Circular economy, the Netherlands promote more durable products

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The project “Products That Last” explains companies how they need to abandon planned obsolescence to be successful.

The life cycle of products is increasingly shorter: we buy them, use them and soon replace them with new ones. Think about smartphones: the quick pace of the technological innovation, which constantly produces more performing models, condemns them to be abandoned in a drawer in less than two years. Many of these devices, though, are still perfectly functioning when they are abandoned. A possible answer to this phenomenon is Products That Last, a project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and led by the Industrial Design Engineering faculty at the Delft University of Technology.

Products That Last brings together companies and organisations that aim to be leaders in sustainability and circular economy – one of which is the technology giant Philips – to find successful business models and design strategies to create value for companies and consumers in a circular economy through longer-lasting products, while minimising the consumption of resources.

The British online newspaper The Guardian described the five business models of Products That Last that are intended to serve as a starting point for businesses and designers:

  1. The classic long-life model: primary revenue stream from sales of high-grade products (e.g. the German company Miele’s washing machines) with a long useful life.
  2. The hybrid model: combination of a durable product and short-lived consumables (e.g. Océ-Canon, printers and copiers). Main revenue stream from repeat sales of the fast-cycling consumables.
  3. The gap-exploiter model: main revenue stream from selling products, parts and services based on the mixed product life of components (e.g. printer cartridges outlasting the ink they contain, shoes lasting longer than their soles).
  4. The access model: provides product access rather than ownership (e.g. car sharing services, where the users pay for the use of a vehicle they do not own). Main revenue stream from payments for product access.
  5. The performance model: delivers product performance rather than the product itself. Primary revenue stream from payments for performance delivered.

Products That Last also identified six design strategies that can be applied to prevent or postpone perceived product obsolescence:

  1. Design aimed at countering emotional obsolescence by creating products that will be loved, liked or trusted longer, such as high class watches.
  2. Design aimed at countering functional obsolescence by developing products that can take wear and tear, for example the Miele washing machines.
  3. Design for standardisation and compatibility aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by creating products with parts that fit other products as well.
  4. Design for ease of maintenance and repair aimed at countering functional obsolescence by enabling products to be maintained in tip-top condition.
  5. Design for upgradability and adaptability aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by allowing for future expansion and modification.
  6. Design for disassembly and reassembly aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by ensuring product parts can be separated and reassembled easily.

Source: The Guardian

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