Minimising component end-of-life risks

An issue that regularly arises in electronics manufacturing is component end-of-life (EOL). It is a designer’s nightmare to have a design strongly dependent on a particular component, only to discover at the manufacturing stage that the component is in short supply or unavailable due to the manufacturer discontinuing its production. In this scenario, the cost of the component will be significantly higher than anticipated and it will eventually run out, potentially forcing a redesign.

The impact of EOL is even higher in highly regulated industries, such as mining and MedTech, where there are significant costs involved in gaining certification for a product. Even small changes can trigger the need for a very expensive re-certification process.

Ideally, a designer should only select components they know are going to be around for a long time. So what are the factors that affect EOL?

Good components come from reputable suppliers with a stated commitment to the component. Risky components are those selected from suppliers that aren’t well known or if there is only one supplier of the part. If a component is available from multiple suppliers, the risk is much lower.

Another factor to be aware of, is the likelihood of counterfeit components entering the market as the original component start to become scarce. The more valuable the component the higher the incentive is for fraudulent companies to turn a quick profit at the expense of unsuspecting manufacturers. There are multiple ways of dealing with counterfeiting which we addressed in an earlier article.

A common driver of EOL is when new components come onto the market in support of a major consumer electronics item, such as a mobile phone, only to be discontinued when the next version of the product is released. Knowing the original reason for creation of the component and selecting components that are used in many products is the best approach.

While there is no guarantee that any given part will remain available forever, the best approach to dealing with the problem is to consult your electronics manufacturer, who deals with the suppliers of components on a daily basis. A good electronics manufacturer will know who the trusted suppliers are and receive early warning of any EOLs on the horizon. The earlier you consult on components you are considering, the less likelihood of nasty surprises later in the design process.