As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the pace of component obsolescence is accelerating. This is prompting partners in the electronics supply chain to pay more attention to product lifecycle management (PLM). Without getting too technical, PLM is the stuff suppliers and customers have to worry about if an electronic component becomes obsolete.
OEMs often flock to the latest and greatest component offering to enhance designs. In some cases, selecting the latest iteration of a product family — the x86, for example — ensures there will be a long-term supply of that device available. In other cases, component makers decide a product family has run its course and discontinues that product. If an OEM's end product outlives its key components, finding parts for maintenance, repair, and operation (MRO) could become a problem.
OEMs can get some insight on a component's lifecycle and plan for its obsolescence by working with suppliers and distributors. Companies such as Rochester Electronics, for example, acquire EOL component inventory directly from suppliers. In the event that inventory runs out, Rochester receives residual die, masks, and intellectual property (IP) from suppliers and then re-manufactures components. If those tools aren't available, engineers can develop a product with the same form, fit, and function as the original semiconductor, ensuring an ongoing supply of devices for as long as an OEM needs them.
By working closely with suppliers, semiconductor suppliers serving this market can help OEMs be proactive in product lifecycle management. By planning for EOL, OEMs can have a customer support plan in place — before it's even needed.