|Letter from the CEO – Legacy Sustainment is Innovative
When I was working on large scale multinational change projects as a young IT solution architect, my job was to develop processes and tools to help my clients adapt to their changing situations. I quickly discovered that no approach works forever; changing situations call for changing approaches.
I was amazed at how many people resisted the changes that I delivered. Over the years, I have found that most people don’t change if they can’t see a reason to do so. When I hear people justify an unsustainable status quo with “we’ve always done it this way,” I recognize that no business case or project plan is going to change their mind.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the original situation has already changed. For example, the rise of counterfeit components and legislation has made the time-tested “buy and try” approach obsolete. Or, the current funding climate guarantees that some defense programs simply cannot upgrade to solve their EOL problems—no matter how hard they’re pushed.
History is riddled with examples where the change that is called for is obvious only after we see the change in action. Before the discovery of bacteria, a surgeon would only think to wash his hands after the procedure. Before the viability of a commercial “off-the-shelf” electronics industry, OEMs had no option but to develop quality custom parts in-house. Once we experience the benefits of a change, we never go back.
After we come together on a new, changed reality, the need for a change in approach becomes clear.
What does this mean for sustaining old products? It means that anyone who is responsible for equipment that uses COTS electronics must accept that dealing with legacy products is fundamentally different than dealing with young and active products. Different situations demand different responses. It’s time for a change.
After all, before we had smartphones, we printed maps. We don’t print maps anymore, and our OEM customers realize that their options now extend way beyond last time buys and component scrambles.
Critical Thought: Active vs. Legacy
For the majority of customers, EOL provides an opportunity to take advantage of the latest innovations and developments. Manufacturers and distributors provide these newer products and the benefits that accompany them as customers upgrade and integrate these new designs into their systems. The supply chain is focused on supporting these high-demand “active products” in the early stages of their life cycles.
As demand decreases, the value of supporting older products falls. Because many OEMs are trying to support products as if they were active, the difficulties and risks increases as component obsolescence events gain momentum. As a result, EOL policies become a reactive way of dealing with the situation.
For customers without the resources or the option to upgrade, EOL policies force them into a perpetual scramble for support. Even though OEMs struggle to not leave their customers hanging, they are not benefiting from the remaining demand for older products. OEMs that support legacy products for customers sacrifice resources that could be dedicated to newer products. They strain customer relationships, customers become angry, and the OEMs feel burdened.
EOL policies sacrifice the needs of customers who cannot upgrade for the needs of the wider embedded industry and the “greater good of innovation.”
In order to support long-lasting systems, products cannot be supported in the way that they were during their active life cycle. The supply chain needs to be organized differently, the way that we assess actual “customer need” needs to be updated, and being “proactive” needs to be reprioritized and understood differently.
December 1-5, 2013: The 2013 DMSMS and DMC Conference in Kissimmee, Florida, brought together manufacturing, acquisition, and sustainment teams within the defense industry. Highlighted in the conference were issues in the supply chain due to cyber security and counterfeits, as well as the need for affordable total life cycle sustainment. Many advanced tools were presented, as well as the latest SD-22 roll-out. EOL on commercial off-the-shelf products continues to bring concern due to decreasing funding. Discussions around traditional obsolescence management versus legacy sustainment received positive feedback, and GDCA’s new Obsolescence
Risk Assessment provided a new perspective on evaluating the risk and prioritizing proactive product management.
October 13-17, 2013: While Ethan and Corinne participated at the CASS Work Group, Kaye headed off to SMTA International in Fort Worth, TX where she chaired and co-chaired several sessions, including the New Technologies for the Detection of Counterfeit Components session, and she presented her paper “Legacy Management: Cross-Industry Sustaining Engineering and Managing Obsolescence Counterfeit Risk.”
September 24-26, 2013: The SAE 2013 AeroTech Congress/Exhibition in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, brought together an international community to discuss aircraft design and total life cycle sustainment. Commercial off-the-shelf embedded boards and components continue to bring both technological advances and increasing costs. When end-of-life frequently happens on embedded systems happens before a program hits production, there was unusual debate over whether being “practive” was realistic. Kaye attended this event, challenging obsolescence management as it is traditionally understood, and she received positive feedback on her presentation “Legacy Management: Reducing the Work and Costs of COTS End-to-End Total Life Cycle Sustainment.”
August 05-08, 2013: National Instruments (NI) Week in Austin, TX combines hot weather and hot technology innovation. Ethan, Arlin, Corinne, and Kaye brought out “The Beast” to challenge the NI Week attendees’ putting skills. We continue to be impressed by NI’s commitment to supporting long-tail customers while keeping an eye on the future.
June 25-27, 2013: CALCE “Counterfeit East” at the University of Maryland continues to have an active role in the counterfeit avoidance forum. Ethan’s presentation on proactive legacy sustainment as a strategy to avoid counterfeit risk was well received. It was also a great opportunity to talk with players across the supply chain about proactive counterfeit avoidance and collaboration.
June 3-7, 2013: In June, Ethan, Arlin, and Corinne went to the Arrow ACT Conference in Englewood, CO. It was a great opportunity to see how innovation and legacy go hand in hand when it comes to designing systems that continue to have an impact after their original release.