One of the patterns we're seeing over and over in the Monkeys blog is the weakening of classic American brands. Whether it's GE or Maytag, we keep hearing that "My ____ appliance worked great for 20 years. When we replaced it, we got a piece of junk." This seems particularly true for large household appliances. This also seems to correspond with contract manufacturing, though I'm reluctant to point to manufacturing for problems that may begin in the design stage.
Its no wonder were choosing European and Asian made washers and dryers. Its great to buy American and keep americans employed, but if they're building junk and selling it at a premium price, they're gonna loose in the end.
This post echoes the recent Monkeys post regarding Maytag appliances and I'm sure the list goes on. I had a similar experience with a high-end Kitchen Aid dishwasher. The same weird error message occurred over and over and the repairman came out probably a half dozen times to fix the same problem on the circuitry. Kitchen Aid ended up giving me a free extended warranty and covered most of the costs of the the multiple repair jobs, but it still didn't sit well with me. I replaced that dishwasher as fast as possible with a Bosch and I've had no problems ever since.
The first mistake was making a buying decision based on a company's reputation for training managers. OK, so GE hires the best MBAs. That and $6 will buy you a cup of coffee. I see two unfortunate trends in laundry equipment: 1) a profusion of electronics that makes the equipment seem high tech, but really just makes it more prone to breakdowns, and 2) a trend to high-end, fashionable designs that significantly boosts the price tags.
Thank you for editing the article about the Monkeys and the GE Profile washing machine that Ted Varga wrote. We got the same washing machine a bit over a year ago and almost immediately my wife complained about the performance. We called GE and they went over the operating procedures (which my wife had already read and followed).
They decided they might need to send a technician out to tweak the machine but my wife thought she would try it a bit longer. A few months later the machine broke down so we did have a technician come out. He confided in us that his mom owned one like this and he has a hard time getting clothes clean too. Because it cost so much we cannot afford to simply replace it, but if Mr. Varga would not mind sharing the "secret code," I will tell him how to "repair" the fabric softener device when it clogs up! Which it will. It is fairly simple, but not so easy to describe in writing.
Rob Spiegel makes some very good points about the reliability of the old vs. new brands. I have a few points to throw into the mix (based on 40+ years of engineering and a more than a few applicances):
#1: today's dishwashers are, in some respects, much better than the old ones. In the past, I always had my dishwashers die with rusted out tubs and baskets - I felt lucky if I made 10 years on a dw. Today, with plastic tubs and much better coatings on the baskets, rustout is mostly a non-issue.
#2: the use of microprocessors brings a welcome number of advantages but, if not done right, failures in the electronic components can be very, very frustrating.
#3: I don't fault manufacturing or engineering. The primary problem, I think, is management and the de-centralization of the entire manufacturing process (i.e. from design to final product). There seems to be (in all too many cases) little responsibility taken for a product's success - someone at Honeywell used the term 'silo mentality'. Everyone does their job but ONLY their job. There is not enough feedback in the system so little changes downstream when a problem is found upstream. A controller board fails? So what - just sell the customer a new one. No one seems to care what the problem was with the board or worries about fixing the problem. It makes me a bit upset. As an engineer, I want to fix problems. Management wants to only make money and then only in the short term. Sigh.
Bog Groh offers some good analysis. A lot of companies now have engineering, manufacturing, and sales on different continents. Many companies have tried to bridge the individual silos with collaboration tools. Some companies have worked to tie input and accountability to the collaboration so one team can't make changes without a sign-off from the distributed team members. I understand that some companies such as P&G have made this process work.
Our Monkey blogger Ted Varga has offered some solutions to problems he has encourntered with the GE Profile washer:
The "secret code" to "Re-Set" (Reboot) the GE Profile Washing Machine is:
1. Scratch your nose.
2. Tap your left foot three times.
3. On the washer, Press "MyCycles" and "Back" TOGETHER for 3 seconds.
4. Follow instructions on the screen.
That should get you on your way to re-set the washer and get it to perform its intended function.
There is one other "secret" the repair man showed us. We use this tool all the time to help us use the washer.
WORD OF WARNING
The following procedure DEFEATS an important SAFETY mechanism of the washer. Use this procedure at your own risk.
If you have a rather strong and small magnet, you can lift the lid and place the magnet on the top of the washer, just under where the lid was, toward the front and on the left. Move the magnet around until the washer starts and you have found the "sweet" spot when the washer starts with the lid UP. We use this procedure to add washing agents without stopping the washer.
According to the GE repair man, these are the only two "tricks" that are not published in the user's manual.
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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