Prepare for “Right to Repair” Regulations as an Appliance Manufacturer

Point of View | 18 November 2021

The Right to Repair regulations will become effective in European countries in 2021 as EU aims to protect the rights of consumers and reduce carbon footprint coming from the replacement of appliances. 

Why did they come up with Right to Repair regulations?

When home appliances break down, consumers’ lives are suddenly interrupted. As their fridges break down, all the foods in the broken fridges might soon be spoiled and consumers will have to either finish everything or look for alternatives to store their food. As their washing machines stop working, consumers will have to carry all the dirty clothes to the nearby laundromats to do their laundry.

Although it will certainly be faster for them to replace the broken appliances, replacement usually costs more than repair and it is certainly a laborious process. However, calling for repair services is not exactly a piece of cake. 

Seemingly endless waiting for repair

According to a survey conducted by Marketplace, 76% of the 1,500 interviewees have experienced breakdown of home appliances. Although the expected lifespans of home appliances are usually longer than 5 years, 30% of them claimed that their appliances broke down within five years after purchase. 

As the appliances break down, consumers attempt to contact the manufacturers for repair services. However, it can take up to months for them to have their appliances repaired. Consumers then opt to either replace or repair their appliances themselves; however, they might encounter another problem.

Unavailability of spare parts

The demand for spare parts continues even if the main products are no longer sold. However, it is quite hard to predict the demand for spare parts and thus when consumers try to order spare parts online, it is possible that the manufacturers’ last-buy order is depleted. Consumers will have to then replace them with new ones, possibly the products from the competitive brands.

Waste and energy reduction

United Nations University published a report in 2017 and stated that 44.7 million metric tonnes of electronic waste, which was actually equivalent to almost 4,500 Eiffel Towers, were generated in 2016. In addition, the energy used to produce a new appliance is certainly more than that used to repair one.

To solve the aforementioned issues, governments are planning to implement Right to Repair regulations. Some versions demand that manufacturers not only have to design appliances that are more energy-efficient and have longer lifespans but also provide the necessary resources, such as repair instructions, for consumers to decide whether they wish to repair by themselves or seek for professional repair services.

Aside from that, some regulations also require manufacturers to ensure that spare parts of home appliances will be available for at least ten years after purchase and appliances must be repairable with common tools, suggesting that “design for servicing” or “design for repairability”  will eventually replace design for manufacturing. 

EU estimated that the measure will reduce more than 46 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and save European households €150 on average.

How to prepare for Right to Repair regulations as an appliance manufacturer?

From reactive to preemptive repair services

Internet of Things (IoT) allows companies to remotely collect data of appliances equipped with smart sensors. Using these IoT data, manufacturers can minimize appliance downtime by preemptively replacing failing parts before they actually fail. By doing so, manufacturers are building customer loyalty, generating more value for both parties, and improving efficiency of after-sales services.

From traditional to digital manufacturing

To avoid encountering shortage of spare parts and having an unnecessarily high level of inventory, manufacturers can adopt digital manufacturing. By digitalizing their spare parts inventory and producing them using 3D printing, manufacturers will no longer have to worry about obsolescence and produce spare parts on-demand. Furthermore, some industries, such as aerospace, have adopted 3D printing as it enables engineers to produces complex parts that cannot be produced through traditional manufacturing process.

From design for manufacturing to design for services

As required by the Right to Repair regulations, manufacturers must design home appliance in ways that make repair easier and allow appliances to last longer. Thus, manufacturers should no longer design appliances that can be easily manufactured but can provide the best value for both the consumers and the manufacturers.

Consumers now have countless choices of products and the differentiating characteristics of products are starting to blur. As we enter the servitization era, delivering the better customer experience, including repair services, can often become the key differentiating factor for manufacturers. Hence, manufacturers must put their customers first and adopt the appropriate strategies to stay competitive.

Spare Parts 3D has helped manufacturers of home appliance digitalize their spare parts inventory and produce spare parts on-demand using 3D printing for them to avoid unnecessary investment and increase customer satisfaction