There are a variety of issues to be faced when your embedded boards have reached end of life (EOL) or been discontinued by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Without a proactive plan in place, these issues threaten timelines and budgets and, even more importantly, jeopardize quality and add risk.
Time and False Hope
Although sourcing these parts on the grey market (any supplier not authorized by the OEM) is risky business, there may not always be another option. Days, weeks, months, and sometimes years are burned away scouring the internet, calling brokers, or searching eBay. You’re confident you’ll find what you need. Just one more search—it has to be out there. You just need to find it. No luck. In the meantime, your equipment is not operational, orders are late, customers are getting nervous, and you are losing money.
You hope for the best, but there is no guarantee you’ll find the exact board you need. And while you’re conducting your search, precious time is being wasted. The supply chain continues to destabilize, and potential options to secure a viable solution evaporate.
For these reasons, working with a trusted source sanctioned by the OEM allows for long term reliability and availability.
The reality is that bad parts can cause irreparable damage to your system and reputation, potentially putting lives at risk. Sourcing EOL’d parts from non-franchised sources increases the risk that the parts you receive will have quality issues. Aged embedded board inventory poses hidden risks. If the boards are too old or stored incorrectly (i.e., temperature, humidity, and exposure to light), you could experience premature failures due to deterioration of components.
Second, the problem of counterfeit parts is growing, and counterfeiters get savvier by the day. Embedded boards can have dozens of embedded components. How do you know that there aren’t any counterfeit components on the board?
Requiring documentation that ensures traceability of parts is a growing reality. Without this documentation, there is no way to verify what parts you are getting. Are the accompanying certifications and documents real? They could be forged to look like they come from a trusted manufacturer, when in fact, they don’t.
This year, thirty major US corporations were infiltrated using a chip the size of a grain of rice embedded in computers purchased from China. The perpetrators of this breach had full access to any system containing the boards. Major companies can be fooled, and so can you. You need to have the right protocols in place to protect your business.
In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that the embedded boards you purchase from an unauthorized dealer could be authentic OEM boards; however, they may be a different version than what you need. A board having the right fit and form, but with the wrong firmware installed, will not give you the functionality you require. The subtle differences are not easy to detect and can spell trouble.
Last, embedded boards sourced on the grey market have limited warranties or no warranties at all. As a result, if the embedded board fails, you have no recourse and will need to invest more time and money chasing a new solution.
Setting up a second source of supply is a foolproof way to protect yourself from unscrupulous vendors. It provides the protection of an OEM warranty and gives you the assurance that the product you receive will be the one you need to keep your operation running smoothly.