URI Engineering Professor Rethinks Manufacturing

istock_000011382788xsmallIn the 1960’s and 70’s, manufacturers produced goods under a philosophy called “design for obsolescence”, which basically means that they purposefully designed products that would need to be disposed of and replaced frequently. It sounds like a waste doesn’t it? It was initially used to boost the economy, but the philosophy itself has now become obsolete, as we can no longer allow wasting materials on such a large scale.

In today’s world, people are trying to get the most value out of every product they buy. They look for the most reliable products at the lowest price, and Professor Manbir Sodhi is trying to encourage manufacturers to cater to this trend. “We’re now asking companies to design products so they retain value longer and to think about how they can take their product back to recycle it or reuse the parts used to make it,” he said.

In a recent study, Professor Sodhi and his graduate students discovered that the total price of the parts used to make things like cars, computers, etc. are often 10-12 times more expensive than the product itself. This discourages people from repairing their products, often forcing them to just throw the old one away and buy a new one. The goal is to change this trend, so products last longer and are cheaper to repair when the time comes.