Obsolescence management in PLM tracks the natural or artificial obsolescence of parts or materials in a product. It is critical to know how such elements as mean time between failure (MTBF) or other product data points will affect the manufacture or maintenance of a product.

For our purposes, obsolescence is defined as when an object, a service, or a practice is no longer wanted or desirable. It could be because of failure (expected or realized), or because of technology advances. Obsolescence can be identified in three ways:

  • Logistical obsolescence: It becomes more trouble to track performance or execute maintenance than is profitable;
  • Functional obsolescence:The design is outdated, other components have changed, the part has reached a natural end-of-life based on wear, or there are other issues that make a part inferior;
  • Technological obsolescence: Advances in connected software make the part obsolete, or competing products are clearly superior.

In practice, product obsolescence management can be as simple as knowing when to respond regarding MTBF for the ball bearings in a rotor, to as complex as tracking the required replacement schedule for a jet engine subassembly.

All manufacturers need some capability to track and report product obsolescence issues, but in some industries the need is greater, as in capital asset manufacturing (factory machine, power plant equipment, etc.), aerospace & defense, automotive, and other industries selling complex and expensive equipment.

Razorleaf understands the specific obsolescence issues regarding your industry, and can work with your team to find the right products and workflows that will integrate knowledge about end-of-life or replacement into your product development system.

When Lifetimes Change

One issue that shows the value of product obsolescence in PLM is when a supply chain vendor discovers a problem in a part you use. Perhaps it is found to have a critical flaw, or needs a recall because of a hazardous material. For whatever reason, having the ability to connect news to product streamlines the process of solving the issue.

Internet of Things and Product Obsolescence Issues

As manufactured items become connected to the Internet, and real-time data becomes available regarding product performance, product obsolescence will take on a new role. Manufacturer and consumer relationships change when machines go online as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The information once used to predict and plan for updates and replacements will become part of a new scheme, by which manufacturers move from selling products to selling outcomes. For some companies, that day is already here. It is possible for construction companies to “buy” how much earth is moved in a civil engineering project instead of buying the earth moving equipment. The manufacturer keeps ownership of the equipment but provides it so the service of moving earth is accomplished. Payment is based on measurable outcomes, not on the price of each piece of equipment. The equipment is Internet-enabled, with reports from all assemblies streaming in. Unusual stresses can be detected, and MTBF events predicted with a higher degree of certainty.

Every company considering a transition to IoT products need to have robust product obsolescence technology in place first. The more the manufacturer knows the ins-and-outs of working with the dimensions of time, wear, and productivity, the easier it will be to transition to working with real-time IoT data feeds.

How Obsolescence Impacts PLM

A PLM system that lacks a robust approach to product obsolescence is a weaker system. Possible impacts to a lack of insight regarding obsolescence include:

  • Reputation: Customers may learn to be wary of products or services that do not perform consistently;
  • Data inefficiency:The PLM ideal of “the single source of truth” is compromised by lack of insight into obsolescence;
  • Operations: A service organization always in response mode is less able to provide proactive service, impacting its ability to contribute to the bottom line;
  • Downstream management: Enterprise software systems depending on accurate information from PLM (such as supply chain management or manufacturing resource planning) will be less effective.

Obsolescence as a Management Philosophy

Tracking part and product obsolescence is an important part of comprehensive product lifecycle management. But the ideas behind it are also important as a way of life for progressive manufacturers. What works today will soon be obsolete.The roadmap that got you this far needs to be redrawn often. Obsolescence is the natural consequence of failure to innovate. In an era of constant technology upheaval, even business models need tweaking. What can a company do to stay on top? Here are some suggestions:

  • Apply a lifecycle mentality to the use of PLM: PLM software supports products from conception to recycle with an eye