Product Lifecycle Analysis

Week 4| Design Thinking in IPD | Spring Semester 2015 | UTS

The brief

Choose a product comprising more than three materials. Identify its materials and manufacturing processes. Identify which materials and manufacturing process have the biggest impact. Hazard a guess which stage of the product's life (manufacturing, use or end of life) bares more impact. Propose a range of strategies which may be implemented to improve the product.

Van Doren backpack and its materials

I chose the Vans Van Doren backpack I bought when I went for a short course in UC Berkeley back in 2013. The inside label says the shell is 100% cotton whilst the lining is 100% polyester. In addition to these there are the bronze like composite of the zippers, the rock lockster plastic side release buckle made of Acetal, the leather lashing square detail skeuomorph and the plastic (most likely Acetal as well) for the shoulder strap buckle and in the stopper along the string that wraps around the side water bottle pocket, foam padding inside the shoulder straps and the plastic velcro pocket seal inside the backpack.

zipped0-open brown backpack on black background
Figure 1: My 2013 Vans Van Doren backpack


It seems to me that the components of the backpack were all sewn together. Given the complexity in how the components were sewn together, it is very likely that humans operating sewing machines was how the backpack was made. The backpack tag says it was made in Vietnam whilst the company that owns the brand: VF International SAGL is in Lugano Switzerland. Of course Vans the brand has its genealogy rooted in Anaheim California in 1966.


Unlike say Bangladesh or China, I haven't really heard of negative comments about manufacturing working conditions in Vietnam. In fact, I found a 2013 positive article from the BBC when I googled for any news regarding backpack manufacturing working conditions in Vietnam. The worker interviewed by the journalist even said: ‘In general the salary and working conditions here are ok, no problem my salary is enough to get by’.

BBC news page
Figure 2: BBC article on favourable working conditions in Vietnam

Biggest impact: materials & manufacturing

In terms of materials, cotton is likely to have the biggest impact. According to WWF®, cotton is a water wasting crop. For example it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg cotton and 73% of global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land. 2.4% of the world's crop land is planted with cotton and is responsible for 24% of insecticide and 11% of pesticide global sales. In 2002, 20% of cotton crop has also been genetically engineered. Cotton is a thirsty crop hurting the large river basins in the world including the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia.

webpage screenshot
Figure 3: WWF® article on cotton farming

One way to make this better would be to use a more sustainable agricultural crop like bamboo. [my-ipd-definitionto be continued]

Biggest impact: product life cycle stage