Durability incorporated by design

In 1924 the Phoebus cartel of four major light bulb manufacturers got together and agreed that rather than compete with each other for their light bulbs to be better / stronger / last longer, they would all limit their bulbs’ life to 1000 hours. That way they would all sell more bulbs. This is a business model that quickly caught on, and obsolescence started being incorporated into all kinds of products, evolving into the throwaway culture we find ourselves in now.

So why on earth are we working so hard on the durability of the Chimney Sheep® to make sure our products last as long as possible? We’ve estimated that average use of the ‘Sheep is to put it in and out of the chimney about once a week for around 30 weeks of the year. Some people never take it out and others use it almost daily. So around 30 uses a year is probably above average usage. A boffin was employed to test it so he put it in and out of a chimney to simulate 10 years’ worth of use. It was tested every 20 cycles to see how it performed. For the first two years’ worth of use it actually performed slightly better, as it softened up a bit and moulded to fit the chimney. Even at the end of the 10 years of use it was only 3% less effective than when it was at its best. It’s been tested with heat, getting wet and dried, tested to see if moths eat it (they don’t!), tested to see if it goes mouldy (it doesn’t). It still carried on plugging the chimney and cutting out draughts. Of course it would, it’s made of Herdwick wool, a robust natural material. The handles and clamps have been re-designed to make them much stronger. So it will last for at least ten years, but should go longer than that.

I’ve been looking at business models recently. The easiest and least risky thing is to keep selling the same thing to the same customers. That’s why the light bulb companies agreed to limit the life of the light bulbs. If you’ve got a product that lasts a decade then you need to keep finding new customers. The way we see it, if we’ve got a great product that makes our customers happy, they will tell their friends and families about it. That’s why we’ve gone to all this trouble to create a quality product that works well and lasts. So if you’re happy with your Chimney Sheep®, do us a favour and tell a friend about it!