Working for a household name OEM for several decades from the 80s thru the 2000s I'd seen my share of products come and go. The company always worried about their reputation when closing down a product, because of the literally millions of consumers using the legacy products. Typical exit-strategies always included life-time buys of critical components. These types of exit strategies for companies playing it responsibly, do get very, very expensive, and always result in huge amounts of un-used scrap. One streamlined method which evolved over time was simply shutting down the product as soon as last warrantee expired. No replacement parts and Consumers were simply out of luck. Aligns closely to the "planned obsolescence" strategy, but it was really because of high costs of replacement parts warehoused.
Factor in the cost of tooling up for a new product. The investment in plastic injection molds alone is measured in multiples of 100K$s. Managers also, sometimes wisely, prefer "the devil you know" - a new product potentially is introduced to the market with unknown bugs or defects, and removing the product from the market after introduction could run to millions of $. (reputation, loss of market position to competitors, no available product to fill niche, customer compensation, etc)
Planned obsolescence designs (like hiding the motor bearings so they can't be re-lubed without a total -- and über-difficult -- disassembly) combined with just plain dumb design in the past decade has caused more waste than any product staying in the line "too long" IMHO. I can't think of anything I've bought in the past five years that didn't have at least one design error - not aesthetics or color, actual functional errors -- in it. The last vacuum had three! Two took all of 5 minutes to resolve (as best as one can in the post-production environment). The third would require an extensive re-design thus, sadly, it remains as-is. But I digress. The Millenials are all agog every time one changes the color or the ad personality thus causing them to toss out whatever gadget they're holding and rush out to buy another. But the rest of us are not trained to replace household or handheld devices monthly or annually. Want to save money and increase profits? Get the product's design right then keep it around long enough for it to get a good reputation. And it wouldn't hurt to make it serviceable. I have a perfectly good B&D Circular Saw in mint condition ... but a small part broke (design used wrong material) after two years. By then B&D had already replaced this model AND destroyed ALL the spare parts!! $175 out the window just like that. I replaced it with a Sears model that's now eight years old; and I can still get parts for it! I've "sold" dozens of Sears circular saws since in referrals. B&D got my money once. Sears' supplier has profited much more handsomely. In closing, I'm still driving a 23-year-old vehicle. Know why? It's entire repair history can be counted on one hand. It's total cost of ownership (23 years) is still less than the price of a new car; and it still drives and looks (inside) like the day I got it. The outside I hate to report is finally succumbing to New York's insane love affair with salt but that is hardly the car's fault. I've "sold" many of this model to friends, family and strangers over the years. As soon as the manufacturer brings back this particular body style, I'll be considering another myself.
P.S. Remember when headlights were $5 - $10? Back when there were only a half dozen or so standard shapes and sizes? Now, a headlight replacement can run nearly a $1,000 in some models (and require dealer installation). This is another kind of insanity in design today. Is the lighting any better? Nope. Properly aligned sealed beams throw more than enough light for any normal person at reasonable speeds. Sure, a computer can measure the difference but ... does that really matter in the real world? Nope. The insanity started when the "kids in Marketing" decided that pretty pictures should trump cost and function. And plastic headlight lens. Let's not get started on this absolutely insane material selection. Whoever approved this application should be drummed out of the business and relagated to flipping burgers somewhere. The glass headlight lens on my aforementioned car are still as clean, bright and functional as the day they rolled off the assembly line 23 years ago. My wife's much newer SUV has these new "miracle" plastic lens ... the local shop charges $100 a year to keep them clear enough to perform at a reasonable level. My buddy with the beemer gets charged $500 every visit to the dealer for this "service". Hmmm ... maybe now we see why the race to plastic is on.
Battar, its funny you would focus on Mold-Tooling because that was my specific responsibility, for many projects over many years. I was the lead Mechanical Design Engineer and had responsibility for all product mechanics including mold-tool sourcing, fabrication and qualification.
One high budget program comes to mind. It followed on the heels of a predecessor which was plagued with sourcing issues, because it was a high volume forecast, but saddled with only single cavity production molds (to keep costs down) for each mechanical housing part. (Classis mismanagement of economics). So, for the next program, we hit the launch date with 2 sets of 2-cavity molds of every part in the product; a run-rate capability of 5 million products per year.
Yeah, I had a very pricey $4M tooling budget, but the supply-chain issues never resurfaced, and the company still made a ton of profit, despite the high Up-Front costs.
You mentioned Black & Decker – I had the same experience. Replacement parts unobtainable. They really do expect their products to end up in the garbage after one season. But its little broken nylon parts such as you describe which might now be re-fabricated in the home or office using a hobbyist 3D printer. Of course, you also need to have a CAD system, and have an aptitude for such things, but I think that's the audience I'm talking to now.
Man are you singing my tune! Quality and smart design has crumbled under marketing and the desire to sell replacement models. Don't get me started with the decisions that come out of marketing; They are all-to-often in direct contradiction to sound-engineering practices.
BTW, Turtle Wax fine-grit rubbing compound, followed by a light coat of Turtle Wax (probably only about $7 total for both) keep those plastic molded headlamp covers crystal clear. No reason to spend any more, and it's a quick & effective D-I-Y.
It does indeed make sense to retire some products when they are replaced by products that can do the same things better, or do additional things as well, or because the original function is no longer needed by anybody. But that is not the same as refusing to support a product by not selling repair parts after a given model run is ended. That is why it would be good if Black and Decker products were no longer allowed to be sold in the U.S. WE simply don't need that attitude and their kind of quality. Consider that I am able to purchase repair parts for a ten or 15 year old car quite easily, and still get parts for a 20 year old car, although not quite so easily. Of course, parts to service a 50 year old television set are hard to find, but that set serves no useful purpose any more, so that is probably just fine. But I can get parts to service a 15 year old PC, although ms won't support the operating system any more. And now they are abandoning windows XP, not just retiring it, they are abandoning it. What would happen if General Motors started to refuse to sell parts or service cars more than 5 years old? I think that the outcry would be quite loud.
Talking of retirement strategy for all kinds of products in the same manner can be tricky. That is to say that there can be no standard retirement approach for just about every product. Different products have different life cycles. People think of some products like refrigerators and may be cars as well in terms of tens of years. While some other products like cell phones can be treated as more disposable. Different retirement approaches are needed in each case.
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