Many consumers have encountered a situation where a product purchased fairly recently has become obsolete. Consumer goods such as blenders, refrigerators and cell phones go obsolete, even industrial electronics fall victim to this dilemma. A unit purchased within the last few years can have little to no technical or parts support. This causes the user whether a consumer of a commercial product or a maintenance supervisor to look for more options, including replacing the entire item in question. This strategy, employed by many OEM’s , is known as “Planned Obsolescence”.
Planned Obsolescence is defined as “a method of increasing consumer demand by designing products that become outmoded or wear out after limited use”. Decades ago, OEM’s took a certain pride in the longevity of their product’s functional life. It’s not uncommon to hear about a coffee maker or radio that are decades old still plugging along or a drive in a manufacturing plant that is older than some of the employees. Many companies found that the average end user would choose to keep their older product, as long as it was still functioning reliably. The damper this put on sales forced many OEM’s to turn to planned obsolescence as a way to help drive sales.
One method of integrating planned obsolescence is through prevention of repairs. Many OEM’s will integrate certain techniques that prevent the access of internal components without destroying the item completely. Others will structurally integrate standalone components into others, causing a greater number of components to require replacement when failure occurs. Often times, this causes the OEM’s repair cost to be higher than the residual value of the product.
These hurdles are built into items that fail every day in not only a consumer setting, but an industrial setting as well. Technicians are constantly working to overcome the most challenging scenarios in obsolescence. As technology progresses, OEM’s will only continue to offer products that are deemed obsolete sooner and sooner.