What is repairability and why is it needed?
Repairability is a way to measure consumers’ ability to repair and maintain their products. For electronics, this can include the ability to disassemble the device and replace and upgrade parts as well as the availability of information to allow them to do this. The concept is gaining traction globally as a fundamental way to extend the lifespan of products and create more circular business models.
Many consumer electronics, such as computers and laptops, are experiencing shortening lifespans with various obstacles to keeping products in use, such as the inability to upgrade older technology. Coupled with the regular release of new and upgraded technology, consumers are encouraged to replace devices frequently, such as mobile phones around every two years. In the UK alone, it is estimated that 2 million tonnes of waste electronics are disposed of each year; repairability could drastically reduce this number.
The current policies and legislation driving repairability include:
- The EU Circular Economy Action Plan incorporates improving the product lifecycle
- EU Directive on Eco-design incorporates energy efficiency
- EU Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) includes waste and End of Life responsibilities
- In the US, State-level legislation requires electronics manufacturers to ensure that consumers and repair facilities have the appropriate information to enable product repair
What are the drivers for increasing the repairability of electronic products?
With some electronics in Europe only achieving reuse rates of 2-3%, consumers and NGOs are increasingly demanding that manufacturers change their business models to increase repairability.
The trend is also being driven by governments globally implementing legislation for businesses, such as the European Union (EU) Circular Economy Action Plan, which states that the EU will work towards establishing a new ‘right to repair’ legislation and consider new rights for consumers around access to repair, spare parts and upgrading services. The UK also introduced its Right to Repair law in July 2021, and the legislative space is continuing to develop in other countries, such as France’s Repairability Index regulation that aims to achieve 60% repair rate for electrical and electronic products. This legislation poses an untapped opportunity to change the way products are made, supplied, and recovered.
Meeting future mandatory policy requirements will become a prerequisite to selling products in these regions, and similar policies are likely to be developed in other countries. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) type compliance requirements, which are becoming standard practice globally, already demonstrate the ability for legislation to drive manufacturers to take responsibility for their environmental impact.
What are the challenges of implementing repairability?
Product repair does come with challenges, these include:
- Safety – Ensuring safe repairs and upgrades is a key challenge, and liabilities need to be managed
- Obsolescence – As technology progresses and businesses change, products become obsolete, meaning that old products are replaced by newer versions and consumers are unable to upgrade old products so instead must replace with new technology and software
- Data security – Third parties must have robust solutions and governance to manage the risk that repairability poses to the data stored on devices
- Capacity – Technology equipment is complex and significant repairs require specialist skills that often can only be carried out by approved repair specialists
- Inventory – The requirement for extended availability and range of replacement parts and management of stock can be a deterrent for manufacturers and retailers
- Intellectual property – More repairable devices potentially threaten confidential designs and can impact innovation
- Sustainability – Prolonging the lifespan of products can have a negative overall impact as holding large ranges of redundant parts is expensive if underutilised, managing returns for replacement parts has the potential to bloat logistical footprints, and energy efficiencies of aged technology may be poorer than new equivalents
- Secondary market demand – Where equipment is prepared for reuse, there needs to be consumer trust and acceptance of buying second hand used electronics
Businesses can benefit from:
- Increased customer loyalty
- Greater partnership and collaboration
- Improved investment credentials
- Access to new business models
- Contribution towards net zero and other sustainability goals
What are the rewards?
Sustainable value is at the heart of the change, but it needs to be handled correctly to fit with wider business objectives. Moving towards more repairable products allows businesses to benefit from:
- Increased customer loyalty – The adoption of repairability and upgrades of existing products will enable brands and manufacturers to build customer loyalty. Circular product journeys involve more customer touchpoints, such as repair and reuse stores and greater personal investment in the product.
- Greater partnership and collaboration – Partnerships with suppliers as well as customers can result in business and environmental gains up and down the supply chain. Realising the benefits of closer and more collaborative arrangements can build greater security and therefore more profitable solutions, such as longer contract arrangements with tighter networks of trusted partners.
- Improved investment credentials – As the environmental impact of businesses becomes a key indicator for investors, measured based on sustainable performance metrics, businesses that can improve their environmental impact can benefit from greater financial backing.
- Access to new business models – Incorporating the increased repairability of consumer electronics supports the development of new circular business models, including leasing, device as a service, upgrade plans, parts and module sales, graded product resale, and maintenance plans, enabling new product journeys.
- Contribution towards net zero and other sustainability goals – Implementing more circular business models can help manufacturers to tackle scope 3 emissions and contribute towards their journey to net zero.
How can businesses increase repairability?
Reuse and repair strategies can be used to change production and consumption patterns by highlighting the benefits of material and design choices to result in extended lifetime of different products.
However, there is an opportunity to go beyond the requirements defined by upcoming regulation by extending the use phase of products through repair, refurbishing, and reusing products, before responsible end-of-life disposal. Businesses are challenged to rethink the tooling of parts and stock inventory, supply management, and design efficiency, to create a redesigned quality and safe product for the consumer.
Alternative business models and supply chains also feature as an opportunity yet to be fully realised. There are several circular business models that promote reuse and repair as a part of normal electronic product use, for example through rental models.
Bolting on new technologies, new business models and linear economy to a traditional supply chain will be an uphill battle, so a more holistic and collaborative approach is need for businesses and their service providers.
How can Anthesis support?
Anthesis has extensive experience with supporting businesses to adapt to legislation and implement repairability into business practices, including:
- Navigating global policy and market landscapes as these rapidly develop through voluntary and mandatory initiatives.
- Understanding product and business values, designing propositions and business model concepts, and implementation with appropriate collaborations and partnerships, offering added value and expertise.
- Managing and measuring the change to bring the story and the metrics to life through digital solutions and targeted stakeholder messaging.
Get in touch using the form below to find out how your business could benefit from increasing the repairability of your products.