Parts Database

Why Are So Many Parts Becoming Obsolete?

20 July 2018

Electronic product development begins with an initial concept, but when it comes time to assemble a bill of materials (BOM) life cycle management becomes essential. Non-active, end-of-life and obsolete components inhibit profitability due to diminishing part inventories which results in a shorter life cycle or increased cost due to the re-engineering of device specifications.

Commercial off-the-shelf parts, in particular, have become increasingly susceptible to shorter lifespans. Their tendency to rapidly enter the obsolescent phase of their life cycle has become increasingly common and a plan to address this is of prime importance.

Life Cycle Management

An RF product that is ready to go to market is highly questionable when the bill of materials (BOM) includes components that have just been issued an end-of-life notice. Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common. Even with an emphasis on a shorter development cycle, the lifespan of many components is becoming so short that by the time a device is ready to go to market the components in the BOM have already seen their day.

For decades, life cycle management has been handled by part distributors who capture life cycle data and have known part inventories. Design engineers were presented with a single source where they could compare and contrast components from several suppliers. However, more and more cutting-edge technologies are being introduced, and with an explosion in the amount of IoT-enabled devices hitting the market, the average component life cycle has been cut in half. Just knowing that adequate part inventories are available for an active component simply isn’t enough.

Solutions for Obsolescence Management

New problems call for new solutions. For example, the Digi-Key BOM Manager is a value-added service that addresses component obsolescence.

The BOM Manager can identify the viability of a design as a whole. It provides real-time pricing and stock status, packaging options, life cycle status and standard lead times from the manufacturer. It can even suggest substitutes. After uploading the BOM it can be edited, shared and downloaded. Being able to manage the BOM throughout the design process is ideal and when it is time to move forward with an order, a quote can be generated that is locked in for 30 days.

Furthermore, the BOM Manager is a corporate solution, and users can reference the BOM for a respective device design as well as BOMs that belong to coworkers. It is a collaborative approach to building a BOM and a solution that has been well received.

Digi-Key Electronics is not the only distributor offering a solution that mitigates obsolescence management. There are several other third parties that offer a portfolio of reporting tools to help improve life cycle management and address component obsolescence.


Unfortunately, obsolescence management is commonplace in electronic product design and managing component inventories is a heavy burden that is often best addressed by a third party with well-established partnerships with component manufacturers.

The increasingly complex nature of electronic product design requires skills from a wide variety of personnel and the winning solution is to engage in collaborative design. Sharing design data through an enterprise solution is an efficient means of transition from outdated components to next-generation parts in a cost-effective and timely manner.

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