Buying any new product, it’s a big decision over performance, price, running-costs, reliability, etc. Performance, price and running costs are usually easy to identify through brochures and specifications. However, reliability is a big problem to identify, especially when design and manufacturing have been outsourced, as is frequently the case even with big-brand names.

I’m in the process of building a new house, and need to purchase appliances, heating systems, and many other fitments. In the case of appliances, it’s a nightmare. Read those reviews left by previous purchasers, and you quickly appreciate that these expensive appliances breakdown. Research different models, and you notice that identical models are sold under different brand names – so who designs and manufactures them? Who controls quality and reliability?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we poor customers are really in the dark. The only information we may obtain is warranty terms and support network details. Can the device be repaired if it fails? Will parts be available? How comprehensive and how long is the warranty?

On the other hand, as part of my consultancy, I work with companies who do their own design and manufacture, and also with companies who outsource either or both design and manufacture. Cost of warranty is usually a big issue for my clients, and so I usually use a warranty-cost calculator to justify reliability requirements and quality- & reliability-centric development investment. Product life impacts customer retention and profits from sales of consumables. With clients understanding the relationships between reliability / life and profits, it is then usually a no-brainer to integrate this into product requirements and project plans. …leading to best-in-class warranties.

When buying consumer goods, check out the warranty terms and service support!