Enabling repair: iFixit – helping the repairers of the world

iFixit started out in California in 2003, with Kyle Weins and Luke Soules trying to fix an old Apple iBook together.  There were no instructions, so it was a process of trial and error. The lack of repair instructions inspired them to write their own step-by-step guide and to post it online. Created as a wiki, many others have contributed, and their site has now become an indispensable resource, helping people around the world fix their phones or computers. iFixit is also well known for its device teardowns, which have become an essential part of every major device launch. As they claim, their website provides ‘repair guides for everything, written by everyone‘.

With a mission to enable people to repair their things, they have expanded to sell tools and spares, they now also offer to manufacturers a repairability assessment and design for repair workshops. They also support advocacy to change the law, giving citizens the right to repair. Those guides and tools are also used by thousands of professional repairers, by volunteer repairers (at Restart Project and Repair Cafe events) and by individuals who just want to repair their stuff.

They opened a European headquarters in Stuttgart around 2014. They manage European distribution of tools, and spare parts, plus local communications, and publicity. They also have device teardown capabilities.  When I visited the were just in the process of expanding again, taking over an adjacent facility as the staff grew to around 30.

The team is a mix of full-time, part-time and trainees, just like many other businesses. The operations team, led by Sabrina, source parts from around the world, following quality checks they move to ‘kitting’ to complete the parts kit or tool kit and then on to the store. They also have a tear down studio, run by Tobias, which provides two functions: one to assess repairability and secondly to help them understand what new parts they might need to stock as manufacturers bring out new models. The other key function of the Stuttgart office is local communications, marketing and media, run by Tilman. As well as managing communications, many of the staff are skilled repairers as was demonstrated by Dorothea.

More recently, the organisation is now actively working with manufacturers to help them improve the repairability of the products they manufacture.