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Managing Obsolescence in Aerospace

Feb 12, 2021

Obsolescence in Aerospace

Learn how to implement a proactive obsolescence management strategy in aerospace from the operations, hardware and software perspectives.

What is Obsolescence Management?

Obsolescence is an unavoidable risk as every vendor will end-of-life a certain part or product over time. In the Aerospace industry, many test systems are built to manufacture and support aerospace and defense platforms 20 or 30 years, so obsolescence management is key to ensure long life functioning systems.
There are two main sources of obsolescence issues:

  • On the supply chain side, a product or part that is end-of-lifed.
  • On the demand side, a change in regulations can force a product to be unusable.

Why do you need an obsolescence management strategy?

When a part or component is discontinued, or a modification in the systems is required, a major problem can occur if the replacement part is no longer available from its original manufacturer, or any other approved sources. This can often mean that the only option available in the most expensive one: redesign. This is what usually happens if we have a reactive approach to maintenance for your system.
However, a solid proactive obsolescence management strategy can significantly reduce such costs and improve uptime of your system. A proactive approach to obsolescence management requires careful planning and ensuring that obsolescence is managed as an integral part of the project from the design phase.

SAAB RDS Aerospace Management

How to implement a proactive obsolescence management strategy in Aerospace?

In managing obsolescence for test systems in Aerospace, several best practices can be implemented from the operations, hardware acquisition, and software design perspectives. Here are some of them:

  1. Chose lifetime-optimized products and vendors who emphasize engineering for a long-life cycle. Work with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) tools and use industry-standard platforms that are managed by multiple vendors and end users. Some examples are the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) and PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA).
  2. Open Industry Standard. To ensure that your test system can be sustained over decades, you need to select a hardware platform that is continually growing as well. Then you can avoid completely redesigning a test system architecture when a single component goes end of life or when you need new measurement capabilities. Open industry platforms such as PXI, VXI, and GPIB deliver the benefits of multiple vendors who are innovating on the hardware platforms through instrumentation hardware development.
  3. Obtain life-cycle information from your vendor: this requires establishing a cooperative relationship and good communication with suppliers and long-term extended service agreements. It will allow you to plan for the technology evolution in your system. Make sure you work with a vendor that provides a full range or repair and replacement services.
  4. Create an obsolescence plan: implement an obsolescence management plan in the documentation of the system at the time of delivery. information for replacing all system components including when they should be replaced, how critical each component is to the operation of the test system, and the risk associated to the replacement of that component.
  5. COTS Software Tools: test systems must be flexible and use ADEs that can withstand structural changes by working with multiple hardware and software platforms. Software tools should simplify performing new analysis on data acquired from hardware, and include features that maximize the ability to reuse code by providing analysis functions or delivering interoperability with tools like MathWorks MATLAB® or Python.
  6. System Design for Obsolescence Management: Perhaps the most significant software technique to protect a test system against inevitable hardware obsolescence events is using hardware abstraction layers (HALs) and measurement abstraction layers (MALs). Building these layers into your code gives you the flexibility to change instruments without altering measurement analysis code, the tester’s user interface, or the overall test structure.

Talk to an expert today about how to change to a proactive obsolescence management strategy for your Aerospace application.