Easing obsolescence complications and challenges

Digi-Key Electronics’ director of global applications engineering and technical support, Brian Metelak, highlights the services, tools and support available to tackle obsolescence

Obsolescence can be complicated and challenging for purchasing professionals to navigate. Digi-Key Electronics receives a fair number of questions like ‘is there a timeline for when this particular part will become obsolete?’ While not every manufacturer has the same process, most suppliers will have a similar operation when updating a part’s status.

If a supplier decides to phase out a certain technology or design, they’ll inform distributors as soon as possible, often providing a product change notification (PCN) to go with that update. This lets Digi-Key plan the product’s availability cycle as it moves through stages such as: not recommended for new design, last time buy or obsolete.

With a designation like ‘not recommended for new design’ or NRND, Digi-Key can give purchasers visibility into whether a product is approaching its end-of-life. Although NRND products are still in production, available and don’t have a known date for obsolescence, the manufacturer anticipates or has seen a decline in sales and is likely to discontinue it in the future.

Manufacturers also often share information about a replacement part, which is then noted in Digi-Key’s system. By keeping parts data accurate and up-to-date, customers have real-time visibility into Digi-Key’s inventory.

If a customer has ever purchased a part that’s going obsolete, they will be emailed to notify them about the product status (in case they want to place a final purchase) and if substitute parts are available. Sometimes, even when a part is no longer being manufactured, Digi-Key has stock because of its inventory’ depth and breadth.

Once a product is officially marked obsolete, Digi-Key has dedicated procurement and customer services teams and tools, that give purchasers options. For example, cross-reference tools give customers alternative options so they can evaluate the parts for their design.

If a bill-of-materials is available, it can be entered into myLists, Digi-Key’s parts list management platform. This will indicate if any of the parts are obsolete or not recommended for new designs. Even just entering a part name, keyword or number via the homepage brings up a wealth of information about a part’s status, including if it’s obsolete (or headed that direction) and alternatives to evaluate.

Along with self-serve tools, customers can find archived resources and interact with technicians on the company’s TechForum. Digi-Key’s technical support team can review obsolete part inquiries and help customers find a substitute or alternative. These types of questions and answers are then archived and searchable in the future. Support staff are available via online chat, email and phone.

Over the past few years, lead times have been challenging. Digi-Key only marks products obsolete if the manufacturer issues official notification. The company also works hard to help customers initially pick the correct part, so they don’t run into obsolescence down the road.