In his now classic paper “Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality”, Published in 1987 in the Harvard Business Review, David Garvin included serviceability as one of the critical eight. This service must sometimes be performed by experts (the Boeing airliner), but often can be accomplished by the customer (oil level in a car, a bent prong on an electric plug, maybe replacing plumbing or getting a recalcitrant gas engine or your furnace to run). People like me prefer servicing everything possible ourselves, for reasons ranging from economic to satisfaction.
Products become more complex over time, as more features are added and technology becomes more sophisticated, and it seems to me that manufacturers are paying less attention to the owner’s ability to service the product. The incentive for them to improve serviceability is offset by the profit to be made by being able to convince people to throw away the malfunctioning product and buy a new “upgrade” , and by the money to be made by the professional service people. A clear example is Apple, whose products are very difficult to maintain, and who obviously don’t mind people taking their ailing equipment to the Apple store, so that Apple “geniuses” can try to sell them new equipment and while they are there, add-ons such as cool cases and new apps.
But I am personally fed up with what appears to me a strong emphasis on designing for manufacturing (good), but less on owner service. As a minor specific example, let me say a few words about the proliferation of nuts, bolts, and screws in the world. We in the U.S. are somewhat guilty, since we insist on refusing to join the metric system, even though all nations except for Myanmar and Liberia have ( I think a wonderful example of U.S. arrogance ), and because of our major dependence on and participation in trade, have caused the world to use both systems, even though the metric system is far more straight forward and much easier to use.
But beyond that, although sizes and thread dimensions seem to be standardized, people continue to invent new geometries, and granted that many have advantages (especially in manufacturing), the tool requirements on the owner are getting ridiculous. If you want to get an idea of the diversity in screws, nuts and bolts, run down the several pages of a table that might interest you here.
The photo shows some of my own “standard” (slotted and Phillips head) screwdrivers. Granted there is some duplication here, caused by defending against the normal response of borrowing but never getting around to returning screwdrivers, but due to modifications I have made on various ones to fit various odd screws, I use them all. And of course I have a complete set of “Allen” hex (six sided) wrenches (metric and U.S.) and a complete set of sockets and screw drivers for Torx screws (invented by the automobile industry but spreading widely). But still I run into developments that amaze me, like the alternate screws developed by Apple to prevent “tampering” (which includes changing a battery,etc.) The good news I suppose is that it opened up a new market for tools ( see the Amazon offerings here), and I have already participated by buying a battery kit over the internet, (but not without major resentment). The bad news is that it is difficult for the average tinkerer to keep up with the tool requirements needed to use the expanding array of fasteners.
So my plea to the manufacturers of the world is “Pay more attention to the ability of your customers to service your product”, because even the best of commercial service is an convenience and typically slow and expensive. And my plea to the rest of us to be more aware of the real cost (including resources and environmental damage) in throwing away a dishwasher because a new control panel plus a visit from a professional costs almost as much as a new one.
And there are many other reasons for making services simpler. When I was younger my friends and I loved to “work on our cars”, and therefore were a natural market for well-used and cheaper ones, and came to love cars in general. Nowadays, cars are much more difficult to “work on”. Also the interest in cars among young people is plunging. Suppose there is a correlation, auto manufacturers? Kids don’t have as much money, but they are your hoped for future customers.