Completely aside from the profits for shareholders, someplace within an organization somebody must have SOME responsibility to the CUSTOMERS! If somehow customers could become organized, some corprations would find that they had no income to share with anybody. REally, it could be a very good lesson to many if a few of the poorest quality companies went "stone-broke", meaning that they went way too broke to be able to file bankruptcy in any chapter. And even if it did not serve as a warning to others, we would have the benefit of fewer peddlers of junk.
While that MAY be true, engineers in general DON'T set price or marketing strategy, except in the smallest of companies, and they don't figure into the statistics of any survey. It's the MBA's in the SALES & MARKETING Depts. that drve the engine of commerce & these people have ONE THING & ONLY ONE THING on their minds...... MAXIMIZE profit for the shareholders! While I could not envision myself rooting for OR accepting any other form of economics, capitalism DOES have its faults, and I believe that this drive for (extraodrinary) profit (ROI) is its BIGGEST fault in many respects. But, I sure don't want to get into a "p...ing" contest with other readers over the advantages & disadvantages of the philosophy of capitalism.
While I realize that this topic is essentially about membrane switches, the story I am about to relate is just one more typical disappointment with modern design & manufacturing.
About 2 1/2 years ago we purchased as BRINKMANN 4-burner gas grill. Within two years, ALL the burner tubes completely rusted out, along with the "cross-tubes" responsible for directing the flame from one burner to the next, since the sparker is located at the far right burner only.
A call to their "automated" customer service line puts you into a queue, and they'll get back to you as time permits. When I received a return call, I ordered the new tubes, but they could not supply the cross channels as they did not know when they'd get them from their supplier (CHINA!!!), Since these were not important to the operation, I forewent ordering those parts. In a few weeks the 4 burners arrived, NO instructions, NO hardware, NO "nothing". Since the original hardware was steel, all the screws had to be drilled out. I replaced them with S/S hardware. Now, testing the grill, the burners did not properly light. They had very pekid flame fronts. So, I called Customer Service again. And, after playing phone tag for several days, I was able to speak to a rep. He suggested that the regulator was faulty, that I should disconnect it from the tank & let it sit in the open for at least 1/2 hr. I left it for the better part of a couple of days. After reconnecting it, the flame fronts were the same.
Further attempts to contact them were fruitless. The phone tag ensued over a period of two weeks, after which I got disgusted and wrote a letter to their Service Dept. No one to date has responded to this letter. In desparation, since I spent close to $100 for repair parts, INCLUDING a new regulator, I contacted the TX Atty General's office for assistance. I have NOT heard from either party so far as of this writing.
I have ONE MORE thing to try. The burners have "gates" on them to adjust the gas/air mixture ratio. I assumed these were factory preset, but given their level of customer service & overall quality of product, it is now evident to me that these burners were just thrown into a carton & shipped to me. Of course, they're MADE in CHINA also...... almost goes without saying. The problem with my plan is that there is NO convenient access to these gates while the burner tubes are in place because of surrounding sheet metal enclosures. Therefore, in order to experiment, I will have to loosen the hardware, one burner at a time, adjust the gate, reinstall it, and then test it with the gas on. IF I get the full flame front through all the orifices, then I was successful, IF NOT, the garbage man is going to be busy come next week.
And, you can bet that EVERY time I visit my local HOME DEPOT stores, AND there are people milling about the grill section, I will advise them NOT to buy a BRINKMANN product because they offer non-existent customer service!!!!!
OLD_CURMUDGEON, I was afraid you'd say that. Drat. As I posted in another comments board, we've been "educated"--some might use a different word--to believe that the most important thing is price. Some of us remember the days when consumers considered quality, not price, the most important. Interestingly, the engineer readers we talked to in the Design News Materials Survey last fall agree: price comes sixth after quality, performance, reliability, delivery and previous experience with a vendor: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=252670 Now, if consumers thought more like materials buyers, perhaps higher quality products would sell better.
Sorry to say, as my memory recolletcts, it was your "b" choice that was the overriding mantra there. This story that I related happened somewhere in the late 1970s, so you'll have to forgive me IF I don't remember every detail, but what I do recollect is that he was given the task of clipping out components to the point of functional failure. And, it seems to me that when his task was done, the set was returned (with marked up schamtics of parts removed) to the Product Engineering & Design group, and they had to revise the circuits to make the TV function properly w/ revised circuit. To management, this must have seemed like the proper approach since they were aware that the production run would be in the tens of thousands of units, so EVERY penny saved on an extra resistor, etc., meant MORE gross profit. Don't lose sight of the fact that this was SYLVANIA, a very big name in TV sets in the 1950s & 1960s & 1970s. They were among the top tier of manufacturers during those decades, sharing the market with RCA, GE, ZENITH & MOTOROLA on a national basis. There was also CURTIS MATHIS, but they weren't totally national in disctribution, and the likes of SONY, MITSUBISHI & the raft of foreign manufacturers had yet to be a dominant force in the stores.
OLD_CURMUDGEON, what you describe sounds like either a) one way of maintaining the excellence of design America used to be notorious for, assuming that "a saleable product" meant one that worked for a reasonable amount of time, or b) the beginning of the throwaway product designs. Which one did you mean?
Cadman-LT, I definitely get the "it breaks so you buy a new one" thing. But it's infuriating that if a tiny device or component breaks I'd have to buy a new big expensive (in comparison) machine instead of replacing the device or component. And I agree with Jack--this practice is so widespread by the time you find a competitor worthy of your dollars, they're probably doing the same thing.
Yes, the mechanical timers are very expensive. I had one die last year but managed to find a new replacement on eBay for about half what the distributers were charging.
Speaking of replacement parts, but not membrane switches, I just rebuilt my snowblower and had excellent luck finding all of the parts I needed. The machine is a 20 year old MTD. I was able to get the auger, bearings, idler, shear plane, muffler and carburetor parts without any trouble at all. I've rebuilt the machine a few times over the years, but this is probably the last time because the body is starting to rust out. When it goes, I'll buy another MTD.
Cadman-LT, the problem with that is that pretty much everybody is doing the same thing. If you're lucky, when Manufacturer #1's unit breaks on you, you will be able to find #2. However, by the time that one is dead, they will be using the same cheap technologies...to save that penny.
A few years back, I went to help with my mom's wash machine that quit working. I found the 20 year old multi-function control (mechanical based) had given up the ghost. So, I went to the manufacturer to get the replacement. It cost by itself about half the price of a new washer.
Ann, if they can save one penny per unit they will...they don't care about the consumer anymore...seems no one does. They assume if it breaks you'll just buy a new one. The problem I have with that philosophy is if a certain manufacturers product breaks on me, how likely am I to purchase the same in the future?
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