Designing a service to make electronics circular by making repairs, resale, and recycling easy and straightforward

circlE

Project type

Group Project, Academic

My Responsibilities

User Research, Systems Thinking, Product strategy, Service design, Business Design

Timeline

Dec 2020- Feb 2021 (3 months)

Project Overview

The Problem

Most electronic products are designed in such a way that would be obsolete in a few years and there isn't a easy and straightforward way to give them a second life. So these products end up getting piled in homes of people or just dumped inappropriately. This causes extreme damage to environment and people's health.

The Goal

Design a solution that would tackle this problem at scale to change people behaviors and system in a way that could make electronics life-cycle circular, while making the solution effortless for people to ensure mass adoption, and identifying a viable business model to sustain the business over long time.

What are the common electronic waste items?

The Big challenge

Every year almost 1 billion tonnes of electronic wastes are being produced. But 450 million tonnes of waste of electronics stay in the places of residence. They exist without the process of recycling or reusing. We can notice the same situation in our houses. Most of the electronics we obtain usually exist without recycling. This case is due to the mentality in people’s mind that the proper prices for them aren’t being obtained, or that there might be a use for them in the future which turns out to be wrong in most cases.The idea of a business which deals in the household electronic wastes and gives them the right market price for it would be of great help to the people who owns electronics, and also the environment in a way where there is less need for mining of materials, lesser processing of petroleum byproducts to make plastics and less energy used in manufacturing those electronics. This would help the society in whole to make a efficient electronic waste management system.

Home Appliances: Microwaves, Home Entertainment Devices, Electric cookers, Heaters, Fans

Communications and Information Technology Devices: Cell phones, Smartphones, Desktop Computers, Computer Monitors, Laptops, Circuit boards, Hard Drives

Home Entertainment Devices: DVDs, Blu Ray Players, Stereos, Televisions, Video Games, Fax machines, Copiers, Printers

Electronic Utilities: Massage Chairs, Heating Pads, Remote Controls, Television Remotes, Electrical Cords, Lamps, Smart Lights, Night Lights, Treadmills, FitBits, Smart Watches, Heart Monitors, Diabetic Testing Equipment

Office Equipment: Copiers/Printers, IT Server Racks, IT Servers, Cords and Cables, WiFi Dongles, Audio & Video Equipment, Network Hardware (i.e. servers, switches, hubs, etc.), Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS Systems)

Leftover ‘New’ Technology: Today, though, a growing amount of e-waste is not considered to be products that have stopped working or become obsolete

black and gray computer keyboard on brown wooden table

Research

The problem with e-waste

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E-waste Hides Toxic Materials

While above ground, modern electronics are safe to use and be around. However, most electronics contain some form of toxic materials, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife. When E-waste gets buried at a landfill, it can dissolve in microscopic traces into the gross sludge that permeates at the landfill. Eventually, these traces of toxic materials pool into the ground below the landfill. This is known as leaching. The more E-waste and metals at the landfill, the more of these trace toxic materials show up in the groundwater.

Data Security

The hard drive inside the computer or the memory stick inside your smartphone is a significant liability. All someone has to do is plug it into a new computer. There are dozens of methods of disposal, but most of them aren’t perfect. Physical destruction or dismantling of your electronics is the only sure-fire way to get it done. However, it should be done by a professional–modern laptop and smartphone batteries can explode if heavily damaged or dismantled incorrectly.

Health Risks

Health risks may result from direct contact with toxic materials that leach from e-waste. These include minerals such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Danger can come from inhalation of the toxic fumes, as well as from the accumulation of chemicals in soil, water, and food.

Environmental damage

This puts not just people in danger but land and sea animals as well. In developing countries, the risks are exceptionally high because some developed countries send their e-waste there. Studies have shown this global e-waste has detrimental effects on the people that work with the e-waste but also the people that live around it. Because of this, a proper recycling process needs to be put in place to protect us and future generations.

Recycling & Disposal of e-waste

Since we know consumers will keep buying new devices, it’s important to keep reinforcing that message that we need to recycle the older models, not throw them out. There are serious environmental risks if we send our electronics to a landfill. In contrast, recycling provides considerable benefits to our environment. The process is: gather your old and unused electronics like you would your garbage. Then, bring them into recycling facilities.

According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, India generates about 2 million tonnes (MT) of e-waste annually and ranks fifth among e-waste producing countries, after the US, China, Japan, and Germany. In 2016-17, India treated only 0.036 MT of its e-waste.About 95 percent of India’s e-waste is recycled in the informal sector and in a crude manner. Only 20 percent of global e-waste is recycled. Due to poor extraction techniques, the total recovery rate of cobalt (the metal which is in great demand for laptop, smartphone, and electric car batteries) from e-waste is only 30 percent.

Close to 80 percent of e-waste — old laptops and cell phones, cameras and air conditioners, televisions and LED lamps — continues to be broken down, a huge health and environmental cost polluting groundwater and soil, by the informal sector.

Target Audience

Mapping the user's journey

Understanding the users

1. Gadget geek buys new electronic devices very often just for the novelty, even when old devices are working fine

2. Careless user uses gadgets without care, which results in a short life span of devices, and buying of new devices regularly

3. Over-stable user not interested in new gadgets, and uses the devices carefully, resulting in an exceptionally long life span of the product

4. Hardworking user goes the extra mile by not throwing away device even when it’s damaged but rather getting it repaired and even after product life ends getting it sold by putting in the effort themselves

5. Lazy user keeps piling up even sellable electronics at home rather them selling them due to extra effort to be taken for selling it

6. Clueless user does not know a thing about electronics, how to get one repaired or where to sell the old ones for an apt price

Oppurtunities

How Might we improve the experience of getting old electronic products repaired by making the system reliable, ethical, skillfully handled and seamless for a 46 year woman who uses any electronic product till its damaged or not able to use it, untrusting of electronic repair shops as some don't seem skilled and prices vary from shop to shop, is unsure of the time it would take for repairing so that she feels assured the product she gave for repairing is in good hands without having to worry if the product will be repaired in an ethical and organized manner?

How Might we improve the experience of getting old electronic products repaired by making the system reliable, ethical, skillfully handled and seamless for a 46 year woman who uses any electronic product till its damaged or not able to use it, untrusting of electronic repair shops as some don't seem skilled and prices vary from shop to shop, is unsure of the time it would take for repairing so that she feels assured the product she gave for repairing is in good hands without having to worry if the product will be repaired in an ethical and organized manner?

How Might we improve the experience of getting old electronic products repaired by making the system reliable, ethical, skillfully handled and seamless for a 46 year woman who uses any electronic product till its damaged or not able to use it, untrusting of electronic repair shops as some don't seem skilled and prices vary from shop to shop, is unsure of the time it would take for repairing so that she feels assured the product she gave for repairing is in good hands without having to worry if the product will be repaired in an ethical and organized manner?

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We got 30 possible opportunities from our 3 journey maps. We then eliminated and combined the similar opportunities from those opportunities we as a team decided and voted which opportunities can be our HMWs.

Conceptualising an effortless service

The concept is a user-centric easy, efficient and effortless service to take care of any electronic products after use, based upon the principle of circular economy. The concept deals with the after-life of an electronic product, or when an electronic product gets damaged but still has a scope of repair. It concerns increasing the life of an electronic product, while not compromising on the experience of the user.

Designing the blueprint for the experience

Repair service

Sale service

Service Blueprint

Physical evidence: The physical evidence of the blueprint for servicing usually resides in the form of the app or the store. As they are the existing entity. The functions of the service design happens usually between them.

Customer actions: Consumer actions in this case denotes the acts done by the consumer in case they try to service their electronic product. This denotes them trying to contact the app, registering the details, waiting for the service person to arrive, fixing the pricing, and getting the serviced device back. Every action by the user or the consumer comes under this

Front stage Actions: This is the space where the actions on the shop or the app which is visible to the consumer happens. This involves registering, transporting, repairing, pricing and fixing. This also involves the picking up and dropping of the electronic product to be serviced.

Backstage Actions: Backstage is the place where the actions which do not come under the vicinity of the user/customer happens. This usually involver the algorithms involved in registration, pricing, location finding, contacting the dealer, also the evaluation of warranty, product repairs and algorithm for pricing.

Support processes: The support processes for this service involves the ai algorithms and databases for price directory, the algorithms for calculations and the services. This also involves the payment gateways and the bank and monetary services.

Business design

Creating a Business model

Customer Segments

Customer Segments are the groups of people and/or organizations a company or organization aims to reach and create value for with a dedicated Value Proposition. The customer segment of our service could be divided into 3 discrete categories- Electronic Product users, Electronic product buyers & Electronics manufacturing companies.

Value Proposition

For example, the customer segment of Electronic Product users who want to get their product repaired, the value proposition would be easy, assured and hassle free way to getting products repaired, Standardized prices and repair warranty for complete assurance, Doorstep services, as per users convinience

Channels

Channels describe how a Value Proposition is communicated and delivered to a Customer Segment through communication, distribution, and sales Channels. For the given service, the key channels would be Mobile and Web App, Physical store/ repair centers, Social media, Google adwords links, Customer referrals and Partnerships with housing societies

Customer Relationships

Customer Relationships outline what type of relationship is established and maintained with each Customer Segment, and they explain how customers are acquired and retained. In this case, the customer relationships would be maintained through Mobile and Web app, Text messaging, Social media, E-mail notifications, Assistance through chatbots, Store attendants, Pickup/ Delivery person, On location Repair-person, Customer service executives.

Revenue Streams

It is how an organization captures value with a price that customers are willing to pay. The key revenue streams would be Selling recovered components to electronic manufacturers, Repairing fees, Selling recycled parts and materials to electronic manufacturers, Delivery/ Pickup charges, and Selling refurbished products

Key Resources

Key Resources are the most important assets required to offer and deliver the previously described elements, which would be the mobile and web app, Developers and designers, Repair-persons, Refurbishing facilities, Physical store/ repair centres, Repairing facilities, Store attendants, Pickup & Delivery person and Recycling facilities.

Key Activities

They're the most important activities an organization needs to perform well, which would be Mobile and web app development, Repair-person recruitment, Setup physical stores/repair centres, pick up and delivery person contracts, Setup refurbishing facilities, Partners with recycling plants & manufacturing plants, Develop standard pricing and charging index for repair and sales, Design estimation algorithms, Store attendants recruitment, and Marketing activities.

Key Partnerships

Key Partnerships shows the network of suppliers and partners that bring in external resources and activities, which would be Electronics manufacturer companies, Electronics Recycling facilities, Electronic brands after-service department, Pickup/ delivery vehicle owners, Refurbished product selling brands, Electronics components maker, Organizations that use repair parts, & Government recycling initiatives,

Customer Segments

Cost Structure of the business,that describes all costs incurred to operate a business model, which would constitute of Mobile and web app development, Payroll, Marketing capital, Physical store development, Repairing facilities, Repairing costs, Recycling costs, Buying old electronic products from users, and developing and operating refurbishing costs

© Aditya Mukherjee 2021

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