I was thinking today about how many products seem to be designed with an expiration date. Engineered obsolescence.
It is good to think about the life cycle of your product when designing, and is very important when it comes down to sourcing materials and marketing the end product.
What I do not like is when a product is purposefully designed to fail when it could perfectly function for far longer if the design were modified. Popular Mechanics has some good examples in their technology article on the subject.
Whenever something fails I think of how it could have been designed differently. I am reminded of my first truck in high school. It was a faded yellow ’77 Toyota Pickup. I had created an antenna from a coat hanger and was able to pick up hundreds of messy AM stations on the built in am radio. I had a bumper sticker on the back stating “Honk if parts fall off”. Ironically I actually lost that half of my bumper while exploring the west desert of Utah.
The truck was perfect for me because it worked just enough to keep me busy fixing it, but not too much of a problem that I would be eager to get rid of it. This truck was a junker but still worked quite well. Whenever I think of Toyota I think of a perfect model company to follow in practice and design. They make their product useful indefinitely through sound and applied engineering. They focus on quality as their business plan.
I think the direction where most of our economy is headed now is towards more quality and less junk. The sharing economy has to have products that are designed well to last a lifetime and possibly generations.
There are many products that do require obsolescence – take electronics for instance. Especially computers. They need to be updated to match modern technology which doubles every two years.
But when all is said and done the best business plan really is quality.