TechNation Cover Story, April 1, 2023 – Maytag once used commercials to brag in about how long their products lasted. Today, planned obsolescence has led many products to saturate landfills, instead of offering years of use to consumers.
Part of the problem that has led to this situation is the lack of repairability of so many of these items by consumers or local repair shops. Instructions, tools, easy access and replacement parts are all missing in action. This doesn’t seem to be a simple oversight, but a determined decision by the manufacturers.
Many products are just not created to be sustainable. Others are not built to be repairable. The profitability of a company may best be increased or maintained if its products need to be replaced regularly.
The debate has waged for several years now over right to repair within the medical device servicing community. Manufacturers claim that it is a patient safety issue. HTM professionals point out that they are also focused on patient safety, and can repair or service the equipment confidently and safely. There is no argument that anyone is ignoring patient safety. The FDA has already determined that there is not quantitative proof that non-OEM service providers compromise the quality of devices in a way that results in measurable harm.
The manufacturers are entitled to earn revenues and also have rights to intellectual property. To what extent those rights are protected versus providing outside service providers with information needed to service devices is up for discussion. The problem is that there is no discussion going on because there are opposing views and the arbitrators for now are state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
It appears, to some degree, that some OEMs are getting the message; at least one. The new Apple iPhone 14 is said, by tech insiders, to be substantially easier to repair than previous generations. It appears that Apple has done this purposefully.
Both the screen, and the back panel of the phone, are much easier for a third-party repair shop to achieve. The iPhone has traditionally been a difficult phone to repair because of the need for proprietary tools and the arrangement and construction of internals.
Yet, it is not all wine and roses. Apple has incorporated software that prevents the replacement of components with after-market parts. The changes the company did make came out of pressure from the government and the company’s own customers and investors.
According to The Repair Association (Repair.org), as of January 2023, there were right to repair bills, or public filings, in 16 states, including Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Texas, Washington, Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Oregon.
There are already bills that passed in Colorado and New York.
An investigation by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Repair.org and iFixit of 50 appliance makers found that 86 percent did not supply full repair instructions. It is evidence such as that which mandates more effort in this campaign.
Wesley Reid, CHTM/CRES/CBET, director of Technology Management/ENTECH at Banner Health; Kevin O’Reilly, right to repair campaign director for PIRG and Kelly Starman, chief marketing officer at PartsSource, co-presented a TechNation Webinar Wednesday session last year titled: “Reclaiming Our Right to Repair: Understanding Challenges and Taking Back Control.”
The webinar looked at the current state of right to repair as it impacts the HTM profession and suggested ways for biomeds to address the issue.