We’re paying too much to deal with obsolete electronic parts. Keeping aging systems on their feet is a daunting and resource-intensive task. By Peter Sandborn.
The electronics, in essence, were fine—they just couldn’t easily be fixed if even the slightest thing went wrong. Although mundane in its simplicity, the inevitable depletion of crucial components as systems age has sweeping, potentially life-threatening consequences. At the very least, the quest for an obsolete part can escalate into an unexpected, budget-busting expense.
Call it the dark side of Moore’s Law: poor planning causes companies to spend progressively more to deal with aging systems. The crux is that semiconductor manufacturers mainly answer the needs of the consumer electronics industry, whose products are rarely supported for more than four years.
The defining characteristic of an obsolete system is that its design must be changed or updated merely to keep the system in use. Qinetiq Technology Extension Corp., in Norco, Calif., a company that provides obsolescence-related resources, estimates that approximately 3 percent of the global pool of electronic components becomes obsolete each month.
The systems hit hardest by obsolescence are the ones that must perform nearly flawlessly. Technologies for mass transit, medicine, the military, air-traffic control, and power-grid management, to name a few, require long design and testing cycles, so they cannot go into operation soon after they are conceived.
The absence of crucial parts now fuels a multibillion-dollar industry of obsolescence forecasting, reverse-engineering outfits, foundries, and unfortunately, a thriving market of counterfeits. Without advance planning, only the most expensive or risky options for dealing with obsolescence tend to remain open.
This is long but excellent read with many helpful examples and insights![Read More]