What is the Need of Obsolescence Management?

In case of long life electronics (Aerospace / Avionics / Military / Defense / Automotive / Industrial / Medical), electronic component obsolescence can impact:

  • Life cycle of end product
  • Production cost of end products
  • Supportability and service to end customer
  • The cost to redesign the end product
  • The cost to re-qualify and get certified from the respective authorities.

Obsolescence Management is needed to mitigate the risk of electronic component obsolescence. Effective obsolescence management strategies can save a lot of money and time, by avoiding the redesign of end products.

What is Reactive Obsolescence Management?

Reactive obsolescence management is the method of acting upon the end of life of a component, after the EOL notice is released. Reactive obsolescence management tries the following solutions to mitigate the risk of obsolescence:

  • Finding alternate (piece-to piece) replacement from a different manufacturer
  • If NO alternates found for replacement,
    • Costly ‘last time buys’ (LTB) or ‘Die Banking’. Buying the components in bulk and store them in inventory for future needs.
    • Finding nearest equivalent alternate part, to reduce the redesign cost.
  • Creating a custom component similar to the obsolete one, and having a contract signed with a qualified manufacturer for a certain period.
  • Redesign a sub-section or entire product.

What is Proactive Obsolescence Management?

Proactive obsolescence management a method of creating a strategy to mitigate the risk of component obsolescence in future.

If Proactive obsolescence management is followed/executed since the design phase, then maximum results can be achieved.

  • Obsolescence management is essential to anticipate and mitigate the risk of costly redesign cycles.
  • Obsolescence is most effectively managed when it’s considered from the beginning of product development at the design stage.
  • Obsolescence management techniques can be categorized as either production engineering-based techniques (that attempt to control an existing situation) or design-based techniques (that attempt to minimize the initial problem). While there are no quick or easy solutions, using production- and design-based obsolescence management techniques can minimize the problems faced on long life-cycle programs.
  • Navigating by silicon road map is a production engineering-based approach to manage this obsolescence issue. Large semiconductor manufacturers release road maps that extend 12 to 24 months. These road maps detail the products that are going EOL and the new products that are scheduled for delivery. These road maps can be reviewed for new products that can fill the role of the ones that are going EOL, allowing modifications to certain systems or subsystems with minimal disruption.
  • Design-based techniques can alleviate obsolescence management challenges. It’s a matter of changing the perspective to save the design. For example, an established functional schematic with diodes and transistors in a discrete solution experiences an unanticipated EOL issue with one of its components. Oftentimes that portion of a system design can be segregated as a functional block and can be supported by bringing the entire block onto an FPGA. By replacing old technology with new technology, the change frees up board space and also often utilizes programmable devices to achieve a longer product life. It will look like a different board, but from an electrical perspective, the overall functional block is the same to the application. One can change or consolidate the components into a new functional block without changing the form, fit, or function of the overall system, and essentially keep the design.
  • A centralized obsolescence notification system can save millions of dollars in just plain resource hours. There’s an ongoing problem with EOL notification that permeates the industry and requires attention from the highest levels. As an example, a component is built for an OEM application and delivered to one of their plants, where it’s built into an assembly. Then they send it on to another plant to be assimilated into another assembly. From there, it might go on to another one or two locations for further integration and assembly. However, the component that was designed-in for a two-year production order goes out of production in the second year. So an EOL notice is sent to the procurement office contact who bought the part. Maybe the contact is still there, maybe not, and the notice never goes on to the other four facilities in which the product was assembled. There’s a lack of incentive on the part of either the supplier or the purchaser to notify others down the line.
  • Deliver early warnings to product design teams, enabling obsolescence planning.
  • Define last time buy strategies.
  • Minimize risk of obsolescence by identifying second sources and alternate solutions in advance.
  • Creation of an internal watch list featuring OEM part and manufacturer information. (Third-party obsolescence tools can check OEM part obsolescence status and RoHS compliance. This is often called ‘a Health Check’.)
  • Tracking required for component changes, which affects form, fit, function. Sometimes the MPN will not change but its revision change affects performance.
  • Searching and contacting of OEM manufacturers about parts not recognized by obsolescence tools; obtaining of part and RoHS status.
  • More accurate budget allocation early in programs.
  • Better guidelines on how systems are to be modified during design refreshes and obsolescence mitigation.
  • Better management of inventory and spares.
  • Designing with re-configurable devices such as FPGA, Memory, Microprocessor, etc.
  • Evaluation of End of Life (EOL) notices and Part Change Notifications (PCNs).