Introduction to Obsolescence Problems
Obsolescence is the status given to a part when it is no longer available from its original manufacturer. The original manufacturer’s discontinuance of a part may have many causes, including nonavailability of the materials needed to manufacture the part, decreased demand for the part, duplication of product lines when companies merge, or liability concerns. The problem of obsolescence is most prevalent for electronics technology, wherein the procurement lifetimes for microelectronic parts are often significantly shorter than the manufacturing and support life cycles for the products that use the parts. However, obsolescence extends beyond electronic parts to other items, such as materials, textiles, and mechanical parts. In addition, obsolescence has been shown to appear for software, specifications, standards, processes, and soft resources, such as human skills.
This chapter describes general definitions and the fundamental issues associated with the occurrence of obsolescence and its management in order to build a consistent basis for this topic. Because obsolescence is most prevalent for electronics, this chapter concentrates on the issues associated with obsolescence in relation to electronic parts; however, most of what follows is also applicable for nonelectronic parts as well.