Daily Archives: December 14, 2010

Another Headline From the Land of D’OH: Going Global Means Expecting the Unexpected

I have to say that I never expected our next headline from the land of D’oh! to come from Knowledge@Wharton, but I guess that this is just more proof that the unexpected can happen when you go global! But seriously, who didn’t know this? It’s 2010, and everyone knows that every country is different. Different cultures. Different political systems. Different goals. And no matter how much you think you know about another culture or country from reading a book or taking a course, there’s always going to be something you don’t know. After all, there’s lots about your own country you don’t know. For example, for those of you in the US, how many titles in the US code and which ones would impact you if you changed your product line?

And now that national security is becoming a prominent issue in many countries, it only stands to reason that the complexity of doing international business is only going to increase, and that the unexpected is going to become more common. This is especially true in information technology, as information can have political ramifications, and telecommunications, which transmit information, as these are both high-growth industries and there’s a lot of money at stake.

Furthermore, when companies offer products or services that can be used for, or to compromise, national security, there’s a chance there’s a good chance that it can put them in conflict with local governments. So what should they do? According to the article, these companies should put crisis management in place. Because a crisis is almost as inevitable as a supply chain disruption, and we all know that the black swan is coming.

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To Survive in Electronics Manufacturing, You Need to Start 3R Design Now

The 2nd generation iPads are about to hit the shelves. The Android pads are coming. Blackberry’s PlayBook is almost here. And everyone and his dog are buying smartphones these days. This sounds great until you realize that this means that lots of people are going to be discarding their old phones and netbooks, of which only 10% are recycled each year (according to the EPA, as discussed in this Brighthand article that asks why cell phone recycling rates [are] so low).

And to make matters worse, lifecycles for these types of consumer electronics are growing shorter every month. People used to keep their phones for years. The current life-span is now estimated by most analysts to be between 18 and 24 months and some people are trading their phones in every year. When you consider that the average person now owns one or more computers, laptops, cell-phones, portable media players, GPS systems, etc., and that some estimates place the number of electronic devices per consumer as high as 10, you see a dangerous situation emerging. Adding the numbers up, we see that it won’t be long before there are 3 Billoion consumer electronic devices being disposed of each year, with only 300 Million being recycled if current trends continue.

We’re at the point where we have to go beyond the standard reduce, reuse, recycle mantra that has been chanted for years, and design for recycle, as this blog first suggested to you three years ago. In addition, with certain natural resources becoming scarce, you also need to design for reduced resource utilization and reuse. Especially since many of these electronic devices still contain hazardous materials.

If design for recycle is done right, there will be a refurbishment phase which will allow for reuse as long as the device has a usable life. This has many benefits for manufacturers and retailers as the cost of refurbishment for phones, pads, and laptops can often be much less the cost of producing a new device (especially when the cost of energy is factored in as it takes huge amounts of energy to create these devices, but very little to have a human pop out a single defective component and pop in a new one). Plus, the market for refurbished devices is about to boom as there are millions of people in emerging countries who will be ready for smartphones when the next generation of mobile devices comes out in addition to millions of people in the developed world who have yet to switch to smartphones and pads.

Plus, with the cost of raw materials increasing as fast as energy, and the looming threat of end-of-life directives that would force all producers of electronics components to take their disposed products back, design for recycle just makes sense. Reducing raw materials and energy requirements will save a lot of money. Designing phones so that as many components as possible can be reused when the phone can no longer be refurbished reduces future production costs and waste. And minimizing or, better yet, completely eliminating hazardous materials can simplify and increase the effectiveness of recycling. All-in-all, designing for eventual recycling will not only save money and increase profits, but might be the only way an electronics manufacturer can survive in this tough economy if more regulations hit the industry.