Smart technology, safety and sustainability were key themes of this month’s 2050: Fridge of the Future event, which saw AMDEA partnering with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), City of London University and London Fire Brigade.
AMDEA chief executive, Paul Hide, gave a keynote speech on ‘The Road to Net Zero’. He outlined how sales of large and small appliances have risen year-on-year and explained how the energy efficiency of appliances has increased greatly over the past decade and played a positive role in helping to keep overall household running costs down.
Mr Hide also highlighted the clear safety benefits of the latest connected home appliances but said there was still a major challenge getting customers to register their products. He told delegates: “The challenge to ensure appliance owners can be reached in the event of a safety notification or recall continues to be a major one. In spite of regular messaging on the benefits of appliance registration, through platforms such as the AMDEA-run Register My Appliance, it is still only the minority of purchasers who register their appliances.”
On the topic of sustainability and achieving net zero, Mr Hide called for greater collaboration between the supply chain and other stakeholders.
He said: “No one in the global appliance industry is under any illusion that the path to net zero for the total circular economy cycle of appliance manufacturing, shipment, use and disposal is a must and the pace of change must accelerate. But this is a challenge that requires joint and collaborative action – it’s not down to the manufacturers alone. We need global regulations and incentives that support the move to net zero. Governments will have a key role to play, laying the foundations upon which a net zero economy can flourish and achieve the challenging time frames that are required.”
Mr Hide added: “We need to support the whole supply chain – there are many industries and businesses that support the total circular economy. All sectors need to play their part, from shippers, to logistics and supply chain service providers, channels that sell, deliver and install the product, service and repair agents, those that collect appliances at end of life and those that recycle and recover the waste into materials that can be reused. It’s a complex overall supply chain and a failure to act in any part of it will impact the whole.”
AMDEA members were also well represented at the event. Guest speakers included Steve Macdonald, business director – freestanding division, Hoover Candy / Haier, and Ian Moverley, director of public affairs and communications, Whirlpool. Mr Macdonald sat on a panel themed around innovation, while Mr Moverley joined AMDEA’s Mr Hide to take part in a panel discussion on The Road to Net Zero.
Commenting on the consumer uptake of connected home appliances, Hoover’s Mr Macdonald said the pandemic had quickened the sale of those types of products and that more people were using smart features and becoming aware of the benefits they can provide, such as remote control, which was starting to take off. He also said customers were getting used to personalisation and using apps to control appliances and, in the case of connected washing machines, downloading wash programs.
“It’s developing all the time – we’re seeing more of an uptake in people connecting with their appliances – we have had issues with people connecting their products to their home wi-fi, but it’s gradually getting better,” said Mr Macdonald. “I do think the future is in connectivity, but, as manufacturers, we need to understand the consumer more and how they use the products.”
Looking at the future, he said: “I think we’re at a stage where, in a couple of years’ time, as a company, we’ll be able to detect when a product may be at the point of breaking down.”
Speaking in the Road To Net Zero panel session, Whirlpool’s Mr Moverley said manufacturers would continue to reduce emissions and increase the amount of recyclable components in appliances, but they will have to think more about how they get products to end consumers, and how customers use them to make a difference.
He stressed it was important that customers understand the whole lifecycle of a product, adding: “There’s real opportunity to look at the manufacturing of the units themselves, but also the whole process: manufacturing, delivery, usage and recyclability. If we don’t drive that collectively as an industry, who will?”
The aim of the 2050: Fridge of the Future conference, which took place as both an in-person event and online, was to bring together all parties with an interest in understanding the future of large white goods to share perspectives, identify common interests and discuss how they could work together to achieve shared goals. Topics on the agenda included:
- What will white goods in the future look like?
- How will they be shaped by evolving demand, the environment and new technologies?
- What impact will this have on product safety and regulations in the future?
Through a series of panel discussions, guest speakers helped to identify key themes for Government, industry and other stakeholders to consider in order to improve the safety of white goods and reduce barriers to innovation.