5 Ways to Protect Product Longevity
- Plan sustainment early
- Budget for sustainment
- Identify your high-risk/critical components
- Manage the big picture
- Strategically plan your design refresh
Innovation is known for making products better, faster, and smarter. When it comes to technology, that also means smaller and more compact. In an ideal world, innovation moves society and culture forward, saving lives and bringing the world closer together.
But what happens when the results of relentless innovation jeopardize your critical systems because technology has changed too fast?
1. Plan sustainment early
In an ideal world, total product lifecycle sustainment would be built in and laid out during the acquisition phase. Unfortunately, we have seen many cases in which people who start out with the program know they’re going to retire before the system goes into effect. A point of contact and accountability for long-term support of sustainment needs to be assigned in order to manage a program’s lifecycle from the outset. This is especially critical for programs that are looking to transition into flat-fixed or PBL agreements because, without proactive obsolescence management or legacy management, both the OEM and the defense teams will face ongoing problems. You may have excellent engineering teams on staff, but the money just won’t be there.
2. Budget for sustainment
Budgeting also has to happen during the acquisition phase, so (1) sustainment doesn’t have to chase a whole “different color of money”, and (2) funding is already available during the design phase. Chances are, engineering teams are going to experience EOL/obsolescence issues while a program is still active (in particular, long-life defense programs that often experience obsolescence during design). You don’t want to have unscheduled redesign costs before your system is launched. When GDCA works with customers during the design phase, funding forecasts can be provided in advance of milestones where a program’s lifecycle may need additional support based on the reality of obsolescence.
3. Identify your high-risk/critical components
Your bill of materials (BOM) and essential components need to be monitored throughout the process with ongoing health/risk analysis. In situations in which you don’t have access to the materials, collaboration with the OEM is critical.
Legacy programs often encounter obstacles related to components with limited sources and poor traceability. Some components will be easier to replace, but others will require reengineering. Some components are less critical to a system’s function, but some could cause life-threatening system failure.
While marking and authentication technology is becoming more sophisticated, any sustainment program needs to include processes for preventing the penetration and proliferation of non-conforming and counterfeit components. Understanding how to verify component health needs to be aligned with industry best practices and be coordinated with component suppliers. We recommend all parts purchased from a source other than the original component manufacturer (OCM) or an authorized, franchised distributor be verified using measures laid out in current industry standards and best practices.
GDCA is IP Authorized and can provide ongoing product health analysis on our COTS products for all our customers.
4. Manage the big picture
No matter how proactive the project tries to be, engineering teams are often left to chase a solution for the next part. We have found that managing a program by focusing on component obsolescence results in reactive “parts and pieces” solutions. Ideally, there is a system-level tracking program of the various materials, but that isn’t always an option, especially during the program’s lifecycle. PLM+, at its core, is the understanding that an entire system needs to be sustained, and it involves activities that provide system-level solutions.
Keeping a high-level view of the system as a whole can help engineering teams understand what is high priority, what problems are shared across multiple boards, which components are good for a drop-in replacement, and which ones are critical and will require future reengineering or recertification once they become obsolete.
5. Plan your design refresh strategically
The reality of technology and EOL is that, at some point, every company will face the need for a technical refresh. However, management programs that center on EOL as a triggering event are likely to end up with unanticipated and unbudgeted refreshes or risk obsolescence. When organizing activity concerning legacy sustainment, it is easy to see that average component lifecycles can generally acquire a reasonable lifecycle forecast in advance. With this information, the expected costs—as well as the optimum time of the refresh—can be anticipated.
Having a future planned refresh will also assist with budgets and funding. It is possible that a partial refresh will extend the life of a board long enough to bridge the remaining time necessary and prevent the surprise cost of a complete system refresh and recertification. GDCA legacy expert teams have worked with over 3,000 legacy COTS product lines and are here to help ease your process.