In service we often hear customers telling us how their appliance lasted years and years in the past and expect a new one to do likewise, hopefully this will explain why they often will not now last as long. I often have had the conversation with customers complaining that an appliance has suffered a failure in warranty that they had appliances before for years without incident. This is very possibly true but with cause.
Over the past twenty years or so we have seen the constant erosion of pricing in the appliance industry with the prices of the goods being reduced and, as I have written elsewhere on this site, they are primarily mechanical devices. Appliances are made from steel and plastics, the cost of which has not dropped in recent times. Yes, there has been advances in manufacturing techniques and more robotics used in construction, but we also are now seeing a massive migration of the manufacturing process to lower income and, therefore, lower labour countries. Recently there have been massive moves to have appliances manufacturer in former Eastern Block countries as well as Asia and, in particular, China. This can represent a huge saving in manufacturing costs, whether the quality of build is to the same standard as the Western workers standards is open to debate.
But falling prices in the face of inflationary pressure can only really signify that the quality of build has been lowered to some degree and appears to be true of this industry. Had a washer's retail price tracked with inflation in the UK over the past 20 years we would be looking at around £6-800 for the most basic of appliances, yet some retail for under £200.
People simply cannot expect to have the same quality of appliance for a lot less money, it last as long or can they expect to have the same level of service for a cheaper appliance.
You can see the proof of this environmental disaster in this article all about the environmental impact of this phenomena.
By service I am not just referring to the man that pops round to repair the machine when it is faulty, but stock holdings of spares and appliances as well have been reduced, especially local ones with many manufacturers now favouring centralised European stores with little or, in some cases, no stock held in the UK at all! It would appear that "just in time" ordering has been liberally applied to the industry, which can often to translate in real terms to "waiting some time" for orders.
You see all this cost, to repair or replace the machine, to stock spares, to have people that can help you if you have a problem, it's all built in as a percentage of the appliance's sale. Now, if you reduce the sale price then logically it follows that there is less money in the pot to pay for service and, that's exactly where we are now.
So you pay less for your appliance the service levels, stock levels and staffing levels are all reduced as well so, the cheaper the appliance, the poorer the aftersales service is liable to be as the resources and money to fund it simply isn't there.
Here's a classic example, in days of old most manufacturers used to employ a home economist to help people with the use of the appliances, expert advice from a trained professional. Now, there is perhaps one manufacturer I can think of that employs a home economist and your chances of getting any good advice on using your machines... practically none at all.
Service levels have also been eroded, lower stock levels, poorer payment rates in general and a host of other cost cutting measures.
This is one area that people can't see and, if you have a browse around some of the articles on the site you will see that the industry is rife with this. The bottom line is that costs are cut everywhere, lower standards don't matter so long as sales volumes increase it would appear.
Couple this with some of the ludicrous spare part prices we see daily and it's a recipe for disaster, people throw machines away after only a few years and the manufacturers appear not to care. Why should they, they sell more machines?
Customers seem to be slowly getting to grips with the fact that more expensive appliances tend to last longer and be built to take the punishment of daily kitchen life, but it is a slow realisation in a market that moves at a glacial pace. Manufacturers seem to be struggling to add new features that are of value and are moving into new areas of technology such as home automation to entice customers to pay more for a better product and raise revenues. Whether customers will accept or even want such features remains to be seen, but from a service point of view we have not seen too many of these products in the field yet.
So, the next time you think that the previous appliance you had was better built than the one you now own, think on what you paid for it in relation to what the new one cost and compare like for like.
But it is up to you, the customer, to dictate where you spend your money and how. If you want a cheap throwaway product then that's what you should buy but if however you want a good performing, long lasting appliance perhaps a little research may be the order of the day and make sure you actually get what you are asking for.