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March 31, 2021

Right to repair: a duty to the consumer and to the planet

Modern technology has made life very easy for us. For virtually every task, there is a machine that will help us do it, whether in the home or the workplace. And, as technology has evolved, such machines have become both easier to use and more widely and cheaply available. Many electronic devices have become so inexpensive that we simply trash them and buy another. In the US alone, about 3.4 million tons of such waste are generated every year.

Right to Repair: righting the wrongs

It is increasingly clear that we humans need to re-discover the art of repairing and re-using instead of simply throwing away. Known as the ‘Right To Repair’ movement, it began in earnest when a US industry body called The Repair Association coined the phrase and was the first to champion the cause.

Their call to arms has been echoed by consumers across the world, frustrated not only at the wastefulness of single-use, non-repairable, short-lived electronics, but also at the apparent wilfulness of certain manufacturers to prevent repair.

Leading the sustainable way in industrial coding and marking

Coding and marking specialist LEIBINGER has lived the philosophy of manufacturing sustainable products since the company was founded 1948 in Germany. The approach of LEIBINGER has always been to deliver value to the customer. The industrial inkjet printers we produce are designed to have a long and productive lifetime, and the fact that we manufacture virtually all components at our factory in Tuttlingen enables us to check the reliability and quality of all outgoing stock.

The component-based design of our CIJ printers also makes repair easier if something goes wrong: instead of replacing the whole unit/module, engineers – or the customers themselves – can simply replace the faulty item as a single part. For example, individual components of a LEIBINGER print head such as a nozzle or electrode unit, can be easily replaced in the event of a fault. With many competitors, these components are integrated within the print head, sometimes even including the head cable, which means a complete assembly has to be replaced – often at great expense.

This approach is also key to the maintenance and service program. At regular service intervals, parts such as rubber washers or filters can be easily replaced because these are the parts most likely to wear out over time. But: Why replace parts that have not been subject to wear?

In addition, customers receive free software updates over the entire product life cycle of LEIBINGER printers. The software is always up to date!

Innovative approaches for efficient repairs

LEIBINGER also offers in-depth support to customers and resellers to enable them to effect repairs. Detailed videos and manuals are available, along with experts who are on call to answer technical queries. A highly successful training programme has also been launched to bring customers up to a level where they can do their own repairs and maintenance.

LEIBINGER’s approach not only means less waste, but also a smaller carbon footprint by reducing the distance travelled by engineers. If customers are able to make repairs themselves, engineers no longer need to make the journey to the customer. Even if the repair is beyond the customer’s ability, remote diagnosis technology enables engineers (either from LEIBINGER or from our worldwide service network) to locate and remedy faults without travelling. And of course the intrinsic quality and durability of LEIBINGER’s products means that repairs are needed less frequently than with some other equipment.

A simple calculation

The bottom line is that less waste and fewer CO₂ emissions also mean lower costs. If repair of a product is costly (or impossible) it should be seen as a hidden cost within the purchase price, and buyers should take this into account when choosing a product. With the "Right to repair" you increase the efficiency of your production and act sustainably.

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Why do some refuse the right to repair?

Conspiracy theorists might say that there is more profit to be had in forcing a frequent repeat purchase, even if margins are slender. The manufacturers, for their part, frequently use the defence that making their products hard to repair makes them hard to copy. The problem to them is not the will of the customer or the future of the planet, it’s industrial espionage.

Steps in the right direction

Many governmental policymakers disagree. In 2020, a landmark decision was reached by the EU when they adopted the ‘Circular Economy Action Plan’ as part of their wider Green Deal environmental legislation. The plan calls for manufacturers – especially in the electronics industry – to make products easier to repair, and to improve access to spare parts and software upgrades.

The aim was summarised by Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment: “We want to make sure that products placed on the EU market are designed to last longer, to be easier to repair and upgrade, easier to recycle and easier to reuse”.

There has been a mixed reaction to the movement from manufacturers. Different companies have been stubbornly lobbying against the Right To Repair in US courts, but some European manufacturers have been keen to show that they have embraced the right to repair movement all along.

Plastics >>>

Automotive >>>

Other packaged foods >>>

Beverage >>>

Right to repair – right for our environment

Products that cannot be repaired can simply be bought new at a reasonable cost. But the damage to the environment is immense... Future generations will pay the price as the amount of waste generated by human activity begins to reach unsustainable levels. It has been calculated that the world’s discarded electronics goods outweigh the world’s population of blue whales. Each year more than 20 million tons of electronic products meet the end of their usable lives. That’s a lot of waste.

Do things your way

With this knowledge, it’s hard to believe that many manufacturers still want to rail against the Right to Repair movement. LEIBINGER, on the other hand, stands up for this right! The LEIBINGER ethos is to make products that are operated – and repaired – exactly the way our customers want them.


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