Three steps to an effective obsolescence management strategy

According to a study from ARC Advisory Group, 90 per cent of manufacturers use automation equipment beyond its obsolescence date, but only 58 per cent of them have established a formal plan to monitor and possibly extend its lifecycle. 

Companies that use legacy equipment without a plan for managing the problems typical of its “third age” inevitably face a variety of risks. The most common is prolonged and costly downtime. Another common concern, especially in sectors such as defence, security and pharmaceuticals, is the need to comply with a growing body of safety and environmental regulations, which may leave older machines at risk of non-compliance. 

By devising and implementing an obsolescence management strategy, manufacturers can be prepared to face any problems that may arise, ensuring they get the best out of their equipment and reducing costs. However, with so much equipment in a facility, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, what should you pay attention to when designing your own obsolescence management strategy? 

The first step is to define your goals. You should understand what the final result of your obsolescence management strategy should be and assess obsolescence risk by identifying the components that most urgently need attention. How old are they? Do they show evident signs of damage? Are any of these components already obsolete? Are software updates available? These are some of the questions you need to address in the first phase. 

Secondly, research. Collect equipment lifecycle specifics from the manufacturer’s website and from any notifications you have received and request information on the availability of spare parts. Make a list of parts that are already obsolete or might soon become obsolete and consider purchasing some spares of these high-risk items.

Lastly, organize your newly acquired knowledge into an easily accessible format. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet that highlights areas of concern and suggests how to proceed. In an emergency, having easy access to this information will save you on  expensive downtime. Remember to keep your spreadsheet updated as obsolescence management is an ongoing process. 

Managing obsolescence is a full-time challenge and planning in advance is the best way to make sure that your legacy equipment stays up and running for as long as possible.