I have to defend the manufacturers....... at least a little bit. Yes, the controls are typically the same across several brands, but the feature set is different so that the higher end control does perform a little better or has features that aren't available in the lower end unit. This is similar to automobile manufacturers developing the same car for different brand names but then adding better interior or suspension to the high-end line. Although the manufacturers do not design the controls, they do specify how the unit will operate, leaving the control as a black box for them. The manufacturers do have labs for cooking and cleaning and develop algorithms for how the appliance should operate and test the product to insure it operates as specified, they just don't use a soldering iron or a debugger.
A few years ago I was bidding a contract at a very large Contract Manufacturer in TampaFL. The opportunity was in their division called "White Goods". Turns out they were doing the development engineering design and manufacturing for home appliances, and all the designs were distributed to 4 separate name-brands: Frigidaire, Electrolux, GE, and Whirlpool. Talk about blurring the lines. None of the 4 "Name-Brand" even did their own development work. Ergo, appliance purchases ought to based on, pretty much, the price alone.
I ran the company's factory service for about ten years. Troubleshooting was always performed down to the component level in order to find the root cause and improve the design. However, I frequently saw units returned from the field that were serviced elsewhere. Routinely the largest and most complicated component or circuit board was replaced first as a "go no go" and the consumer flipped the bill. It was like the early days of Engine Management Systems in automobiles when the first thing a mechanic would do is replace "the brain box" rather than looking for a vacuum leak.
As a side note, except for the early years of 4000 logic, semiconductors rarely failed in the field unless they were abused. Most failures were to the LCD, knobs, connectors and switches. Pretty much, anything that was handled.
It is typical for one of the general repair crew people to assume that any problem is caused by a part that they don't understand. What we see now is that manufacturers don't choose to have repair teams, but rather to contract with any party that claims to be in the repair business. So the result is that one tech is servicing appliances made by any of a few dozen manufacturers. the result is a "Jack of all trades, master of none" situation.
I often am asked to see what I can do to fix something that has been diagnosed as beyond repair, and usually I find that the actual failure is quick to find and chaep to fix. The very best example is the dvd player diagnosed as having a failed laser, which was repaierd by cleaning the laser with a tissue and alcohol, which took less than two minutes time, including opening the case and reassembling the case after cleaning.
Of course, those electronic control modules that use the cheapest board material and only house-marked parts do present a problem, since a failed processor has no available replacement source, and no information about the maker.
As for quality, most sales people immediately recite a list of features when I ask about quality, and when I ask about reliability they present the stores service contract offers. Most sales discussions end when I find that the warranty is at most 30 days.
It appears that the marketing weasles have convinced most folks that junk is what they should buy, and that a durable product is not available. That is sad indeed.
1.- The guy is making MONEY selling the NEW controller board, he buys at 50% discount (and even that price is astronomic, were the manufacturer and parts reseller are making a ton of money) and the customer pays FULL LIST PRICE.
Plus an OURAGEOUS hourly LABOR COST, you will be amazed how pervasive this practice is in the USA. you name it wether it's your car, to a applience, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.
That's why this country is WASTELAND, it costs more to fix something than the original, BRAND NEW item price, so... throw it away and buy a new one.
2.- Plain OLD IGNORANCE, the so called "technician" does NOT KNOW,
3.- The FLOOD of every year more and more new models with more STUPID gadgets, lights, buttons, bells and wistles, my new washer NOW needs an internet connection... WHAT ! ! ...
well the public will buy it, THE SHOW OFF FACTOR influence.
3.- (as part of # 2 ) Or also lack of well written service manuals, sometimes there is not even a manual... which helps to push the cycle... "throw it away and buy a new one", I think it happens sometimes ON PURPOSE, the biggest interest is in the manufacturer, finally they will sell MORE ! ! ! we will pay.
And, that corporate line is even more blurred thanks to the ingenious designation of "LLC", replacing the time-honored, "Inc.", "LTD", or "Corp." All in the name of shielding them from litigation, so as to increase the gross profit margin. Every HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, WHARTON graduate should be proud!!
I also think Jim has a point about the question of who's actually doing the manufacturing, i.e., multi-conglomerate companies that offshore their manufacturing to contract manufacturers. I wonder to what extent that diffusion of responsibility has created the problems we keep seeing in this column.
I have to agree with you Battar. Everything we do is about finding the lowest BOM when you're designing a high volume consumer device. As a consumer, I would pay for quality, but quality is a hidden attribute and consumers have no means of examining the quality within. How would a consumer know that one design will stand up to a 4.5KV fast transient burst and the one next to it will only handle 2.0KV because that's all the specification called for? No, the engineers in consumer goods are beat down to design the cheapest control possible. There were projects that took an extra four weeks of development so that the software could workaround a hardware issue that a simple capacitor would have fixed. The feeling being that development and software are free. Another phrase that was kicked around was that the device should "just barely work..... every time." I recall a Hardware Engineer returning from testing thrilled that his circuit was 6db above the limit. The manager scoffed, saying that the design was clearly too expensive, since a cost effective design would have passed right at the threshold.
I'm sorry, I must agree with Battar. Hanging on the WALL at your favorite Chinese goods MART the consumer will buy the cheapest appliance possible because the superior engineering and quality of the more expensive unit is a feature that can't be evaluated. Worse yet, the mart will not even stock your device if it costs much more than the competition.
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