among different product lines. These standardized components are often maintenance free, self-protecting, and fault tolerant, which greatly reduces operating costs (such as operator and repairman training, and spare-parts management for complex products).

  • New technologies aimed at optimizing the resource efficiency and safety of products and components over long periods of time will have to be developed. These include spareless repair methods, in situ function-quality monitoring systems, and memory chips for life cycle data.

  • New professions and job qualifications will emerge, such as operation and maintenance engineers. The salespersons of the past will have to become customer advisors able to optimize generic products for the needs of specific users, and to upgrade products according to the wishes of the user as technology advances.

  • Users (exconsumers) will have to learn to take care of the rented or leased products as if they owned them, to enjoy the new flexibility in product use offered by a use-focused service economy. Whereas in the industrial economy, misuse and abuse of products lead to a punishment in the form of increased maintenance cost for the owner-user, in the service economy they may lead to the exclusion of a user from the use-focused system.


Many obstacles will need to be overcome on the way to an economy optimizing use-cycles. Most of these obstacles are embodied in the logic of the present linear industrial economy. A supply definition of quality, for example, is based on warranties limited to 6 or 12 months for manufacturing defects only and on the newness of components in new goods. The logic framework of a functional economy requires a demand-side definition of quality based on unlimited customer satisfaction and the guarantee of a system functioning over longer periods of time.

The signs on the horizon clearly point to a use-focused economy:

  • The European Community-directives on product liability and more recently on product safety and the draft directive on service liability all stipulate a 10-year liability period.

  • Some car manufacturers offer a total cost guarantee over 3 or 5 years, which includes all costs except tire wear and fu el.

  • Industry shows an increasing willingness to accept unlimited product responsibility and to use it aggressively in advertising, through money-back guarantees, exchange offers, and other forms of voluntary product take-back and is learning to make product retake and remarketing a viable business division.

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