CEO of Winslow Adaptics, Teri-Ann Winslow, explains how times of rapid change affect the eternal issues of obsolescence and counterfeiting
Despite the economic roller coaster we seem to be experiencing, we still thrive in an age of change and we desire the newest technology. This means that there is a natural divide between different drivers in the semiconductor industry, with mobile phones, personal computers and consumer expectations on one side and high value equipment with long product lifecycles such as aerospace, military, medical and railway on the other.
In an ideal world there would be a catch all supply chain environment where everything is available for as long as it’s required. In reality, what we have is somewhat unpredictable because it’s not just about need, it’s about money. There is one guarantee: technology won’t stand still but production budgets will continue to tighten and that means pressure on procurement departments to outperform.
So where does the responsibility for mechanical and electronic obsolescence lie? Is it with the manufacturer, or the user? If the answer is the former how would they manage it? As technology continues to evolve, manufacturers will always be forced to obsolete the old to make way for the new. If it’s the latter, the cost and logistics associated with procuring all the parts needed for a piece of equipment with a thirty year lifespan would be impossible.
Of course there is another player in this equation: the supplier. Should his allegiance lie with the manufacturer he represents in the market place, or the customer who ultimately pays the bills? The supplier’s role should perhaps be considered as the mediator, facilitating an understanding between manufacturer and user.
Alongside obsolescence sits the issue of counterfeiting. If a product is rare, and still sought after, then the counterfeiters will have acted. In order to avoid counterfeit, it is important to buy from a known good source, but how do you take the necessary precautions to ensure this? The Component Obsolescence Group (COG) has published a booklet entitled The Counterfeit Electronic Components Minefield, which is a guide to understanding, detecting, avoiding purchasing and using counterfeit electronic components.
COG tells us that: “Counterfeiting is one of the oldest professions of all and is an ancient art, which has been practised for as long as someone has been aware that they can make a quick profit with little risk by cheating on their fellow human beings.” Sometimes the counterfeiter cannot even spell or copy the original makers name correctly – if that were the only possible inaccuracy, then life would be somewhat easier!
It is important to create a culture of awareness regarding the problems of obsolescence. Even if you think your company will never be affected, the chances are you will be at some time in the future. It is essential to encourage a proactive approach from top level management down in order to reduce the costs associated with this problem.
“A time of instability brings a need to adapt.” This is a tag line used in Winslow’s marketing campaign but it also sums up many issues that surround the supply chain. The industry needs to adapt its thought process to empathise with all sides, to share any knowledge, and as we continue to innovate, to remember what went before us.