Why digitalising home appliances helps extend product life cycles
The article examines the consequences of a new consumer right, the Right to Repair, coming to the EU in 2021. This creates new challenges to handle longer product life cycles for manufacturers, consumers and service providers of home appliances. Smart product solutions are one way to leverage longer product life with instant item-specific information and interaction whenever product services are required.
Light bulbs don’t have to break
Did you know that the world’s longest burning light bulb was produced in the 1890s? It can still be found in a Chicago firehouse and continues to emit a cosy four watts of light up to the present day. Yet most people would agree that today’s new technical devices are not commonly designed to enjoy such a long life.
Home appliances are not built to last
White goods such as refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines are not built to last, according to the experience of many consumers in the European Union. As stated in this BBC article, more than 10% of junked washing machines examined in a recycling center were less than five years old. From the perception of consumers, appliances seem to even stop working shortly after the warranty period has expired. On top of this, maintenance and repair are often impossible. A new acquisition after just a couple of years thereby remains the only option.
Shorter product life is detrimental, but …
Effects of shorter product life cycles are detrimental for consumers and the environment. Consumers are forced to spend more money than necessary on new household appliances every few years – and they may decide to buy cheaper, less efficient products because they are forced to renew their appliances after shorter periods of time.
The consequence is growth based on an inflated market demand for refrigerators and dishwashers. Increased production volume is causing an increase in energy spend, resource consumption and environmental damage. As this BBC article pointed out, a long-lasting washing machine generates 1.1 tonnes less CO2 than a short-lived model (this is equivalent to driving a car regularly for 6 months)!
… shorter product life will soon be short-lived
Beneficiaries from accelerated mass consumption are, unsurprisingly, manufacturers of white goods, but only in the short term. In the long term, consumers will be dissatisfied with products that break down too soon and brand reputation will suffer. In addition, consumers are becoming more aware of the negative side effects of the exclusively growth-driven consumer economy and have started looking for alternatives.
Already today, consumers increasingly demand products which are environmentally sustainable, energy-efficient and more durable. Brands which meet these demands will be able to stand out from the crowd and gain market share.
A new Right To Repair directive is coming soon
To accelerate the move to more sustainable home appliances, the European Union and parts of the US are introducing new legislations for a Right to Repair. Specifically, manufacturers of home appliances will be mandated to guarantee repairs of their products for up to 10 years, starting in March 2021 in the EU. They will be expected to keep spare parts in stock for several years and make sure that most parts are replaceable.
Making home appliances smart helps brands and consumers
The upcoming EU directive creates a challenge to handle longer product life cycles across the entire production process and supply chain. Introducing a smart product solution can significantly decrease costs caused by longer life cycles, and at the same time increase value-in-use and customer satisfaction.
With a product turned smart and digital, it’s possible to provide real-time information about each unique item and its individual history in every support situation. This means not just user guides, manuals, repair instructions and lists of component parts will be stored centrally on the internet, records of previous repairs, changes of ownership and upgrades too. Typical support situations such as repair requests can be handled effortlessly. As a result, any information and interaction, depending on the status and condition of the product, is immediately available for anyone with a smartphone, even after many years of using the product.
Why manufacturers should act now
From the perspective of product development, 2021 is approaching fast. While it is relatively easy to manage a manufacturer’s smart products on a software platform like GoodsTag, transforming existing production and logistical processes, in order to incorporate uniqueness and digital interaction, may take months from idea to implementation.
The reward, however, will be a new ability to help consumers maintain and repair products through digital services, as well as the market opportunity this represents.
Intrigued? Start today and discover how smart product solutions will fit in with your product strategy. We at GoodsTag are here to help you along.
Smart product basics
How to use smart products
In order to access the digital copy of an item, a code or chip on the product is scanned or tapped using any smartphone device, which then leads to a unique mobile website (no mobile app required) with all the information and interaction necessary in the specific context.
How to make products smart
Making products smart takes two steps.
First, a unique digital identity for each item is created. Simply put, a database entry containing product information and storage for any events in the life of the item.
Second, the physical item is connected with its digital identity. For this to occur, an item-specific code like QR or NFC (or a combination of both) containing a unique mobile internet address specific to this very item is applied to the label, the product itself or the packaging. For the management of all smart product activities, a web-based Smart Product Services platform like GoodsTag is used.
For further reading, head to this report from the BBC from January 2019 about the Right to Repair gathering force or this news bulletin from October 2019 about the upcoming amendment of the European Ecodesign Directive including a new Right to Repair. While researching this article, we have also found the Centennial Light website, information about the European Ecodesign Directive and the Product Labelling Rules and Requirements from the European Commission.
GoodsTag, October 2019