Have you ever been to McDonald’s on a hot day, craving a McFlurry, only to find the machine is out of order?
It’s a common problem, with around a one in four chance of the machine being broken in the US.
But why is this happening so often? And why can’t the machines be fixed quickly?
The McFlurry machine is actually a variation of a soft serve machine, with the catchy name of ‘Taylor C709 Soft Serve Freezer’.
In purely mechanical terms, it’s a relatively simple piece of equipment, containing a compressor and a motor which mixes up the ice cream.
Most of the time when it breaks down, it’s because the machine has overheated, and would be fine just being left to cool so it can get back to serving up frozen treats.
However, the problem is the software attached to the machine, the computer part of the equipment.
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While the machine is mechanically OK, the error message that flashes up means that only a technician from the manufacturer, Taylor, can come and get the machine up and running again.
Without the technician, the error code can’t be cleared, and there will be no more ice cream.
And the cost for the franchise owner? $315 for 15 minutes of repair services.
iFixit Teardown Tech Shahram Mokhtari explains in a video about this: “This ice cream machine is not a complicated piece of equipment, but the downtime that it suffers is well in excess of what’s acceptable for industrial equipment.
“Twenty-five per cent of Taylor’s profits come from service technician call-out charges. That’s not surprising given that the service techs charge $315 per fifteen minutes of the callout.”
He added: “The error codes are nonsensical, counterintuitive, and seemingly random, even if you spent hours reading the manual.”
The bizarre scenario of people and businesses not being allowed to fix their own devices is down to one piece of legislation: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
This legislation effectively allows companies to ‘lock’ their products and make sure that people have to pay for an official technician to fix it.
The right-to-repair movement is on the rise in the US, however, so hopefully a much brighter future is in store for the beloved McFlurry.
In the meantime, the machines are notoriously difficult to clean, which can also cause them to break down.
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To clean the ice cream machine properly, it takes just short of four hours, and there are dozens of individual parts that need to be taken apart.
This makes it a nightmare hassle machine that McDonald’s hasn’t figured out an easier way to keep clean and working properly.
So, there you have it.
The McFlurry machine is a relatively simple piece of equipment that is often broken due to software issues rather than mechanical problems.
The cost of repair services is high, and the machines are notoriously difficult to clean, which can also cause them to break down.
The right-to-repair movement is on the rise in the US, so hopefully, the situation will improve in the future.