Sometimes, manufacturing innovation can outpace government regulations. In the 2015 holiday season, a new product proves very popular - but also raises safety concerns.
Ever since the technology's introduction, customers have been quick to try and purchase hoverboards - electric scooters with a radical design - for friends and family. Unfortunately, the new technology might have a design flaw if not constructed properly that could cause property damage or injury.
As regulators rush to protect consumers, manufacturers have to be ready to report their production means and adjust for new standards of construction and inventory control.
The Problem With Hoverboards
The hoverboard is an electronic device that uses complicated inner workings to maintain balance and propel the rider. The problem is the lithium battery used to power the product. Manufacturing.net reported some hoverboard models' batteries may explode during charging or overheating. This is not an uncommon problem for lithium batteries. The new technology, however, shows more instances of overheating than common electronic merchandise.
The product is fairly new to the market, but newspapers are full of stories about battery explosions. So far, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered hoverboards were the prime suspect in 11 fires and 29 injuries in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
It's not just the possible lithium battery malfunction that gives consumers pause. The electronic scooter can move fast and many cities are wary about public use of the product causing accidents in the street.
How the Industry Responds
Many retailers, like Target, have removed hoverboards from their physical and digital shelves; Amazon narrowed its ban to specific brands. Certain cities restrict where people can ride the scooter to keep them off public walkways. Without proper regulations, many organizations feel preventing purchase is the only way to keep consumers safe.
It's not uncommon for businesses to build new products without industry standards. Innovation is hard to get ahead of and government regulators are only called in after the public reports problems. Hoverboards could prove especially problematic as there are many ways for the product to be constructed. Certain businesses that build products tied to home fires and injuries are located in China and other foreign territories.
Consumer Product Matters, a consumer safety blog, suggested the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will probably work to create voluntary standards for hoverboard manufacturing. These standards will be designed through input from federal regulators, consumers, manufacturers and organizations concerned with customer safety. The CPSC will also conduct its own investigation into hoverboard manufacturing and use findings to determine if there needs to be mandatory standards.
Companies must go along with voluntary standards to keep good faith with the public. While there are no fees or official government penalties that come with these agreed-upon regulations, voluntary standards provide businesses the freedom to operate with their own rules while referencing best practices for safe and efficient production.
As consumers wait for these standards to go into effect, safety regulators suggest avoiding purchase of this product. If a customer buys a hoverboard, he or she should monitor the device while its charging and avoid plugging it in when it's hot from use.
Electronics Concerns in Manufacturing
Despite safety issues, consumer still show excitement for the product. Many retailers offer all of the available brands and shoppers seek out the best price for the innovative product. Smart customers explore online reviews and other educational materials to find companies offering merchandise without a history of incidents.
Consumer electronics manufacturers have to be cautious to prevent recycled wiring or counterfeit parts in their supply chain logistics management. If companies work with the right partners and use automated data collection solutions they can gain complete visibility of their supply chain and inventory management. Top-quality organizations should collect information to communicate with consumers and federal regulators.