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Obsolescence Management

ALCL 092


A lack of availability of an item or raw material resulting from statutory and process changes, as well as new designs. Obsolescence deals with the process or condition by which a piece of equipment becomes no longer useful, or a form and function no longer current or available for production or repair. Implementation of new technology causes older technology to become less supportable because of the diminished availability of parts and suppliers. Mitigation practices include reviewing proposed parts lists for obsolescence and being proactive in the engineering design process prior to production.

General Information

Obsolescence management is a discipline in and of itself. As the service life of a product extends beyond the technology life cycle incorporated in the design, problems with obsolescence and Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) arise. Both the defense and commercial markets must find ways to plan for and manage obsolescence and DMSMS because every product is subject to their effects. To be successful, parts management must address DMSMS throughout the product’s life cycle.

The extensive service lives of our systems coupled with increasingly rapid technology change has heightened the importance of technology refreshment (tech refresh) and obsolescence management. Effective parts management includes addressing DMSMS in the planning, design, development and sustainment phases of a product (to include the systems and support elements). The Program Manager (PM) should develop a proactive approach to effectively resolve obsolescence problems before they have an adverse impact on the life cyle cost (LCC) and system availability. The following are potential approaches the PM should consider:

  • Design features that facilitate change/insertion of new technology
  • Establishing a rigorous change management process for life cycle support
  • Using Performance Based Logistics (PBL) approaches that provide significant latitude to manage technology refreshment. This includes ensuring they are incentivized to maintain currency with state-of-the-art technology and use readily available items to avoid the high cost of DMSMS over the system's life.