Anna, I'm sure you're right. That's the idea of built-in obsolescence, though in this case it is design for breakage that is not worth repairing.
Hardcore, I've also noticed that about replacement parts on small appliances. The cost of the parts seems to far exceed the proportion they make up for the whole. However, items that do regularly break or have to be replaced, like the belts for the vacuum cleaners, are generally reasonably priced at about $2 a piece. Replacement filters are also readily available. But if one were to try to get a part for a vacuum that is not stocked in stores, there would be no choice but to order it and pay the premium price for any item that is not commonly stocked.
Ariella, Perhaps in all this we are not factoring in the fact that it is not in the (profit) interest of these companies to encourage re-use and repair. Marc had to buy a new printer so the manufacturer gets extra money from the sale which it would not have received if the $12-pulley had been available.
The issue in china appears to be that may of the tools to make the parts are here, that coupled with the fact that molding always produces a % of 'rejects' or over production, ensures that the parts kit is adequately available.
Then there is the issue of 'scrapped' tooling, normally a 'tool' is good for a set number of shots (parts off tool) then the tooling starts to age/wear and the tool is sold out for the scrap metal value without the tool being decommissioned correctly (we used to decommission a tool with a sledgehammer ), I know of instances where people are re-commissioning the old tools with product going back to the 'supply chain'.
One other issue is that in China they have a very active recycling program, all electronics and materials are stripped down and recycled because they are worth money, so much so that individual IC's can be stripped off PCB's and end up back in the supply chain for new parts.
In some cases it is possible to go to a stall and get all the parts to build a mobile phone from scratch purely because they have such an encompassing breakdown of hte parts, I suppose if a bunch of accountants sat down and did a real costing of this whole process, it would be terribly inefficient and massively over cost, but some how it all seems to just keep working, despite having no formal system in place.
In the outside world is there a deliberate policy on spares OR is spares so far down the procurement ladder that this is the 'real' cost?
Take for example my Braun shaver, a full shaver costs $9us (including a spare blade) ,but for some reason replacement blades cost 50% of that!! so in reality if I buy 2 spare blades i can buy a new shaver, are they trying to drive the production process to keep the quantities of shavers produced high to get the overall cost down? or does it really cost 50% of the price for a spare because the part has to traverse the same supply chain as the finished shaver?
Has anyone ever produced an analysis and cost model of a full supply chain?
I think Tioluwa is onto something. In his case, changes in the design and manufacturing of cell phones sold in Nigeria, and the need to constantly train technicians to keep up with those changes, militate against repair. The priority for the designer is improved or broader function, and the assumption is disposability. Electronics seems unusual, if not entirely unique in this respect. They just don't factor repair into the equation, and I disagree that shipping parts is prohibitively expensive. Electronics, particularly consumer items, are small, cheap and light, compared to industrial-age equivalents. Shipping auto parts, for example, is enormously costly. Still, half a block from the computer shop that couldn't repair my 2007 printer, there's an auto parts shop that will sell me virtually any part for even the most drastically obsolete car. (When I lived in the States I used to drive old Fords, and part of the appeal was that I could fix the inevitable breakdowns cheaply, myself, with inexpensive parts; like Bolaji, I also enjoy doing that). My gut tells me this is a question of electronics industry priorities. I do wonder if the presumption of disposability is necessary to allow for certain useful, marketable designs. Like Tioluwa's mobile phones, for example. Could they be made equally useful with designs more amenable to repair? Could we train technicians in Lagos to service them profitably? I suspect so, if only because every other industry seems to do so.
While it is maddening, it does make sense that something that has to be imported specially from overseas would cost the US consumer a lot more than it costs the customer who can find it in a local store. There is a cost, after all, to shipping and handling. But aside from that, many places don't want to bother with repairs. I recall when I dropped a Canon digital camera and shipped it to the factor for repairs that the response was a suggestion I purchase a refurbished camera at a discount instead. The company didn't even bother to pitch me a quote for repairs. Consequently, even objects that are not normally categorized as disposable become so when they cannot be repaired. It is not that they are really beyond repair but that no one in the country seems to want to bother to do it, and given the costs, it does seem to make sense to upgrade to a new one instead. So much for waste not, want not.
All of this would be less maddening to me if companies stopped touting their "MRO" and "post sales support" talents, then. Flextronics just opened two facilities largely dedicated to after market support; catalog distributors tout their MRO business, and manufacturers tell us all about their warrantys. I have never knowingly sent a laptop to an EMS for repair, although it's possible, I guess. I haven't tried to find replacement parts on Newark's website. Next time I'll give that a shot.
Well we could say that Bolaji's printer had an "e-neurological" breakdown when the software got confused
Well down here the repair problem is felt by less than half of the population.
When most of the gadgets, electronics and systems were manufactures some 5-10yrs ago, you are sure to find all the part available.
Some people out rightly avoid buying latest electronics knowing the local repair guys wouldn't have the slightest clue how to fix it, not to mention finding the parts to replace.
There is a question we need to answer here: What factors control the electronics supply chain in this area?
In places like Europe and America, you can get every gadget to buy but you can't get any repaired. In China and the likes, where everything is outsourced to, you can get everything to buy (including things you can't get in the west) and also repair everything.
Parts have to be available in China because they are needed in very high quantity by the manufactures there but who will import electronics components just for spare parts? If they do, it will not cost $12. So what do we do?
One last thing, it is my opinion that the focus of the resent products being manufactures is reduced cost, nothing more. repair wasn't a part of it. Old Nokia phones had almost every component plugged in, making part replacement solder free. Now, they are all SMDs, and all cramped into one small board.
Exactly! You've articulated much more concisely what I was also experiencing. When I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, it was easy to get electronic goods repaired. In Europe or the US, it's not. The usual narrative holds that technology moves quickly, so repair is hard to sell, because you probably need to replace the broken piece of electronics with a new generation anyway. So you'd only sell spare parts in places where people don't have the means to constantly upgrade. I'm very suspicious that this may be true but still not the primary incentive at work here. Rather, I'm inclined to believe that this is a supply chain issue: the economics of moving spare parts around the world don't pencil out for the producers, so they don't do it, passing the replacement, environmental and other costs of this inefficiency onto shoppers and governments. And this works because the electronics supply chain is, while not quite monopolistic, pretty focused on a few brands. I can't buy a printer from a company in India or Kenya that works on a different set of presumptions. But someday I will be able to. And will. Immediately.
I quite agree with comments made by Barbara, Bolaji and you. I believe everybody has a thing or two to say about the cost to repair a broken laptop or printer or what have you. Yet we are supposed to be responsible and kind to the environment. Who is going to bear the cost to safely dispose all our broken laptops and PCs? I would rather repair than dispose. Access to parts ought to be readily available and cheap.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.