Why can’t I repair my coffee machine?
Recently a small disaster occurred at my house; the coffee machine broke. While it was the bean grinder that failed, repairing it proved difficult. Not only because of the (non-) availability of a spare grinder but also because of the design of the machine and inaccessibility of the part. In recent years there is increasing pressure on law makers to improve this situation by introducing ‘right to repair’ legislation that improves repairability for end users. However, improving repairability is not only beneficial to customers; it also provides opportunities to manufacturers.
What is right to repair?
The right to repair refers to proposed government legislation that would allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer products. This comes down to several different requirements that reduces the cost of repair for a consumer:
- Access to spare parts
- Design for repairability
- No artificial limitations that hinder repairability, e.g. software that will block a replacement part from working correctly
- Access to documentation
Benefits to consumers
The benefits to end-users are clear; instead of replacing a defective product it can be repaired at less cost by the user itself or a third party. This reduces not only cost but also waste and environmental impact.
Benefits to manufacturers
Manufacturers may be hesitant to make the changes required to improve repairability because they fear increasing prices and decreasing revenues. However, I believe the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term disadvantages.
Making products easier to repair makes the product more attractive to potential customers and improves customer satisfaction. For sure, repairability will be an important consideration when choosing my next coffee maker.
Performing repairs almost always requires spare parts, so making products more repairable increases the market for spare parts and provides opportunities to companies that manage to setup an efficient service supply chain to sell more spares with a healthy profit margin.
Waste and the associated effect on the environment are a growing concern for many people. Because improving repairability reduces waste it contributes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is becoming more and more important to customers and may even be a deciding factor when competing for public tenders.
While some customers may prefer to execute repairs themselves, most customers simply want their products to work. Applying the right to repair principles reduces the cost of repair, not only for customers, but also for the manufacturers themselves. This in turn makes it easier and more lucrative to offer service contracts to customers.
So, while right to repair legislation is not yet in place, I believe there are sufficient benefits for companies to already start implementing the underlying principles. That way they can start reaping the benefits and they are properly prepared when legislation is eventually passed.
I am curious which initiatives have already visibly led to products that can be repaired more easily. Please share with me your good examples.