What is Obsolescence?

10 Jun 2012
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Definition of Obsolescence
Everything gets old or worn out at some point. The word “obsolescence” comes from the Latin term “obsoletus” and refers to something that is already disused, discarded, or antiquated. That means that a part needed for producing or overhauling a system is not available from existing stock or the original producer or manufacturer. The problematic phenomenon of obsolescence affects most of all products and objects (especially industrial ones) like materials, textiles, software, hardware, electronic  and mechanical parts as well as elements to manufacture products and systems like specifications, processes, standards and soft resources (know-how & human skills).

Explanation of Obsolescence
Today’s technologies are changing so rapidly that developers have trouble keeping up finding combinations of product releases that work together within current versions of software and hardware. Given that every commercial product line evolves through new product releases, the situation has become increasingly difficult for developers to cope with. Finding compatible releases of products that successfully interoperate with others is even harder. The mechanical and electrical systems are expected to have a service life that may be from 15 – 40 years or even more depending upon the systems selected. At the same time though, there are parts used in these systems that have fairly shorter live times. For example, if we are looking at our own personal equipment we find that much of the IT gear, such as personal computers, printers, and networking equipment, may have a service life of 2 – 5 years before it is functionally obsolete. 

when gets product obsolescent Phase where a product get obsolescent [DIN62402]


Problems with Obsolescence

For sure there would be the opportunity to work against obsolescence by sourcing the parts needed by emulation or through after-market supply. But this does not alter the fact that the original part is obsolete and officially unprocurable. In addition, emulation or sourcing through after-market supply is mostly not feasible due to high price increases. Other solutions, like a redesign of the own product or system as well as qualifying alternate or substitute parts are highly expensive as well. The perfect solution might be a mix of all available obsolescence resolution options to solve obsolescence problems. This potentially perfect solution should be determined above the single piece-part level, on the system level, for the whole system for its entire lifetime.

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 July 2012 09:59
Bjoern Bartels

Bjoern Bartels is a senior consultant and obsolescence management competence lead at ABSC and Managing Director of AMSYS. He has a masters degree in international business and a German diploma in industrial engineering and business management. He has been working with comprehensive obsolescence management practices and methods for several years. He successfully developed, implemented and managed reactive, proactive and strategic obsolescence management systems within companies. In addition, he is the head author of the publication "Strategies to the Prediction, Mitigation and Management of Product Obsolescence", a joint work with the CALCE Engineering Institute of the University of Maryland. 

We create customized and innovative obsolescence management concepts and provides competent, reliable and sustainable optimization of processes, projects and infrastructure. We support businesses as long-term partner for the definition and implementation of customer specific complete obsolescence management solutions and round off their range of services with specific seminars and events.

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