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Durability and design

A personal tale of toasters… I bought a Dualit toaster in 2002. This week, it stopped working. Now, eight years of daily toasting service is not too bad, especially against the apparent lifecycle of the typical toaster. My in-laws seem to buy a new toaster every six months or so (I’m not actually making this up – they do and have done so for years). In  their case, after about toaster number three or four, they had spent the equivalent amount to buying a  Dualit. However, they have continued to have to buy a new toaster on a regular basis. So, they have effectively rented the ability to toast bread, rather than owned it, as they have an ongoing stream of payment on new toasters. One lesson here – quality counts; a higher up-front cost has been rewarded with longer lifespan and so much less inconvenience (all that time having to go buy new toasters racks up over the years, plus the hassle of having an accumulating number of days when you have a broken toaster).

However, the case for durability has a further element here (apologies for another toaster pun). The Dualit toasters are designed to have the key components easily replaced and there are any number of places where you can buy the spares at reasonable cost. On mine, the timer started to work intermittently. No problem – buy another timer and fit it. Given the designed-in durability, this is incredibly easy – the Dualits are easy to disassemble (and are explicitly designed to be so) and the parts are easy to fit. The new timer I ordered yesterday turned up today, and took 2 minutes to fit. Result: toaster is back to fully functional and the only thing that gets landfilled is the eight year old timer.

Repair, rather than replace, is the focus. Now for Dualit, this has some consequences – I haven’t had to buy another toaster from Dualit (so a lost sale, perhaps; but would I have bought another Dualit if I couldn’t have fixed it ? Maybe not). On an reputation basis, though, Dualit gains – I’m telling you and everybody else how impressed I am, and the sustainability of ‘repair, not replace’ being designed in to the product is a big factor for me.

How could Dualit improve on this? Well, allowing me to send them back the old timer for materials recovery might be one option…

Posted in design, sustainable, technology.