Plan ahead to end procurement struggles

Director of operations, 4 Star Electronics, Scott McKee
Director of operations, 4 Star Electronics, Scott McKee

Balancing product lifecycles with component availability is difficult, especially in long life sectors such as military, aerospace and medical. Independent distributor, 4 Star Electronics, believes proactive obsolescence management can help.

Obsolescence of electronic components is a growing problem because the lifecycle of components has become very short in comparison with the life of the equipment that manufacturers need to support, especially in the military, aerospace and medical industries.

Unfortunately, the lifecycle of electronic components is often dictated by the commercial market, where short lifespans are prevalent. Over the past 20 years, typical component lifecycles have decreased dramatically and it’s not unusual for parts to be discontinued within 18 months of introduction. This makes it difficult for program managers to forecast future requirements.

Avoid reactive purchasing
A proactive diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages program can reduce costs and reactive actions. It works by forecasting future requirements for the end-product and determining the lifecycle and availability of each component. This makes it possible to schedule end-of-life purchases and explore re-design options, as well as working with suppliers to handle any unforeseen circumstances.

There are various resources available to support this process. The center for advanced life cycle engineering at the University of Maryland, for example, has developed algorithms to help forecast future obsolescence dates and determine the optimum time for product redesign.

Component manufacturers and their authorized channels provide product discontinuance notices so buyers can schedule end-of-life purchases and there are various tools from data providers such as SiliconExpert Technologies and HIS that offer a one-stop shop for component data. They aggregate change notices, discontinuation notices, cross reference tools and other data from multiple component manufacturers.

Lastly, working with independent distributors and suppliers who are expert at dealing with shortages, obsolescence and end-of-life electronic components, can help handle any unforeseen circumstances.

Enlist specialist support
Reducing procurement risk by focusing on original component manufacturers and authorized distribution partners is important, but it isn’t always possible as parts are often scarce when they’re needed most. One way to plan ahead is by aligning with specialist suppliers.

Aftermarket manufacturers are authorized by the original component manufacturer to produce and sell replacement parts, using materials that have been either transferred from the OCM, or produced by the aftermarket manufacturer using OCM tooling and intellectual property. They can also sometimes produce parts that meet OCM specifications by reverse engineering or redesigning a part without violating the OCM’s intellectual property rights.

Where other options are unavailable, independent distributors can procure material from the open market. Top tier distributors in this category have processes in place for bill of materials and lifecycle analysis, vendor management, kitting and full purchasing outsourcing. These distributors provide fully validated material and support counterfeit avoidance through in-house inspection and test, or by partnering with established test labs.

Director of operations at independent distributor, 4 Star Electronics, Scott McKee, concluded: “We recognize customers come to us as a last resort, in dire need of a particular part, but we can also help as they develop their obsolescence programs. We provide market analysis and lifecycle information based on our relationships with vendors and data providers. Then, if we need to procure obsolete parts for them, we can also provide counterfeit avoidance inspection and test to ensure the material integrity.”