Obsolescence effects every industry, and chances are, if you have equipment over 10 years old, you will find yourself at significant risk. You might be wondering what that risk looks like, or how it's not been picked up sooner. Here's a small article to highlight the risks and some mitigations you can put in place.

What is the Risk of Obsolete Electronic Components

Obsolete parts and components are those that are no longer in production, either because they have been replaced by newer versions, or because the demand for them has decreased. Manufacturers often depreciate components as newer versions emerge on the market. For instance, electronics giant Siemens typically offers a 9 year product cancellation phase where the products are available to be bought as replacement parts only. After this period, they are removed from the market completely and all technical support is discontinued. Obsolete parts and components can pose serious risks to the performance, safety, and reliability of various systems and devices.

Some of the dangers of obsolete parts and components are:

  • Failure and malfunction. Parts will degrade over time, leading to reduced functionality, quality, and efficiency. If your parts are past their useful lifecycle, they will be more prone to failure. For example, old capacitors may leak or explode, causing damage to sensitive Printed Circuit Boards and other components. When a component has failed, it's important to make sure you have competent engineers available to implement replacement parts or contingency solutions. 

  • Lack of support. At the end of product life cycles, manufacturers often phase out customer support. This is due to a number of reasons, but often because they do not have the technical support available themselves, since adopting new technology and products. This is not just a risk from the manufacturer, the end user will likely not have anyone available with sufficient experience to parameterise or code the new parts in. This means even if you could get the parts, you may not have anyone with the required experience or skills to install it.

  • Counterfeit and fraud. Obsolete parts and components are often in short supply and high demand, making them attractive targets for counterfeiters and fraudsters. Counterfeit parts and components are those that are deliberately mislabelled, misrepresented, or altered to deceive the buyers. They may look like the original parts and components, but they may have inferior quality, performance, and reliability. Counterfeit parts and components may also contain malicious software or hardware that can compromise the security and functionality of the systems and devices they are used in. Fraudulent parts and components are those that are sold by unauthorised or unscrupulous sellers, who may provide false or incomplete information, documentation, or certification about the parts and components. They may also charge exorbitant prices, deliver defective or damaged products, or fail to honour the warranty or return policies. There was a great example of this in the news recently, regarding aircraft parts. 

Mitigating the Risk

To avoid the dangers of obsolete parts and components, it is advisable to adopt some best practices, such as:

  • Identify at risk components. Parts that are at the most risk are those manufactured by companies that have been disolved or taken over by larger organisations as they look to harmonise their portfolio. Parts manufactured by industry behomoths will also be depreciated. For example, look at Siemens with the S5 and now S7-300 support.

  • Planning and forecasting.  Every part has a life cycle and it is important to monitor their life cycle stages. This can help to identify the parts and components that are at risk of becoming obsolete, and to take proactive measures to prevent or mitigate their obsolescence. For example, businesses can stock up on the critical parts and components, or source alternative or compatible parts and components.

  • Maintenance and repair. It is advisable to maintain and repair the parts and components regularly, and to replace them when necessary. This can help to extend the machinery's useful life, improve it's performance, and reduce the failure rate. 

  • Upgrading or replacing. You should consider upgrading or replacing your machinery when the cost of maintaining or repairing the obsolete parts and components exceeds the benefit of keeping them. This can help to improve the efficiency, reliability, and safety of your machinery, and to comply with the current legal and regulatory requirements. For example, you can compare the costs and benefits of different options, consult with experts, or apply for grants or subsidies.

Obsolete parts and components are inevitable in the dynamic and competitive world of technology and innovation. However, they can also pose significant dangers to the systems and devices they are used in, and to the buyers and users who rely on them. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges of obsolete parts and components, and to adopt effective strategies to manage and overcome them.

Feeling at Risk?

Leivers is no stranger to obsolete parts. A large portion of our work is in either mitigation or response to failure. If you feel like you may have a risk of obsolete parts. Get in touch with Daryl today.

We can perform site wide risk assessments to highlight any equipment at risk of obsolescence aswell as give indications as to when those parts will become unavailable. Allowing your business to create a strategy to mitigate the risk.

Of course, we can also implement that strategy for you. If your organisation has already identified risks and would like a solution to be implemented, you've come to the right place! 

Perhaps the inevitable has already happened and you have a piece of equipment that's inoperable due to the failure of an obsolete part. We can help. Visit the contract us page for ways to get in touch.

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