The appliance manufacturer I worked for had the mantra "it should just barely work.... every time." If the specification said 100,000 and you passed at 250,000, they thought you should go back to work and find a way for the unit to pass with a cheaper bill of materials. The priority was always the specification first, then the cost, and since the life cycle was always specified we never had to debate its importance.
These are very interesting comments and I think everyone is pretty much right on. I'm personally "jaded" because the quality of consumer products has significantly depreciated over the years to the point where I expect the products to fail. When I say fail, I mean before their expected life. I retired from a Fortune 500 company. During one engineering staff meeting, I commented that I would love to have the time and money to design and build a quality product. Our VP of engineering told me that quality was really expensive and good enough was good enough, at least for the American market. What a downer. I later on wondered if that same philosophy applied to aircraft engines, MRI systems, etc etc. Let's hope not.
One mistake, which is the the B&D brand is NOT high quality! They do have a good morketing program that gives the illusion of quality, and it is a better grade of junk than some of the other products, but they are not high quality designed to last. They are designed to be sold to folks who use them once and then put them on a shelf. I am certain that some will protest my statements, but it is just another "consumer" brand of products.
It isn't just "made by monkeys" that is the problem with consumer goods, it's also "designed by monkeys" it seems. I just completed filling out a customer service form on the Sunbeam website concerning my wife's brand new iron. Following is the message I left:
"There appears to be no closure on the water fill port on this iron. Consequently, random spurts of hot water are ejected from the fill port while ironing leaving wet spots on the clothing. In addition when the iron is placed on its heel plate a large drop of hot water flies out of the fill port potentially causing burns if it lands on the hand. Every other steam iron that I've ever used (including Sunbeam irons) had a cover or plug for the water fill port. THIS DESIGN IS DANGEROUS AND SHOULD NEVER BEEN ALLOWED TO REACH PRODUCTION! It will be returned."
Must have been designed by mokeys or at least by someone who has never actually used an iron.
"Astro-Eric, don't blame the workmanship for that. Soldering materials are not what they used to be thanks to our European friends and their misguided RoHS legislation. You try soldering with lead-free solder for a while and you will be convinced."
While I can't disagree, I will say that I've seen a lot of soldering issues long before lead-free solder. Lots of Thomson TV warranty repairs that required literally hundreds of resoldered joints on boards that mixed PTH and SMD parts.
And it is amazing to me just how many consumer electronics items put temperature sensitive components like aluminum electrolytic capacitors right next to heat sinks. Guess which ones fail first? I don't know how they are now, but for decades Sony TVs were terribly designed when it came to getting rid of heat. Parts packed in close, and the vents designed so that if -anything- interfered with convenction in the slightest, they got very hot inside. Bad capacitors, bad solder joints, etc.
They were beautiful until they failed. But just too much dust in the slots, a doily partly blocking the slots, or even just putting the TV into an entertainment center was enough to cause them to overheat to the point of entire PCBs having bad solder joints and bad electrolytics, and discolored boards.
One of the advantages of the EU is the consumer legislation states that goods should last a reasonable length of time, up to 6 years for "bigger"items. Thus I should expect a washing machine to last this long. This is in conjunction that most goods have a one year warranty anyway, compared to 90 days in US.
My expensive £500 dishwasher failed after just under 3 years and was unrepairable, after a bit of haggling from manufacturer got £270 back. Managed to repair in the end, had obviously had a leak since new and was permentantly triggering the leak sensor, fix leak problem solved.
My wifes £200 steam generator iron packed up after 4 years heavy use, manufacturer couldn't repair it so they replaced it (OK cost about £40 in P&P to send old back and get new delivered).
Had issues with wires breaking in the seat of my VW car (to do with airbag sensor) and as only 4 years old, sorted for free, after a little pestering and reminder of 6 year legislation.
My mates LCD TV died after 15 months, got his money back on that one as it is deemed a TV should last longer than that.
@Mack Z: The answer is yes. Rowenta has demonstrated that people will spend exhorbitant amounts of money for what they hope is a quality iron. I must confess that I have never ironed so much as a handkerchief, but my wife irons everything. Her biggest complaints are that the new irons do not get hot enough and are so light they require muscle power to be applied to PRESS the cloth rather than just guiding the iron across the fabric. We have spent over $100 for irons that did not iron to suit the user, my wife. I do not know how long they would last because we never kept one long enough to tell.
Our solution is the same as I have given for other posts on similar appliance issues: Estate Sales and/or Garage Sales. Maybe we buy 2 or 3 at $1-$2 before we find one with which she is happy, but then that will usually last 5-6 years and be discarded. I have also changed cords when required and typically have a few iron cords on hand. The cords are usually heavy duty and flexible. I have replaced cords on a jigsaw and a couple old fans with cords from discarded irons and extended their life as well.
This whole thread could be rerun a dozen times by just substituting the appliance at the core of the issue and I think the bottom line is what the consumer is willing to tolerate.
My Wife and I did in fact purchase an expensive iron, a Black and Decker at near a hundred dollars. In about a year, plastic parts inside melted and it was beyond repair. After that we bought a cheap one from a drug store. Over a year later it's still working fine. Eric is right: speding more money does't help.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.