Planned Obsolescence and the Modern Product Life Cycle


Planned obsolescence: (otherwise known as designed obsolescence) is a hotly contested topic, but the terms generate different responses.

What is Planned Obsolescence and Why do Manufacturers Practice it?

If you haven’t heard of the concept, planned obsolescence is the business strategy of producing consumer goods that become obsolete on a schedule, therefore requiring replacement. Manufacturers orchestrate this process by continually updating their design and features offering, discontinuing the supply of available spare parts, and creating their products from nondurable materials.

Although the concept of a product that lasts for years is generally appealing to the consumer, the bottom line is that manufacturers don’t want their products to last in perpetuity; it wouldn’t be profitable. If you’re a brand-loyal customer, you’ll upgrade to the next model when it debuts. And there’s a certain cache associated with getting your hands on the latest and greatest model before anyone else. That explains the lines around the Apple store on the eve of a new product launch. Computer manufacturers and car manufacturers follow similar methodologies.

Some believe that planned or designed obsolescence is a sneaky practice intended to keep us buying. From a manufacturer’s and marketer’s perspective, planned obsolescence is about an ongoing commitment to innovation – consumers expect innovation.

What is The Purpose of Planned Obsolescence?

An article published in The Economist in 2009 (“Planned Obsolescence”) sums up the philosophy while describing tactics used by the computer industry:

“New software is often carefully calculated to reduce the value to consumers of the previous version. This is achieved by making programs upwardly compatible only; in other words, the new versions can read all the files of the old versions, but not the other way round. Someone holding the old version can communicate only with others using the old version. It is as if every generation of children came into the world speaking a completely different language from their parents. While they could understand their parents’ language, their parents could not understand theirs.”

Modern Technology and Product Lifecycle Management

The global electronics industry has grown dramatically. According to a white paper entitled “Electronic Part Life Cycle Concepts and Obsolescence Forecasting” (IEEE Trans. On Components and Packaging Technologies), the U.S. electronics industry grew at a rate of three times the overall national economy between 1990 and 2000. 

An interesting phenomenon has taken place within the industry: “many of the electronic parts that compose a product have a life cycle that is significantly shorter than the life cycle of the product.”

That mismatch, in turn, requires manufacturers to stay up to date on the parts that will continue to be available and those parts that will become obsolete during the manufacturing run.

At the same time, companies contemplating new technology must make a series of essential determinations:

  1. How much should they invest in new technology, knowing it’ll become obsolete?
  2. How much should they budget for the coming year for parts and products that they anticipate will become obsolete?

Regardless of the decisions they ultimately make, companies must stay on top of obsolescence management to keep the business moving efficiently.

Planning and Budgeting for Designed Obsolescence

Keeping track of all of those moving parts can be extremely difficult. Asset Panda dramatically simplifies the process by giving clients a powerful yet easy-to-use mobile platform that syncs with the cloud. With Asset Panda, clients have access to key dates and details in real-time, and it’s accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With better and more efficient planning, companies can better budget for the coming year and avoid expensive surprises.

Asset Panda's asset tracking software comes with free mobile iOS and Android apps, including a mobile barcode scanner. There’s no need for any additional hardware; all you need is the smartphone or mobile device you already carry. Upload any asset, then add pertinent details, including supporting documents, photos, videos, and voice notes. 

From the palm of your hand, you can pull up an asset’s:

  • Value
  • Condition
  • Complete maintenance history
  • Exact location
  • Check-in/check-out status
  • The identity of the person who currently has it
  • Its warranty and insurance information
  • Lease/purchase information, among many other details

You’re entitled to unlimited custom notifications, including alerts, to stay on top of critical dates surrounding obsolescence. You can add as many users as you’d like for no additional cost.

Learn How Asset Panda can Help With Planned Obsolescence

Asset Panda allows you to track your assets any way you want and brings everyone into the communication loop to enhance accountability and accuracy throughout your organization. Curb theft and loss while you save time, money, and significant frustration by centralizing all of your asset-related data. Asset Panda is also incredibly intuitive and user-friendly, with a streamlined interface and completely customizable features. We adapt to your unique needs now and well into the future; the app is flexible enough to incorporate new technologies as they become available.

If you’re ready to make better budgeting decisions and be a better steward of your resources, it’s time to give Asset Panda a look. Give Asset Panda's asset management software a try with a free 14-day trial (no credit card required)! You’ll receive full access to user guides, video tutorials, free mobile apps, and call-in and live chat support from our friendly Asset Panda support team.


Courtney Roush

Courtney Roush is a freelance writer, editor, and communications strategist with 25 years of experience. Her favorite discipline is crisis communications – and it’s a highly relevant one in our present times.

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