Regarding your editorial "Anticipate obsolescence" (Vision Systems Design, May 2013, p. 3; http://bit.ly/YMd4cF):
In this day and age, military contractors are finding it difficult to explain to Government customers that obsolescence is a big issue that needs to be addressed from the beginning of the applicable procurement specification. The problem is that the last time I received an "end-of-life" letter, bulk procurement was too late as the company went out of business.
Having a second source is a great idea, but requiring insignificant quantities of parts usually kills the second source option. I also agree that buying and/or requesting engineering drawings and documents just in case is a good procurement strategy for long product durations over decades of production manufacturing, but can also have a high initial investment with proprietary implications.
Today's electronics have many hidden proprietary issues. I think the best strategy that I have seen in my decades of experience is to overstock OEM products or complete an initial bulk or life-time buy. This seems to be the safest strategy, and can also be initially costly, but this strategy will save on the back-side of a systems life.
Thanks again for your input - I have shared your editorial with my younger engineers.
Stephen J. Tokarski, Engineering Components Supervisor, A/C, RO, RSS units, Electric Boat Corporation
Regarding your editorial "Anticipate obsolescence", I have been asked about similar issues due to my experience with "out of business" frame grabber companies such as Adage, Lexidata, Univision, and Datacube.
As standard practice back then, larger and OEM customers generally required a clause in their purchasing agreement to include transfer of technology in the event that the supplier could no longer provide product. In many cases, the product design and manufacturing documents were required to be held in escrow to cover these eventualities. I do not know of any instance where a customer had exercised their rights, but more than likely the loss of such large customers was a major reason the frame grabber company went out of business.
I did hear of a few companies out there whose business charter was to provide replacements for obsolete board level products, from re-manufacture through to a complete re-design, but these services were quite costly and in some cases not technically deliverable. I remember a co-worker who was a manufacturing manager went to one of these companies in New England, but I think they also went out of business. I suspect the more successful of these companies would be involved with military products, not necessarily general purpose frame grabbers.
Larry H. Taitelbaum, Director of Sales, Opti-Sciences Inc., Hudson, NH 03051
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