All people face personal dilemmas during their lifetimes. Corporations, made up of people, face a fair number of professional dilemmas as well.
Companies that produce embedded computer products are aware of the issues surrounding component obsolescence. At the end of these products’ active lives, supporting these aging or legacy products consumes more than just manufacturing time; it consumes engineering resources in the search for component crosses and the scavenger hunts for test fixtures. The process also creates animosity in clients who cannot see the issues their demand for those products creates for OEMs’ operations teams.
Hence, from an obsolescence standpoint, manufacturers face a win-lose dilemma. Either they lose by taking on the extra hassles required to extend the availability of these products in exchange for the loyalty of the few customers who cannot upgrade, or they win back the bandwidth to devote to new product introduction (NPI) and the high priority work that supports business objectives by discontinuing or EOLing a product.
Even the “win” of cutting off unprofitable products has an asterisk next to it because OEMs risk their customer relationships—relationships that typically lead to future upgrades. Either way, the resolution of the dilemma is not easy and can derail the focus of the company.
We are not computers and we do not have to capitulate to the binary of a win or lose dilemma. Today, some alternatives can help OEMs maintain their current deliverables while upholding their customer commitments.
OEMs can expand their current ecosystem by allowing legacy equipment manufacturers (LEMs) to extend the life of obsolete products. The goal of the LEM is to allow the OEM to stop supporting the customer and the product, while still providing the OEM with annual recurring revenue in the form of royalties, licensing fees, and customer retention.
That’s a win-win in my book. No dilemma there.