Don’t Be Taken by Surprise: The Case for Proactive End-of-Life (EOL) Planning

Proactive Product End of Life

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.

 

1 https://www.siliconexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/SiliconExpert-White-Paper-How-Reliable-is-EOL-Forecasting.pdf

Managing the “Big 3” Product End-Of-Life (EOL) Risks

Managing Product End of Life Risks

Managing End-of-Life (EOL) transitions of components or products is a challenging business discipline. Some OEMs provide advance notice of product EOL dates, which can alert your company to trigger a transition process. However, sometimes external factors – including technology shortages or supply chain constraints – can shorten or negatively impact transition time.

Addressing the Three Biggest EOL Risks

To address risks, your company should proactively identify and prepare for the three biggest product EOL risks, which include:

  • Operational Disruption often results from the staff’s lack of time to support the research, procurement and testing of alternate solutions. In complex industries, the testing and validation of a new component often involves multiple internal and external stakeholders and can take months, often pulling resources from other key projects.
  • Financial Loss can occur from an inability to ship product or provide a service. This is a major concern, particularly in regulated industries, where even a minor component change can halt an entire system, and have significant balance sheet implications.
  • Customer Loyalty is always tested when a significant product delay or outage occurs. There is often little tolerance from customers, who expect technology to function without disruption, and customer loss is a tangible risk.

Mitigating the “Big 3” Product EOL Risks: Your Change Management Plan

The most effective course of action your company can follow to avoid the “Big 3” EOL risks is to proactively plan for them. The initial step in this process is to ensure proactive notification of upcoming EOL dates. It’s essential to maintain a view of product lifecycle roadmaps; to understand exactly what is in each Bill of Materials (BOM) for each finished product; and to automatically receive notifications at the product, component and accessory levels. As an EOL date approaches, a transition process can be triggered, and a Change Management Plan created.

Your Change Management Plan should address how the component or product change could impact or disrupt the business. It should also include the estimated timeline, and information about replacement options. Often the EOL product or component will have a direct replacement or next-generation option. If a direct replacement is not available, satisfactory options will need to be researched, and supply chain risk and availability for those options will need to be analyzed. Depending on industry regulations and the differences with the replacement product, a re-validation process might be required.

As part of its change management plan, your company should also consider making a last time buy of available stock for an EOL component or product.  This can be an effective strategy to bridge the transition and prevent potential business interruption. Last time buys often involved warehousing of the inventory and potential price increases of the component due to limited supply.

How Dynamic Can Help with EOL Risk Management

Managing the “Big 3” EOL risks across multiple products and platforms is a labor-intensive undertaking that requires proactive planning and process management. As an initial step in evaluating EOL risk exposure, Dynamic has created the EOL PrepSM Self-Diagnostic. This tool consists of ten questions that can help your company identify and prioritize specific vulnerabilities and opportunities related to its EOL risks; to understand the complete range of EOL best practices it should follow; and to create a tailored action plan designed to reduce its EOL-related risks.

Dynamic’s EOL PrepSM Self-Diagnostic is available on a complimentary basis to industry professionals upon request, by clicking here. Dynamic provides a broad range of services related to product lifecycle management, including EOL risk management, and is prepared to answer any questions you may have.