The technological landscape is continuously evolving. This ongoing change limits the lifespan of all technical devices, and makes End-of-Life (EOL) planning one of the most critical phases of the technology lifecycle.
While many companies are well prepared for the initial lifecycle stages – involving introducing of a new device or tech product – few companies are prepared for what will happen when it’s time for those products, or a product component, to be phased out. End-of-life product management is a critical element in product lifecycle management; and becomes a priority when an OEM no longer produces, sells or provides upgrades, fixes or other related services for specific technology hardware or software — making them obsolete.
Here are a few best practices your organization can apply to navigate product end-of-life challenges.
1. Develop a pro-active, in-depth strategy for ending the product.
Having a lifecycle management plan in place is essential to phase out a product effectively, and to avoid disruption within an organization. The plan should cover all aspects of product development, from conception to end-of-life. Preparing for product / component end-of-life reduces cybersecurity vulnerabilities; facilitates seamless product platform and configuration transitions; mitigates the risk of downtime; and avoids safety and stockout situations for manufacturers. The plan also helps companies in highly regulated industries to remain compliant with complex requirements; aligns the lifecycle of IoT products with connected technologies; and prevents disruption to essential enterprise infrastructure platforms.
When considering whether to phase out a product, some key questions to consider are:
- Does the product still bring in sufficient revenue to support the cost of maintenance?
- Does the company still want to maintain a presence in that specific market?
- Does the company have a better solution available?
Organizations should consider whether a specific product continues to make sense in the context of its existing product portfolio. If the product no longer aligns with the company’s market strategy, phasing it out should be a consideration. Data and analytical proof are required to rationalize any decision to obsolesce a product.
Assuming at least one technician is required for the company to maintain a particular product, consideration should also be given to whether the related personnel costs are worth preserving the product. Costs associated with of delivery and maintenance of the product should be examined.
2. Monitor end-of-life status for any component that’s critical to the product, which cannot be easily replaced or substituted.
Most major suppliers have lifecycles for product components and designated EOL dates, which indicate when a part will become obsolete. This provides insights into the projected lifespan of a component, which should guide the transition strategy. Having EOL notifications well in advance of the impending dates enables customers to act with time sensitivity, and to capitalize on the early stages of a lifecycle and ensure the longest lifespan possible. Regular monitoring of EOL status typically provides sufficient time to validate new parts and establish seamless transitions. Best practices call for organizations to become aware of the end-of-life dates of products in advance of selecting them for their build. Further, they should also evaluate long-life options in most circumstances. This helps maintain business continuity and avoid supply disruptions.
3. Communicate with customers early and clearly regarding EOL issues.
Maintaining regular communication with customers and updating them on upcoming EOL issues and solutions provides transparency in the customer-manufacturer process. Demonstrating the ability to seamlessly manage a transition from an old product version to a new one is essential to maintain and grow customer confidence and loyalty.
4. Research and develop multiple EOL options.
Given the pace of technological change, manufacturers need to develop their plan of action for minimizing EOL interruptions well in advance of product or component obsolescence. For example, when a medical device manufacturer is developing an instrument, they must build two versions simultaneously. Otherwise, the original version – both instrument and technology – may be outdated by the time the instrument is released.
A pacemaker manufacturer, for instance, may use a particular type of battery, as well as specific technology they purchase from a supplier. That technology may be designed with a 10-year lifecycle, but the battery may only have a 2-year lifecycle. So when the manufacturer brings the pacemaker to market, it will need to be working on the next version of the product, to match the new battery that will be implemented. The business risk involved in not developing two generations of an instrument simultaneously is that the manufacturer is likely to lose out to competitors who planned ahead.
Potential Risks Involved in End-of-Life
Without careful consideration and proper planning, a product’s EOL issue can pose significant risks. For example, in advance of going to market, many products require completion of a validation process; and if a product goes EOL without proper warning and preparation, it has the potential to disrupt the company’s supply chain.
Additionally, companies must ensure they have the ability to perform last-time buys on specific parts or products that are becoming obsolete. By failing to leverage that purchasing opportunity, a company could find itself without stock of a necessary component, halting production and related revenue. There is also the potential that a company may be required pay a large sum of money to secure a last-time buy. In turn, this would require them to calculate much stock they needed, and an inaccurate decision could result in either wasted supply or a product outage.
How Dynamic Can Help
Successful transition through a product’s end-of-life requires strategic, well-informed planning and lifecycle management. Dynamic’s end-of-life and lifecycle management solutions ensure seamless transitions for any changes that affect the technology components in your products. This helps companies to make better business decisions, to gain critical insights into total cost of ownership, to plan more effectively and reduce risks.