When I worked for a PCB assembly house, we often had people call to ask us to repair their circuit board from their ‘90s TV. While we repaired circuit boards, we needed the design files and the Bill of Materials (BOM), something these end users clearly did not have. During those conversations I’d think to myself, “even if we had the right files, it would be impossible to find components for something that old. They’ve gone obsolete a long time ago.”
The problem was that the TV manufacturer never intended the product to last as long as it did. They knew the growth and evolution of the electronics industry would push them to change their design and components. Consumer electronics, like cell phones and TVs, have a shorter lifecycle compared to electronics found in other markets, such as aerospace and medical. Beyond the consumer electronics market, there could be years between each upgrade, redesign or replacement product. And the ultimate question is, will your product survive that time gap?
During this gap, the world continues to turn and component manufacturers start and stop production of their parts almost on a daily basis. It’s not until you send your CM a new purchase order for another 100,000 piece run that you get a message back that they can’t source some of the parts for you; parts have gone obsolete and you had no idea.
Now your supply chain manager is searching everywhere to locate alternate parts that will fit in the design, remain at a comparable price point, and have stock available. If any of those isn’t possible, that might mean a complete redesign or at least an up-rev – leading to more time on hold at your CM.
What are your options now?
Option 1: Contact the component manufacturer directly to determine end-of-life for your parts.
Just reading that was time consuming, imagine contacting manufacturers directly for hundreds of parts. They may not provide the most accurate years to end of life projection, as they want the opportunity to sell you as many components as possible. In fact, many manufacturers claim their parts never go obsolete.
Option 2: Find a distributor that can provide EOL notifications.
Some distributors send EOL notifications on parts they sell to you. This is a great service, but the limitation is finding one distributor that you can source all of your parts from and provides these notifications. It’s more likely that you’ll be working with a number of distributors, so you can find the most competitive price and the highest availability. You are not choosing a distributor based on their EOL alerts.
Option 3: Use a third party central database or registry to get EOL notifications.
A better solution is to use a non-biased third-party component database. A solution that provides no only datasheets, but also provides everything you need to know about your components. A high quality solution will provide an easy way to identify high risk components — those with limited cross references, near their projected end of life, with limited availability, and outside of regulatory compliance. This information empowers you to get your product to market faster with less risk.
SiliconExpert remains the highest quality, most comprehensive component database in the industry. With millions of components from thousands of suppliers, reviewed by over 400 engineers every day to send you the notifications you need when you need them. With this information at your fingertips, you can be confident that from the first prototype run to the last production run, your components will be active and available every time.
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