Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Packaging Gone Awry?

What's up with packaging these days? It seems every manufacturer, container shipper, and postal carrier entity is experimenting with new ways to package things. Some are borderline clever. Some are just outright dumb. This goes beyond the pack-and-ship aspects. I'm also talking about how desktop and laptop computers are assembled.

Since 2000, I've counted no less than two dozen unique assembly methods used by Dell and HP alone. Screws, thumb-screws, clips, snaps, notches, latches, folding, sliding, lifting, pulling. You name it. What's up with that? Why screws anyway? As if the little toy-like lock hasps are any deterrent to thieves and tinkerers. Just make the cases snap together and be done with it. And if you look at the insides of a computer, oh geez. One minute of gazing and you can easily spot a half-dozen fabrication head-scratchers. Things that make you ask "why do it that way?"

I'm not talking about complicated things either. This applies to simple boxes like the power supply, cd/dvd drives and backplanes. The costs being wasted by overly complicated fastening methods, attachment methods, alignment methods, and so on, is just insane.
The reason in most cases is patent blocking. Someone holds patents on the simplest methods and won't play nice with the big players anymore. So they do their own and it ends up being a clusterf**k. Given that not one single manufacturer uses a common-sense assembly approach (except for maybe Apple, in some cases, pardon the pun) I am wondering if it's the patent holder that's to blame. Demanding too high of a price for licensing. Or maybe they just don't want to play at all. Who knows. We're paying the price, both literally and indirectly (ripping our fingers on the sharp edges, contorting to plug things in). Progress and innovation have been tossed into a cell and locked up by attorneys. The 20th century was all about making new things. The 21st century is shaping up to be about protecting things, pure and simple. RIP innovation.

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