Why component obsolescence need not mean product obsolescence

Rochester Electronics’ technical sales manager EMEA, Ken Greenwood, steps readers through a thorough checklist designed to help OEMs plan for and manage obsolescence

When long term product availability is vital, companies need to ensure a reliable source of components—even after the component is made obsolete—and plan to manage obsolescence strategically. Failing to do so could lead to: line-stops; unnecessarily large financial commitments tied up in last-time-buy stocks; long-term storage costs; forced product redesigns; and premature product EOL and reduced service lives.

How can customers minimize the impact of component discontinuations?

  • Obsolescence management starts at the design phase. Poor component selection in development can lead to premature product redesign and re-qualification. Lowest cost may not be best choice for long-term supply.

Questions to ask suppliers include:

  • What are the OCM commitments to long-term availability?
  • Can the supplier demonstrate a controlled transition process through the EOL and into long-term authorized supply?
  • Are the design’s heart-beat components—the software packed microcontrollers, FPGAs or ASICs—comprehensively documented?
  • Can the true design files (VHDL, Spice-models, test-vectors) be retained and archived at the design phase to offer a chance to rebuild if the unexpected happens?
  • Understand the total cost of obsolescence. Component obsolescence is not just a purchasing problem to be addressed as an afterthought. Does the project plan need to include anticipated product redesigns during its life? How are the costs of component storage accounted for? How will obsolescence impact on after-sales service commitments?
  • Plan for obsolescence and resource the management of it. If equipment has a long qualification, production or in-service life you will face component obsolescence. Preventative planning by purchasing, component engineering, design and program management can reduce or eliminate the cost and risk.
  • Proactive monitoring of component lifecycles. Regular component monitoring allows a user to anticipate problems before they occur. There are some excellent tools such as IHS Parts Intelligence and Bill of Materials (BOM) Intelligence, which track a component’s lifecycle, lead-time and specification changes.
  • Be aware of product discontinuation notices (PDNs). There are many component management databases which can provide a PDN notification to highlight any PDN which affects your products.
  • Last-time-buy; what to forecast? LTB orders are inevitable, but a supplier with an established EOL transition partner offers the chance of risk-free ongoing authorized stock and production if demand rises, redesigns are delayed, or in-service commitments are extended.
  • Purchase from authorised sources. There is a common misconception that once the original manufacturer stops making a component, the grey market sources are the only option for supply. This is far from the truth. The risk of counterfeit and inferior products from unauthorised sources represents a significant risk to production yield and failure rates (MTBR). Inferior or substandard ‘testing’ by unauthorised third parties gives a veneer of confidence that this can be accurately tested. In truth, the testing is a poor imitation of the original manufacturer’s test processes.

Authorised sources, such as Rochester Electronics, receive their stock exclusively from the original manufacturers, therefore Rochester can offer the original warranties and guarantees. Increasingly, Rochester is also able to offer ongoing licensed manufacturing solutions from known-good-die and test products according to the original test procedures. Rochester produced parts are current date coded with no solderability risk and are marked with the original manufacturer’s part numbers, 100 per cent compliant with the original specification.