties that may need to be cancelled;
  • Disconnecting utilities and shutting down HVAC systems;
  • Considering the fire safety of the vacated facility or area; and,
  • Ensuring the site remains secure during and post-decommissioning to prevent trespassing.

A vital requirement of the decommissioning plan is to clearly define the end-state - when is decommissioning complete? Does the facility need to be returned to its original state? These are all things to consider throughout this decommissioning process flow for Equipment

Once the plan is approved, decommissioning can begin.

5. Offline The Service

If the IT or telecommunications equipment due to be decommissioned still provides a service, you need to take it offline.

The offline date is essential and should be communicated effectively to all those affected as, after this date, they will no longer be able to access the service. Identifying and planning what you need to do for these users if you’re responsible for migrating them is a whole other challenge that we’ll cover in another blog.

6. Complete Decommissioning

Travel to the site and systematically go through the approved inventory, appropriately removing the equipment that needs to be decommissioned. If the equipment is already disconnected, you don’t need to worry. However, if the equipment is still connected and live, only disconnect if approved.

Here, a flagging system is often helpful, where equipment that appears to be still connected (but shouldn’t be) or still in use can be flagged to the asset owner to ensure appropriate actions take place.

For servers, you will need to disconnect firewalls, access control lists (ACLs), subnetworks and remove the equipment. To learn more about server decommissioning, check out this blog in Waste Advantage, written by RECOVAR’s co-founder, Henry.

It may seem like a good idea to try and complete everything internally, but this can lead to issues for other parts of your business if done incorrectly. If you’d rather not do the work yourself, leave it to qualified experts at asset recovery and decommissioning companies who have experience in this type of work.

Decommissioning Process Flow Step 6: Complete Decommissioning
Decommissioning Process Flow Step 6: Complete Decommissioning

7. Reuse, Recycle or Resell

Once your equipment has been wiped, disconnected and decommissioned, it’s now time to direct it towards the circular economy.

This is often best done through an ITAD or telecoms equipment reseller that specialises in getting value from your redundant equipment through reuse, resale or recycling in the circular economy.

By using an accredited specialist, asset owners can also have peace of mind regarding step seven, as all equipment will be disposed of properly. Accreditations and certifications to look out for include BS EN 15713: 2009, ADISA, SafeContractor scheme and ISA/IEC 62443.

8. Reporting and Tracking

Now you’ve decommissioned the equipment that needs to be removed from the site, you now need to focus your attention on reporting and waste tracking.

UK Government regulations require that for each shipment of non-hazardous waste moved off a business’s premises, a waste transfer note or a document with the same information, such as an invoice, needs to be produced.

A waste transfer note must be completed and signed by both the transferor (current holder of waste) and the transferee (person collecting the waste). This note needs to be kept for two years if requested by an enforcement officer from your local council or the Environment Agency.

Aside from waste transfer notes, asset owners and decommissioning companies should accurately register when equipment has left and where it went to comply with the WEEE Directive. To learn more about this directive and how it impacts EU businesses, visit this link.

As previously touched on, by recording inspection and decommissioning work digitally, many parts of these steps can be automated, giving you the audit trail you need in an accessible format.

Decommissioning Process Flow Summary

We’ve put together this equipment decommissioning checklist to help you get started. The goal is to provide an overview of the steps you need to follow, but it also serves as a starting point for your organisation. Refer to this decommissioning process flow for each phase during equipment decommissioning.

How RECOVAR Can Help

While the above decommissioning process flow for equipment can provide a starting point, there are many intricate details that your project might require. When you decommission equipment, collecting a standardised audit trail is crucial for successful completion at speed and scale and the reporting outlined in step 8.

Standardisation, automation, and streamlining the steps outlined above become even more critical when decommissioning across multiple sites. This is why companies choose RECOVAR - our all-in-one asset recovery software that digitises the inspection and decommissioning of IT and telecommunications equipment. The software is designed to empower engineers to complete decommissioning jobs within time constraints and fulfil all of your reporting needs, especially for multi-site projects.

To find out more about equipment decommissioning best practices and how RECOVAR digitises the whole process, from inspection to recovery, feel free to contact RECOVAR co-founder Henry Purchase via

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