It seems that the newer products out perform the older ones, higher vacuum, lower noise, lighter, etc., but that the quality and reliability have gone down. An earlier post mentioned that as the older engineers leave, maybe their knowledge is not imparted on to the new engineers. I used Fender amplifiers for years, and for a while I had a newer amp that turned into a maintenance nightmare. Fender always had the control panel recessed slightly so that when (not if) the amp fell on its face the controls would be protected. This small design feature was now gone. Control knobs were always metal shafts on the older amps, but the newer one had plastic shafts and with the control panel no longer recessed, the amp would snap a knob off every few gigs. Older Fenders never used connectors inside the chassis, everything was hard wired so there were no connectors to vibrate loose, get filled with cigarette smoke gunk, or fracture solder joints from thermal cycling. These were all little nuances to the construction that the older engineers probably remembered well, but were forgotten by the company as people left. The new amp had better performance than the older amp, but it just couldn't hold up. I'm sure Fender didn't try to make an unreliable amp, they just forgot how to make a good one.
I went back to an older Fender, which only failed once when an exploding coke bottle showered the tubes. The plate voltage arced over to the heater supply in a dazzling, blue light show. The 6L6s died along with the hum balance, but that was the only damage.
The old products outlive modern products ... That was a joke in a 1920's book about motoring:
Q. What is the difference between roads made by the ancient Romans and modern roads?
A. Roman roads have lasted until the present time.
I believe the two manufacturers were mentioned in the original post, GENIE & SHOP*VAC.
Concerning the GENIE units, we had several in our facility, some which were used on production machines, so they would run continuously for hours at a time. While they may have been designated as "pro" quality, we all knew that under these operating conditions, they'd require replacement on a frequent basis. We were mentally prepared for this, and would trek to HOME DEPOT for replacements. The only saving grace was that these units were external to the machinery, so when GENIE made frequent design changes, it didn't affect our process. The one BIG change that did affect our use of these vacuums was that HOME DEPOT stopped carrying the GENIE products, so getting the replacement bags became a nuisance. My question had been, WHY was a garage door operator company selling vacuum cleaners? Never made sense to me. That's like TEXAS INSTRUMENTS selling hair shampoo!!!! But, it's all moot now, since we've changed the manufacturing process drastically, and no longer need the constant supply of these vacuums.
As far as the SHOP*VAC products are concerned, we have several of them in our facility, which are used in the typical fashion. However, one is used in the machine shop area to collect the metal shavings from milling, lathing operations, so it's used on a more rational basis. We've had to replace it once, since the motor died. Upon inspection, it was determined that the winding opened, and since they're basically a consumer item, it went directly into the dumpster. The replacement unit has been working fine, although it isn't the exact same model, since the original once was no longer available from LOWES. And, I have one at home, which I use in my shop & garage, and it has worked fine for about 10 years.
Good point on automotive, Chuck. The cars that find their way into Made by Monkeys tend to be from the 60s and 70s. The types of appliances where the old ones seem to beat the new ones inlcude vacuums, washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and dryers.
It's becoming obvious that manufacturers are focusing more on appearance, initial quality, and cost, and less on reliability and product longevity. We're now unfortunately living in a throw-away society.
My wife taught me to refill at 1/2 tank, a habit that has saved me a few times when stuck in traffic. Alas, old habits die hard, and now that I have a hybrid, I routinely let it drop under 100 miles till empty (about 2 gallons estimated left in the tank). My first car (a 1970 AMC back in 1983, when gas was under 1$/gallon) had a light that would flash when the tank was empty, and that light burned out long before I got my next car (which tells you how empty the tank usually was).
To someone elses point, appliances are not cars. Cars are major purchases, and with only a few manufacturers left, bad quality DOES affect sales. Appliances, on the other hand, are mosly built in China, and are cheap enough to be considered disposable. And, with old (quality) name brands also being built in China, buying from past (good) experience no longer guarantees quality (only higher price). This dilutes peoples experience and leaves only sticker price as a differentiator. I still try to look for Made In USA when buying, but it's getting harder and harder.
The real question is, Did the vacuum live past Warantee expiration? If so, according to management, it's designed properly. And, judging by the fact he is still using a decades old device (my newest shop vac is over 15 years old), over designing them is also bad for sales!
Yes, the auto industry has managed to improve their quality and reliability. But car prices have also increased along with the improvements. Home appliance manufacturers have been forced to add features and performance without adding cost.
In the 1960's: Average Income: $5,000 Average Home: $15,000 Average New Car: $3,500 Average dishwasher: $250
Today it is not unreasonable to make $50,000/yr, spend $150,000 on a house or buy a car for $30,000. But how many people would spend $2500 on an average dishwasher? Even though that new ishwasher would be vastly superior to the model offered in the 60's.
We all want the latest and greatest technology and performance. But with the excpetion of cars, we aren't willing to pay for it.
So the Genie vac from 30 years ago has held up well, even though it doesn't have the high performance of a newer model. But would you be willing to pay ten times the price to buy one today???
The one in my 2003 Ford cost over $1000 to have the dealer empty and drop the tank and replace it with a $500 part. Granted, with Fuel Injection it's a different situation but apparently this pump is know to die at 8 years.
Not many people know this, but the in-tank fuel pumps used on today's fuel-injected cars rely on submersion in gasoline for both lubrication and cooling. If you are one of those individuals who runs the needle down to empty every time and runs out of gas from time to time, you are asking for a fuel pump failure. Come to think of it, I tend to do this and need to change my habits.
Mentioned in another posting I read some time ago really rings true. Tribal knowledge goes a long way toward designing in quality. If the vac motor had been from an old school manufacturer with long in the tooth engineers teaching the next generation, then some guidance would have probably led to a lubricated design which would stand up to the use and abuse a vacuum takes. Often it's as simple as a washer here or a piece of felt there, not complex expensive solutions.
It is so true that auto quality has improved however repairability has gone way down. My '85 van fuel pump costs under $50 and takes about a half hour to change. The one in my 2003 Ford cost over $1000 to have the dealer empty and drop the tank and replace it with a $500 part. Granted, with Fuel Injection it's a different situation but apparently this pump is know to die at 8 years. Hmmmm...
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