A Pragmatic Approach to Managing Product Life-Cycles

Timothy Charles McAloone, Stephen Evans, Jeff Weeks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


If we were to visit a landfill site ten years ago, we might find products being disposed of that were 20 or 25 years old. Visiting a landfill site today we would find the same products being disposed of which are around 10-15 years old. What can we expect to find on a landfill site in another ten years’ time? If we compare today’s retired products with those of ten years ago, what did we learn over that period about their design? What will we learn by visiting the same landfill site in ten years time, of the products that we are designing today? Furthermore have companies addressed these questions? According to draft legislation manufacturers may have to take back their products at the end of their lives, and take responsibility for the costs associated with the collection, recycling and disposal of used electronic appliances. The UK Government has stated in the past that its preferred option concerning electronic waste is to let market forces encourage product take back. However the Government has admitted that if producer responsibility does not occur, then it may consider legislation. In parallel to this some form of legislation may arise from the EC, which could be very similar to that proposed in Germany. Hence, as take back legislation increasingly places responsibility for product End Of Life (EOL) on the manufacturer who produced the products originally, companies will have direct incentives to design products that are recyclable in order to reduce the costs of landfill disposal. (Or perhaps products will be made to be re-usable, to completely offset the cost of landfill by retaining the value-add within the products.) Design is likely to play a key role in reducing the costs of recycling. Interestingly some innovative companies are already taking back EOL products to their financial advantage. In the USA, for example, DEC recycles tens of thousands of computer monitors each year at a unit cost of between $3 and $6.50 because this approach is cheaper than the costs of landfill. Furthermore in the UK companies are beginning to consider the whole life-cycle of their products; not just getting the product to market, but also taking an interest in what happens to the product for the rest of its life. However the problem with environmental decisions is that they require input from a broad background of knowledge. Also, when considering the many products that a company manufactures over a number of years, the information required to cover this range over many product life-cycles would be tremendous. If such moves are to be made by industry there is a clear need for an accessible base of data, which is capable of interpreting this data into sound information to the designer and to all involved in retaining value throughout every stage of the life-cycle of a product. This paper discusses research carried out between Cranfield University and Hotpoint, where the life-cycle of a product was studied and modelled using a spreadsheet-based computer modelling tool. By modelling everything from the manufacture and assembly of the washing machine, through shipping, in-field service, return and recycling, recommendations could be made about alternative ways in which to manage the life-cycle of the washing machine so as to improve its overall environmental and economical performance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Conference on Integration in Manufacturing (IiM)
Place of PublicationGalway, Ireland
Publication date1996
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes
EventConference on Integration in Manufacturing - Galway, Ireland
Duration: 1 Jan 1996 → …


ConferenceConference on Integration in Manufacturing
CityGalway, Ireland
Period01/01/1996 → …

Bibliographical note

Ecodesign; Product life; Network management; Network-based development; Organisational theory; Product/Service-Systems; PSS development

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