Get proactive

Short component lifecycles cause havoc for high reliability products with their long manufacturing lifespan. Proactive obsolescence management is essential, explains 4 Star Electronics

Component obsolescence is an issue for any company that designs or manufactures electronic equipment but is especially problematic in high- reliability applications such as those found in military, aerospace, or specialized industrial manufacturing.


This is primarily caused by the rapid development of commercial electronic components and subsequent replacement of popular parts by their manufacturers. As high-reliability applications have increasingly utilized commercial parts, these short lifecycles create havoc in planning for long-term manufacturing and product support. Thus, it’s crucial to develop an effective proactive obsolescence management program.


Supply chain evaluation Effective obsolescence or diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages programs can reduce costs and reactive actions by evaluating the supply chain. It’s important to address obsolescence at all stages of product development: design, introduction, growth, maturity, decline, and phase— out.


During the design phase, component engineers should ideally use components that have multiple sources. That way, if one supplier ends production or experiences production interruptions, then another supplier may be a backup option. Another way to future-proof work is to use parts that have multiple options, such as speed, temperature, or tolerance ratings, that may be easier to source in the future.


During production, continual evaluation of all the components on your bill of materials is essential. You should consider future requirements for your product as well as current availability of all the material required to produce or repair the product. Forecast obsolescence dates and lifecycles of critical items, scheduling end-of-life material purchases with a view to stocking additional material with impending obsolescence. Evaluate design alternatives when the component supply becomes critical and align with specialized end-of- life distributors to handle unforeseen circumstances.


When your application begins its phase-out, you still need to ensure an uninterrupted supply of components until the end-of-support date has passed.


Enlist specialist suppliers Best practice in component procurement always includes maintaining a relationship with the original component manufacturer and a variety of its authorized distributors, to ensure a smooth supply of active components, but challenging times of rapid obsolescence may require additional resources.


Buyers need to know who the authorized end-of-life distributors are for the components on their bill of materials. This includes aftermarket manufacturers that can build continuation product based on OCM die or fully recreate components with authorization from the OCM. It also includes distributors specifically authorized by OCMs to warehouse end-of-life product with full certification and traceability. Lastly, component buyers should have strong relationships with a small number of independent distributors that can provide excess material from the open market to bridge supply gaps and support obsolete parts. Top tier independent distributors have sophisticated processes in place for bill of material and lifecycle analysis, vendor management, kitting, and full purchasing outsourcing; effectively acting as purchasing departments for customers.

Quality independent distributors will have invested heavily in counterfeit mitigation tools and processes to ensure that parts supplied are new and original as specified by the original manufacturer, through detailed inspections and tests.


Think long-term

Taking the time to proactively develop and implement an obsolescence management program will aid in long term project success. Having a thorough understanding of component lifecycles through the use of tools and data, focusing on critical solutions, and aligning with specialist suppliers to ensure a supply of parts when dealing with unforeseen circumstances are the keys to undertaking this difficult challenge.

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