Planned Obsolescence and Keurig Brewers

Graphic of planned obsolescence in relation to Keurig brewers

We have been dealing with Keurig brewers and their associated problems for over a year now and so have seen many different and varied problems with them. This is either from questions and comments from our readers or what we read on other websites and forums. From this experience it does surprise us that a machine that in affect is really a large heating unit for water, does have so many defects – and many of them very common. Having said that, once you get the cover off and look inside one of these Keurigs you can see there is some real engineering behind it.

And what most likely makes the units more complex than first thought is they actually do quite a lot electronically that in turn needs circuitry and sensors to manage it all. So rather than the mechanical side being the sole cause of problems with Keurigs, such as water pump problems or solenoid dramas, we suspect a lot of the problems we read about are related to a break down in sensors sending the correct information or that information not being processed correctly.

So for example, what the “pump won’t shut off” issue indicates is that a sensor is not picking up when the water should be shut off or it is the signal back to the main circuit board that is not making the correct connection between that sensor or the water pump and so the pump just keeps going until the water reservoir is empty.

In seeing these types of problems come up on a regular basis made us wonder about how the engineering side of these machines is worked out over the life cycle of the product. Does a company like Keurig Mountain Coffee Inc. create a brewer design and then never update or change it over time? They must come across feedback through its customer service channel and a documented database of problems that its customers report. This database must be used in the training of its customer reps on the phone and those that respond to emails.

So in this design phase is there built into that a certain level of planned obsolescence with the Keurig machines? Does the overall design mean that the components inside will only function, in normal day to day use, for a limited, or very limited, time? And / or the design is sound but the quality of components used inside limit the life span of the overall machine?

We suspect it is a combination of the above. There could be some design changes that would help over come common small problems with some components leading to major problems for others. For example a leaking solenoid unit can cause power transformer failure, due to electricity and water not getting on well together. The solenoids tend to leak around their sealed ends or where they connect into the internal tubing. These leaks can lead to contact with the power transfer that sits below and hence cause the problems.

We understand that planned obsolescence is a common design philosophy in most product manufacture these days, and in particular with household goods. This of course enables companies with an opportunity to sell to its customers again, in addition to growing its normal new customer targets. This certainly must help in assisting with sales growth. We aren’t suggesting anything underhand here as customers¬† can be our own worst enemies. You just need to look at the frenzy that is caused when Apple releases a new iPhone and the throngs of dedicated fans that upgrade to the device, despite their current phone being in perfect working order.

We wonder in Keurig’s case what the sales mix is for their new 2.0 series. Is it mostly people discovering Keurig machines for the first time and so making the purchase? Or is it mostly current customers who are upgrading to the newer units? It’s very much going to be a mix of the two, but the composition of that mix would be very interesting to know.

This is the first major upgrade to their trusty K-Cup range since its initial launch and so it will be interesting to see how us, as customers, behave towards it. Will we stick with the known quantity of our sometimes slightly untrustworthy K-Cup elites and platinum brewers or will we make a significant move to the new 2.0 range with all its bells and whistles?

Time will tell and we will be watching to see how this process goes. In particular from our point of view how many questions are we going to start receiving about the 2.0 brewers compared with what we currently do with the classic machines? Will there be common issues arise or are we facing a series of new problems that will in-turn require new solutions?