There is a controversial discussion on the phenomenon of “planned obsolescence”. However, shrinking product lifetimes and product qualities do not prove that actors in the product development process take conscious decisions toward premature obsolescence.
Current product faults like exploding batteries in Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 foster the suspicion that manufacturers are also struggling with unintended product obsolescence. The relevant question is in which limits the planning of product lifetimes leads to intended and unintended consequences.
The reasons and intentions behind product features and whether these features are intentionally at all can just be determined in direct contact with the actors of the product development processes. The research project LOiPE could establish contacts in strict confidence to development departments of 23 major German companies. The objectives of the survey were to find out about the development process in their point of view, its paradigms and their experience with “planned obsolescence”.
All interviewees assured that when they had to balance cost against lifespan, lifespan always prevailed.
The allegation of a deliberately intended premature obsolescence was vehemently rejected by all of them. The limitations through obsolescence are caused by the basis conditions of developing and producing: rising complexity, increasing speed of innovation cycles and high cost pressure. These conditions and their constraints leave little space to single actors of the development process and to companies. In this sense obsolescence is systemic. So, a perspective towards more sustainable production and consumption lies in a combination of different approaches.
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