In this video, Louis Rossman talks about how contractual vendor lock-in is affecting the US military:
Then there’s this comment below the video:
While it’s a valid concern, I don’t see RtR affecting operations in the maritime industry anytime soon. The ability to immediately rectify problems is one of the key criteria when specifying ship’s machinery, and it lies in the very nature of the relationship between the Chief and OEM, that the crew receives all possible assistance to limit downtime. The idea of a system designed specifically to prevent the crew from repairing it is utterly mad.
However, I’ve spent the bulk of my working life as a small craft mechanic, and it’s a different world, both for the recreational and professional sectors. Since the advent of electronic control systems, access to the diagnostic tools has been strictly limited by OEMs, but since they’re mostly using derivatives of J1939, it has been relatively easy to by-pass for someone in the know. I have not been personally affected by John Deere’s infamous move to encrypt the diagnostics communication for the sole purpose of locking out shade tree mechanics, but it is a harbinger of things to come.
Meanwhile, more and more things are getting gated off. Volvo Penta have a long standing tradition of making things difficult for third parties, and the rest of the world is catching up. Mercury / Mercruiser’s already mature line of digital instruments hide diagnostic codes from the operator for no discernible reason, only giving you a generalized “Check Engine” fault. Recent Japanese multi-functional instruments have most of the menus hidden behind a code that you have to sign an NDA for. We’re not just talking service timer resets, either. For example, the newest Yanmar MFD’s are fully capable of configuring all the driveline parameters, such as slipper clutch calibration. That may come in very handy if you experience loss of drive, but it’s been locked off.
The underlying problem is that restricting repair ability makes good business sense. There are some counter arguments, such as the loss of good standing affecting sales, but they don’t hold up in the real world. I would love to live in a place where acting honorably (according to my personal values) brings you to the top, but we don’t. Can I fault the executives for making decisions that best uphold their responsibility towards the shareholders? Not really, that’s just how the machine works. Still, I feel free to pass my judgement, and I find the practice morally reprehensible.
This is indeed one of those cases where a touch of regulation wouldn’t go amiss.