Longevity and obsolescence in product development (LOiPE)

The attention around the premature obsolescence of products has increased in recent years. Science, politics, consumers, media and manufacturers are concerned with the topic. Studies offer numerous indications and evidence of premature obsolescence, which, however, is exclusively based on technical design features and product properties. However, the actual causes and decision making bases for obsolescence in product development have not yet been clarified. The present research project therefore focuses on the human factor and its influence potential in the product development process and the consequences for use and service life.

Research interest

The research project focuses on two questions: What role do longevity and obsolescence play in the product development process? What influence do engineers and other actors directly involved in the product development process have on the service life of products?

Planned obsolescence and its consequences for society, environment and ecology are a phenomenon that must be considered as a direct and indirect effect of people acting. The predominant object orientation in obsolescence research so far only explains effects and damage consequences (ex post explanation) and thus offers no explanation for the actual causes of action (ex ante condition.) It must be investigated which factors and paradigms have an influence on the specific development and construction situation. Company decision-making structures and the motivations for action of the involved actors must be brought more strongly into the research focus than before.


The main objective of the research project is to investigate to what extent the developers and designers involved in the product development process can influence the obsolescence and longevity of consumer products. For this purpose, various quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical social research are applied, for example a quantitative survey using a formalised online questionnaire, pre-structured interviews with key actors, support and coaching of operational change approaches and reflections in expert workshops. In addition to this empirical analysis of the participants‘ subjective view of product development and design and their general conditions, concepts for action are to be tested and evaluated in practice in cooperation with works councils and companies.

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Project publications

A collection of the project publications can be found at: