Obsolescence Management of complex systems

Obsolescence Management of complex systems from Logistical and Mechanical Services (LMS)

By: Logistical and Mechanical Services (LMS)  09-26-2008

Managing Obsolescence risks for complex or Long-Life Systems [Article (c) LMS 2008]

Definitions for “Obsolete/obsolescence”: “Outdated, archaic, superseded, outmoded, phased out”

For purposes of this article, the problem of component obsolescence means that a particular item or component is no longer available from own spares stock or being produced or procurable from its last-known supplier or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

I. Introduction and Obsolescence problem overview
Component obsolescence affects test equipment, software tools, manufacturing processes, logistic products, standards and specifications in industrial-, commercial- as well as military systems and products. It is not industry specific, although products of the automotive, rail transport, aerospace, defence, medical equipment, telecommunication and nuclear industries are particularly vulnerable.

Due to the expensive, time-consuming consequences of obsolescence, obsolescence management (OM) cannot be ignored during the development and design, or during Through Life Support (TLS) life-cycle phases of complex products and systems. Long operational life cycle systems, and especially systems utilizing Commercial of the shelf (COTS) equipment together with high reliable military- or industrial specification components, are increasingly encountering the obsolescence phenomenon.

Even systems with relatively short life cycles, are also being affected. This is especially true for systems from the computer, telecommunications and related electronic technology industries. Apart from contributing to increasing life-cycle costs, component obsolescence is fast becoming the single biggest technical risk impacting on the operational availability, maintainability and supportability of complex products and systems. Proactive management actions and in particular, good configuration management practices to address the problem are essential to prevent systems to be phased out prematurely due to their operational readiness and availability requirements that cannot be sustained or be achieved as required.

During the last decade, the obsolescence problem has become an ever growing and serious concern due to the rapid progress in the electronics technology sector and new generations of components that succeed the previous ones in only months. Component obsolescence affects all products and equipment throughout the total life cycle and is not limited to certain types of hardware [4]. The problem with many sectors of industry, and in particular the electronics industry, is that they often design products whose life cycles regularly far exceed the life spans of the components inside them. Apart from the need to provide spares for in service systems, the equipment continues in sporadic production for many years, is subject to updates, and redesigns extending over several generations [2].

A holistic view on the problem of Obsolescence management (OM) is important because there can be different costing elements and criteria applicable to the value system between the different phases (i.e., design phase, operational support, or phasing out of the product). The cost of replacement of a simple electronic component during the design phase for example, can be very different in the operational support phase due to unavailability of a suitable substitute component, integration requirements and re-qualifying costs.

II. A methodology to determine a favourable design refresh or redesign schedule
Nearly all long field life systems and especially complex electronic systems usually require more than one redesign or design upgrade during its life cycle because the system comprises parts that have life cycles that are often significantly shorter than the life cycle of the product [4]. Redesign or design refreshes were found to be usually the last obsolescence mitigation option to implement if other supply related mitigation options were not technically or financially feasible [2,3].

It typically entails the process where obsolete parts are being designed out of the system in favour of non-obsolete parts. Design refresh potentially has large non-recurring costs and it may require costly re-qualification of the system and are therefore not a practical solution every time a part becomes obsolete. It should be traded off against other short-term mitigation options and the decision should always be analysed to determine all direct and indirect influences on other related systems or programmes [1,7].

A methodology and supporting OM Software tools were developed by LMS that focuses on the management of the risks and consequences of obsolescence occurrences and to support determination of cost optimization activities when implementing obsolescence resolution options. It supports OM trade-offs analysis in order to determine the most favourable costs and schedules between short-term mitigation options and best point to introduce a redesign. The proposed methodology includes user-determined short- and longer-term obsolescence mitigation approaches depending on the obsolescence assessment applicable to that specific case.

III. Conclusion
Electronic component obsolescence is a serious challenge for the electronics industry and the severity of this problem is likely to increase in the near future. It impacts on commercial, industrial and military related markets all over the world. The importance of managing obsolescence cannot be ignored because it affects system availability, maintainability and supportability [1,2]. An approach to obsolescence management that covers all aspects of the product life cycle from design, production to in-service operational support and end of life phase out, is essential to ensure the lowest-cost solution for customers, suppliers and OEMs. [1,4].

Obsolescence management (OM) is primarily a tool for reducing or avoiding downstream costs, although it can generate immediate savings. An effective OM programme ensures that obsolescence risks can be managed as an integral part of design, development, production and in-service support of projects or systems in order to minimise its cost and impact throughout the product life cycle [2].

Note: Reference numbers indicated in brackets “[ ]” refer to the corresponding Literature references as indicated in the original LMS published article. (It is required by copyright law to provide recognition of the original source if the text is used in other publications).

Overview of expertise from the LMS team

LMS is a Logistic Engineering consulting company based in Pretoria, South Africa. LMS has been providing Logistic Engineering, Product support management and Contract management support to the Denel and related Defence Industries since 1989 and is currently also engaged in several Obsolescence Management (OM) support orders and related proposals for support. Dr. Andrew Meyer (Executive Manager of LMS) leads a team that has an extensive background in Logistic engineering, Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) and Programme management. He also studied Obsolescence Management as the subject for his Masters- as well as Doctoral degrees (Engineering Management).

A growing demand by clients for specialized support regarding mitigation of obsolescence risks resulted in LMS to provide dedicated OM support services. It includes OM planning, performing obsolescence risk assessment on products and systems, costing analysis regarding cost effective solutions, finding substitute component replacements, support design upgrades to mitigate obsolescence etc. LMS has been involved with ongoing research on the subject of obsolescence management (OM). The OM support to several major projects is being used as actual case studies together with inputs from other related commercial projects. This results in specialist understanding and knowledge of OM. Dedicated strategies to mitigate applicable obsolescence risks were developed as well as dedicated tools to support obsolescence management during all life cycle phases of products / systems, were subsequently developed by LMS.

The support offered by LMS typically includes the following:

· Provide OM and related supportability contracting support for the total life cycle of complex or long life cycle systems.
· OM guidelines, strategies and doctrines in support of policy to be implemented at USER, Contractor and Supplier levels.
· Dedicated Obsolescence Management Plan (OMP) in accordance with Client agreed plan contents and outline.
· OM Life Cycle Cost optimization support.
· Present OM awareness- and dedicated OM training.
· Obsolescence risk assessment, monitoring and forecast/risk prediction of Bill of Material (BOM) or the Product breakdown Structure (PBS) of
· Finding alternative / substitute or hard to find components.
· Cost effective obsolescence Risk Mitigation Options.
· Component substitute or alternative identification of agreed obsolescence risk items and Engineering verification of the agreed obsolescence risk
· Unique Obsolescence Engineering (electronics, mechanical) solutions supported by International Franchise agreements including upgrades / re-
engineering, production and repairs.
· Unique databases are available that manage obsolescence and related support capability in an integrated and controlled processes during all life
cycle phases.
· The ObsMan(r) CapMan(r) tools optimize Through Life Support costs by enhancing system supportability. It enables user friendly visibility of
Products/System's supportability and ensures pro-active reporting on applicable risks.

For more information please visit LMS’s website at www.logman.co.za or contact pere-mail at lms1@logman.co.za.

Article (c) LMS 2008

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