Not long ago, the manufacturer of an automated, high-performance medical device was getting ready to introduce a new system. The new product had been validated, and the company had scheduled the launch. But in a last-minute review, the product development team realized that one of the device’s key technical components was nearing the end of its lifecycle. There was no way the company could release the product with components that were about to expire but replacing them with a next-generation version would have required revalidation—and that would have significantly delayed the product launch.
The dilemma this company faced points to the critical importance of taking a proactive approach to end-of-life planning. Without that, this type of surprise can result not only in operational disruptions but also in financial loss and, perhaps more critically, an undercutting of customer loyalty—which could be long-term.
Too Little, Too Late
While most companies know they need to pay attention to product lifecycles, many rely on notifications from OEM vendors to alert them that the end of a product’s life is approaching. However, a recent study by SiliconExpert indicates that those notifications may not be coming soon enough. As SiliconExpert reported, “companies typically fall victim to a high demand and limited availability situation.” As a result, the study found that “28% of product change notices (PCNs) were for part numbers with last time buy dates of ‘immediately,’ meaning that waiting for a PCN may result in a costly redesign.”1
How can you avoid being the “victim” in this scenario? The key is starting by taking an integrated approach across engineering, product management, and the supply chain that not only includes a view of the entire product lifecycle but is also a critical part of the product management process. This requires understanding, identifying, and tracking each of the assemblies, parts, and raw materials that will become part of a finished good—capturing end-of-life data along the way.
Rank and File
While products with an active status might not have a published EOL date, it’s possible to estimate EOL by determining the normal lifecycle for each type of part and then subtracting the amount of time during which the product has been in production.
All the components should be ranked based on both their estimated lifecycle and their supply chain vulnerabilities—but it’s also important to consider how consequential each component is to the business and the disruptions that could occur should the part reach its EOL.
Understanding all of that will allow you to plan future updates proactively and look for substitute products or components well before you need them.
An important part of being proactive is qualifying second sources for the parts and components you’ll need. This involves validating alternate parts, identifying additional sourcing options, and planning two generations of a product or instrument simultaneously. By doing this, you can avoid potential supply constraints, long before you’re faced with either EOL or product obsolescence.
For the medical device manufacturer faced with a part at the end of its life, Dynamic was able to help by making a last time buy of all the stock of that product then available and holding it in the Dynamic warehouse. This allowed the company to make its launch date. At the same time, however, Dynamic was able to help the company prepare for the future by providing research and recommendations for available replacement options that met specifications and integrating those into the customer’s change management processes.
To better understand your company’s EOL risk and exposure, consider utilizing Dynamic’s newest tool, the EOL PrepSM Self-Diagnostic, which is available on a complimentary basis to industry professionals by clicking here.