|The Wild West of the Embedded Industry: Sourcing Legacy Components
The legacy supply chain is volatile, a fact that profoundly changes the normal procurement activities needed to produce older boards. These legacy boards still require a number of active and easily sourced components, but they also need parts that are no longer in production.
Where availability is an issue, sourcing teams might be lucky enough to find a suitable substitute component that is still active; however, these solutions routinely require more engineering work than is initially anticipated.
Most often we hear about teams going into desperation mode: scraping at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, to ensure a source of components to meet original specifications. They are often left waiting a long time, only to discover that the parts are suspect or counterfeit or that they never really existed. Times like these completely disrupt the production processes designed for active products.
Living with issues related to sourcing legacy components is a common problem in every industry we serve. We take supply chain volatility seriously, and we understand the challenges it poses to maintaining the time and costs historically required to build a product.
Our ability to analyze the information we have shapes what solutions remain available to solve obsolescence issues. We’ve found that organizing planning discussions, before the supply chain becomes too volatile, remains the easiest way to ensure ongoing access and affordability.
Because funding is rarely proactively made available to support older technology, teams can find it challenging to prioritize managing the legacy supply chain—especially when end-of-life has already rolled up the supply chain from components to embedded boards. Yet we spend a lot of time with some of those same teams, helping them solve legacy problems that were otherwise completely avoidable.
It’s understandable that it can be hard to manage two different supply chains; an active one for products that are still available, and a new one that must be created to support legacy systems. However, not taking the time to start life cycle planning discussions before end-of-life is like not taking the time to lock your car while in a bad neighborhood.
GDCA urges you to lock your car when parking in a bad neighborhood.
Ethan Plotkin, CEO
Critical Thoughts: An Unwatched Pot Will Burn
Spring 2014 has been a busy time for the GDCA team. By collaborating with groups across the supply chain and with our OEM partners, we have ensured the legacy of several new products.
Taking on new products is an exciting process. However, because teams rarely have the resources to prioritize legacy, by the time customers engage us, we often get the added spice of having to deal with burning issues that immediately threaten production. At that point, managers are often facing the hard realities that come from products and components becoming scarce, or worse yet, impossible to find.
While we all have the impression that a watched pot never boils (and that sustainability is a problem that can be dealt with down the line), experience tells us that a pot you leave boiling too long always results in a mess no one wants to be stuck with.
After almost thirty years of manufacturing and overseeing legacy embedded technology, we have come to understand that product obsolescence is a reality, like gravity. Although it cannot be avoided, it can be planned for and managed. In order to plan effectively, we must understand the risk at hand. In an effort to reduce the overall problem, we encourage people to take a moment to think about legacy and sustainment projects ahead. Ask yourself:
- Do you know where your next EOL notice is coming from?
- Do you have funding readily available to deal with a last-time buy?
- Are you upgrading your system right now?
Our mission is to help our customers keep programs on track and within budget. As such, we have developed solutions to provide options that minimize panic and scrambling—specifically, through Legacy Planning and can even lend a hand with cleanup, should you find yourself already in a bind.
With a little bit of forethought, we can minimize the pain of managing legacy and obsolete systems, and we can help keep that pot from burning in the fire.
The GDCA Team