A Matter of Timing: System Requirements for Repair and Their Temporal Dimensions


Research into repair within the circular economy (CE) typically focuses on technical aspects of design, policy, and markets, and often assumes simplified conditions for the user/owner and the product-system to explain the barriers to scaling repair activities. However, factors occurring at pre-use stages of the product’s life cycle can significantly influence whether, and to what extent, repair is viable or possible, i.e., warranty duration, after-sale service provision, and access to necessities. The passing of time can directly and indirectly affect the ability, difficulty, and thus, the likelihood of repair activities being performed at each stage of the product’s life-cycle. Drawing from the literature and applying inductive systems-thinking tools, we propose a framework for considering the “System of Repairability”. We delineate how the passing of time (temporal dimensions) affects one's ‘ability to repair’, as a product progresses through different life-cycle phases (i.e., breakdown vs. repair vs. disposal), and the point(s) at which the repair is considered or attempted (i.e., year of usage). By integrating life cycle and temporal (time-based) dimensions into a broad System of Repairability framework, we clarify relevant interconnections, iterations, sequences, and timing of decision-points, stakeholders, and necessary conditions to facilitate an outcome of successful repair at the individual level, and thus intervention strategies for scaling repair within CE. We discuss how a policy mix that can address the life cycle of products and the repair system more holistically. We conclude with a future outlook on how temporal dimensions can inform policy strategies and future research.



Environmental Sciences, repair, circular economy, temporal dimensions, systems thinking, life cycle thinking, industrial ecology