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Cadman-LT
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Built to fail
Cadman-LT   5/31/2012 8:56:38 AM
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That design, with those materials is built to fail no question. 

Nancy Golden
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Re: Planned Obsolescence
Nancy Golden   5/30/2012 1:58:43 PM
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Another thing that drives that Rob, is the minimum quantities often required by Chinese manufacturers. That almost forces some American distributors to have to go with a cheaper price=cheaper product to be able to afford the MOQ required by the manufacturer. I have a small business and buying from China is not even an option for me because there is no way I could meet their minimum order size. My products are made in the U.S.A. and are of high quality materials that will last, but the price I have to sell them for certainly reflects that and I probably don't see near as many sales as I would if I was able to drive the cost down. However, I am committed to quality so while I have a poor profit margin, my integrity remains intact LOL

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Planned Obsolescence
Rob Spiegel   5/30/2012 1:34:17 PM
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Really good point, Nancy. It could be that what we're seeing with faulty manufacturing from China may be a reflection of what U.S. manufacturers are willing to pay for rather than the intrinsic quality of the goods made in China.

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Planned Obsolescence
Nancy Golden   5/30/2012 1:26:36 PM
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I absolutely see your point Tool_maker, but I am still not sure if it is consumer driven or manufacturer/distributor driven. I have a friend that works for a company that consistently does business with China. He tells me that their Chinese manufacturers can make high quality products - but it is driven by what their customer (i.e. American distributor) is willing to pay. In a competitive market society like ours, it could be financial suicide to opt for the higher priced higher quality part when their competitors are underselling them with a lower quality part. The consumer is not always given a lot of choice because the decision is made by the distributor to remain competitive. I personal would pay the $50 extra for a product that would last, but those products are hard to find. A warranty is typically offered (for $50) instead that has so many loopholes in it that it is really worthless.

Tool_maker
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Platinum
Re: Planned Obsolescence
Tool_maker   5/30/2012 1:07:29 PM
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Excuse me if I rant a bit. It is not so much a corporate shift as a response to the reality of today's consumer spending habits. If Sears sold the quality of lawn mower that you recall lasting 10-15 years, most people would go down to Walmart and get another model that is $50 bucks less and then lament the fact that it does not last.

We consumers have repeatedly demonstrated our willingness to accept junk, so long as it does the job for awhile and costs less. I just replaced our refrigerator after our old Whirlpool died after 25 years. The salesman laughed when he said we expect 10 years today and I do not have one in the store built like your old one. I do not know the veracity of that statement, but I do know our basement refrigerator was built in the early 50's and is still making things cold. It is ugly, probably inefficient, needs to be defrosted, and only makes ice if you fill the tray, but it works.

As long as we demand more toys and are willing to accept more junk to save a buck or two, why are we surprised when retailers feed that clientel. Quality is not dying so much as we are killing it. I have worked at companies that produced products which ended up as parts in Craftsman tools. Radial Arm Saws are one I am most familiar with, and Sears was a demanding customer, but they charged a premium price. Harbor Frieght and their third world imports changed the rules for the home hobbyist that was Sears' primary customer.

I hate to see how quality has gone by the wayside, but I am not always sure it was not a consumer driven trip.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Planned Obsolescence
Rob Spiegel   5/24/2012 2:25:28 PM
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I agree Warren. The partial engagement is a poor way to modulate speed, even if it's metal to metal. That fact that it was metal to plastic just meant the plastic gave out first. A different system to modulating speed is the real design solution.

warren@fourward.com
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Platinum
Re: Planned Obsolescence
warren@fourward.com   5/24/2012 5:53:11 AM
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Actually, I don't think is was the plastic on metal that was the problem.  I think it was the partial merging of the gears that created the mess.  Now it makes me worry about how my lawn mower works.  I happen to like the auto-pulling feature.  For the first time in years I have a lawn to mow, and I appreciate all the help I can get!

bobjengr
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Platinum
MOWER
bobjengr   5/23/2012 4:21:38 PM
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Several years ago several neighbors and I took turns cutting the grass for a gentleman who had a stroke.  He was in the process of recovery but certainly in no condition to continue with his ward work.     The lawn was quite small so he had a push mower and never bothered to purchase a motorized self-propelled device.   One of those rotary types that are no longer made.  Although very skeptical at first, I started the process and was amazed to find out how much quicker I completed the job and what a "better cut" I got from the old, but very sharp, blades.  For this job, the more simple process was the best process.

William K.
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Platinum
metal trumps plastic in mower
William K.   5/23/2012 8:31:47 AM
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I have used both self propelled and non self propelled mowers and I find that it takes far less effort to mow a lawn without the alleged work saving feature. At least that is when the lawns are a bit smaller and have anything other than wide open spaces. Constantly turning and pulling the mower back is a lot more work if I must be dragging the heavy drive mechanism as well as the mower weight. 

And of course the mowers are mostly designed to only last a year or two, so as to sell more mowers. So what comes across as a design goof may actually be intended to make the machine last only a bit beyond the warranty period. Simpler is often better.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Re: Planned Obsolescence
TJ McDermott   5/23/2012 3:02:57 AM
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Metal on polymer is often a very good choice under certain load conditions.  With the right polymer, the interface requires no lubrication.  Polymer geared wheels are very easy to manufacture.

"Planned obsolescence" is the unsavory name for simple design compromise.

This lawn mower could have been designed with case-hardened steel gears and a built in auto-lubrication system for them, but then no one would purchase this extremely expensive lawn mower.

As stated in other comments, the weak "link" was the wheels, but the actual flaw in the design lay elsewhere.

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