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Intelligent selection of components during design

Have you ever designed a product only to find that you have designed in obsolete components?  You selected the component, purchased samples from a distributor, manufactured the prototype, and are ready for high volume production. Only then did you find out that your design contained a component which is no longer manufactured or was nearing the end of its life cycle.

Choosing an obsolete component, or one near the end of its life cycle, is not as unusual as it sounds. Many companies have their own component database which lists all the components used in their products. These components frequently form the basis of the company’s list of preferred parts, as they are already proven and because adding new items to inventory can be costly. Often the designer needs to proof the function of the part or complete a lengthy application in order to use a new component.

However, the database often contains all the components ever used in the company’s products – including the obsolete ones. As the database grows over the years, keeping it up-to-date becomes a larger and larger challenge. Manufacturers make components obsolete as demand diminishes below profitability limits, technical changes are made due to manufacturing process changes, prices vary with the market situation, and so forth. The need to update component information is constant. Even if you manage to keep the data current, component discontinuation notices can come without warning and be expensive to fix. If this happens after product introduction, it can cause substantial problems and delays.

Component availability issues are just one of the challenges a designer faces when selecting components for a new design. One needs to find suitable alternatives from various manufacturers and compare their technical specifications and pricing. For industrial products, you need to use components whose pricing and availability are not dependent on their use in consumer electronics.

Product cost, performance, and life cycle are defined during the design phase, so it really matters what kind of support designers get when they choose components. An obsolete component designed into a newly introduced product is an expensive error.

Several companies have concluded that maintaining component information on their own is not cost effective. There are service providers who can take over customer component information management. In this model, the service provider maintains a large component database. The bills of materials for a customer’s products are imported into the service provider’s database and components that are already in the database are linked to the customer’s products. This provides more comprehensive and up-to-datecomponent data maintenance.

As the service provider typically maintains a much larger and more comprehensive set of information than is used in one customer’s products, access to the database gives designers a single source to a wealth of component information. The database contains technical information, environmental information, and life cycle data. Search capabilities allow the user to find a component based on name, type, or a variety of technical parameters. Datasheets and change notices are also included so designers can evaluate potential components in more detail.

How does this help avoid selecting a component which will become obsolete right after the new product is ready?  Since these companies concentrate on the component marketplace, they gain knowledge of where particular types of components are used and can make better estimates about life cycles. The estimates are part of the service provided and can greatly reduce the probability of component obsolescence problems. A good component engineering capability at your contract manufacturer can make a huge difference in the success and profitability of your product by allowing you to more accurately determine the suitability and potential risk of using specific components in your design.

Are you interested in more information on this topic?
If you would like to see the way ENICS manages component information, please contact our component engineering department via marketing@enics.com and ask us for a temporary password. (This is only available for Industrial OEMs)

Enics publishes articles that are relevant to various aspects of the world of Industrial Electronics … Stay tuned. In the next article we’ll discuss Design for Manufacturing (DFM).