One of the problems we solve for our customers is helping manufacturers keep production going when an essential component becomes obsolete.  The underlying reason for the problem is quite simple: the life-cycle of the finished product is often much longer than the life-cycle of the components it relies on.

The life-cycle of electronic components is often quite short: perhaps 5 years.  In contrast, highly advanced systems requiring intensive development can have life-cycles of 30 years or more.  One of the best examples of this is military aircraft.  The RAF currently has 137 Eurofighter Typhoons in service.  It first entered service in 2003, and the first prototype  flew in 1994.  That’s already a 30 year life-cycle.  (To put this in context, it’s 68 years since the Spitfire first flew.)  Electronic components have changed dramatically in 30 years.  In 1994, the first Intel Pentium chips were being used in PCs.

It is possible to replace an obsolete component with a new one, but it is expensive and time consuming.  The system it is part of will need to be redesigned, production lines will need to change, and a new supply chain established.  It may be the system needs to be re-certified as meeting required standards.

A 1922 report by Mckinsey, “How industrial and aerospace and defense OEMs can win the obsolescence challenge“, estimates the total cost of obsolescence-related nonrecurring costs for the military aircraft segment alone are in the range of $50 billion to $70 billion.  They recommend a three-step approach to dealing with obsolete components:

  1. Identify alternate suppliers for the component.  That’s exactly what we do for our customers.
  2. Identify a similar component that can be modified to work.  Of course, this is not always possible, or cost-effective
  3. Re-design the system to use a new component.