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Design for repairability (II): Safety, efficiency and value

In the last post we explored the social and economical environment. In this post, we will share the guide that we developed to know if a product can benefit from design for reparability.

The questions that we decided helps you knowing if the product that you have in mind can be repairable and how to make sure that the user is able to repair it and that we are encouraging them to repair their own goods. The following questions could become a guideline for design for reparability and be used as part of the concept design process or evaluation of the product.

  1. Is it a life threaten or dangerous product?
  2. Regarding the technology that it uses, is the future technology becoming more efficient?
  3. Does it have a high value for the user?
  4. Does the user understand the functioning of the product well enough to diagnose and repair the problem?
  5. Is the company able to use common components for more than one product?
  6. Can it be a modular product?

In the creation of this list, we gathered information regarding design for reparability, which design practices improve product reparability and increases the chances of a product to be repaired by the user. These six questions are concise and have a “yes/no” for an answer, which helps evaluating the product. They can be applied by the design team to evaluate if design for reparability by the user should be applied or not. We aim to provide a series of design practises that can improve the reparability and product attachment.

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1- Is it a life threaten or dangerous product?

If we want to develop a product that can be repaired by the user, the repairing process er se must be safe and unmistakable and the consequences of a wrong repair must be harmless for the users and other people safety. In any circumstance, the user can be harmed, electrified or in danger of inhalation any kind of substance during or after the repair of the product. At the same time, it will be dissuaded to repair any object that can harm him or other people if he repairs it wrongly. This kind of products can benefit of design for repair, but it should be done by prepared people, needing special tools that normal people won’t be able to acquire.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

The objects that have the following characteristics can be designs for repairability by the user:

  • If, it is an object that requires electricity, the voltage follows the rules for low voltage [1]. This is an entry or exit voltage in the 50 to 1000V range for AC and 75-1500 V for a DC.
  • It doesn’t emit particles or noxious gases during the repairing process or after it has been wrongly repaired.
  • If, in the case of being wrongly fix, it doesn’t endanger the life or safety of the user or others.

The design team must check the legislation of each country or region where the product will be sold, because some products may need to be checked after being fixed by a professional or only fixable by an specialize shop.

The user will be encouraged to use protective equipment and the right tools. In a study about accidents during wood working, only 31% of the amateurs that suffered an accident was wearing the right protection [2].In the United States, in the 2005, there were more than 113.000 deaths that could have been avoided, from which more than half happened at home, and from the 24 million of disabling injuries three quarters were in the home [3].

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels 2

2. Is the future technology becoming more efficient?

This question is specially applicable to products such as electronics or home appliances. This products contain pieces or components that are still in development and are becoming more efficient, using less energy or other resources or producing less emissions. Some authors explain that repairing these objects can be in the long term more harmful to the environment and expensive to the user because it wastes energy because it is inefficient compared with the newer version. Therefore, in these situations, substituting the product might be a better option than repairing [4]. Also, we need to keep in mind that the continuation of the production of the necessary parts can impact the environment and the economy.

S.P. Borg and N.J. Kelly created an estimation of the efficiency increases for some home appliances by 2020 [6]. The biggest improvements are computers (they will consume 0.364 less than in 2008), the fridges (0.467 less), and lighting (0.502) among others.

The objects that have the next characteristics could be designed for repairability:

  • It doesn’t have components or parts that can become obsolete in the future.
  • In the case that it contains pieces that can become more efficient in the future, it will be studied if exchanging those parts will make the product more competent economically and ecologically. If that is the case, we would recommend making exchangeable parts to be able to substitute them for the more modern versions. On the other hand, we would recommend designing for disassembly and recyclability.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels2

3. Does it have a high value for the user?

The perceived value of an object is subjective. During the buying process, the value is related with the price, service quality and consumer satisfaction [7]. In the Spanish norm UNE-EN 1325-1, value is specific for each user and it can be different for each one of the users. The relationship between the functions or needs that satisfy and the price of the product [8].

Sadly, it is estimated that around 78% of the products that are discarded are still working, and we throw them away due to perceived or psychological obsolescence [9]. Even though the willingness to repair products depends on the person [5] if the user has an emotional connection with the product the chances of wanting to fix it increase. For this reason, creating a link with the product is crucial for treating it carefully, and in case of braking, to be repaired by the user [5][10][11][12].

The connection with the product can be affected by the usefulness, appearance, and the pleasure that it provides the user. At the same time, memories, both good or bad, have an important role when creating a link with the product. These memories can be associated with a moment, a place, or a person [10]. Sometimes, the object can become “part of the person” when they can do certain activities with them (for example the tools for a carpenter) [12].

There are different methods or trends that have proven to be useful in the creation of this link. The first ones the DIY or self-created product an it involves physical effort of the user to create the object, making memories in the process and a proudness because of making something (does this ring a bell? Ikea perhaps?). At the same time, these products are sometimes cheaper which allow people with low income to improve their lives and express themselves [13]. Another example is the self-design movement, which involves the mental effort from the user when designing the product, but it won’t be involved in the fabrication [14]. Some examples are personalised objects (Vans for example), in which the user can express and differentiate as individuals [11]. This is also evolving in mass customisation, where the buyer can design their own product. However, too many options might not be always positive and cause confusion in the user [13].

For these reasons, if we want to create this link between the product and the user, we need to pay special attention to the experiences or memories that can be generated by our product. An example could be creating products that need to be use in a social way, encouraging interaction with people and therefore creating memories [12]

[1] European Commission, “The Low Voltage Directive (LVD) - European Commission,” 2014. .
[2] F. Loisel, S. Bonin, L. Jeunet, J. Pauchot, Y. Tropet, and L. Obert, “Woodworking injuries: A comparative study of work-related and hobby-related accidents,” Chir. Main, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 325–329, 2014.
[3] L. Girard, “SAFETY : Preventive home medicine,” Home Channel News, 2007.
[4] E. Cohen-Rosenthal, J. Korhonen, and D. Huisingh, “Making sense out of industrial ecology: A framework for analysis and action,” J. Clean. Prod., vol. 12, no. 8–10, pp. 1111–1123, 2004.
[5] M. Sabbaghi, B. Esmaeilian, W. Cade, K. Wiens, and S. Behdad, “Business outcomes of product repairability: A survey-based study of consumer repair experiences,” Resour. Conserv. Recycl., vol. 109, pp. 114–122, 2016.
[6] S. P. Borg and N. J. Kelly, “The effect of appliance energy efficiency improvements on domestic electric loads in European households,” Energy Build., vol. 43, no. 9, pp. 2240–2250, 2011.
[7] M. G. Gallarza, I. Gil-Saura, and M. B. Holbrook, “The value of value: Further excursions on the meaning and role of customer value,” J. Consum. Behav. J. Consum. Behav, vol. 10, pp. 179–191, 2011.
[8] “UNE-EN 1925-1 Vocabulario de gestión del valor. Análisis del valor y análisis funcional.” 1996.
[9] F. Ceschin and I. Gaziulusoy, “Evolution of design for sustainability: From product design to design for system innovations and transitions,” Des. Stud., vol. 47, pp. 118–163, 2016.
[10] R. Mugge, H. N. . Schifferstein, and J. P. . Schoormans, “Product attachment and satisfaction: understanding consumers’ post-purchase behavior,” J. Consum. Mark., vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 271–282, 2010.
[11] R. Mugge, “Emotional bonding with products,” Investig. Prod. Attach. from a Des. Perspect., vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 1–199, 2008.
[12] H. N. J. Schifferstein and E. P. H. Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, “Consumer-product attachment: Measurement and design implications,” Int. J. Des., vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 1–13, 2008.
[13] S. Fox, “The new do‐it‐yourself paradigm: financial and ethical rewards for businesses,” J. Bus. Strategy, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 21–26, 2011.
[14] S. Diefenbach, “The Secret of Self-Made: The Potential of Different Types of Consumer Participation for Product Attachment and Commercial Value,” Soc. Sci., vol. 7, no. 4, p. 52, 2018.

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