Why Do Electronic Components Become Obsolete?

Component obsolescence has effects on several segments of the electronic industry, and understanding the causes of this obsolescence can help manufacturers thrive in their businesses. 

It is dangerous to overlook the importance of obsolescence management for electronic parts, especially for manufacturers of components used in medical, military, transport and aerospace industries. Those small electronic components are often the things that keep people alive!

In this blog post, you’ll be learning about why and when electronic components become obsolete, and how to mitigate their impact.


Obsolete Electronic Components Defined 

Obsolete electronics parts are components that have come to the end of their life span and the product or equipment no longer supports them. It can also be parts that the product manufacturer no longer supports. 

Sometimes the equipment may still work perfectly well, but the components may still become obsolete if the manufacturer no longer supports the particular model or product line.

Why Do Electronic Parts Become Obsolete?

There are different reasons why a part or component can become obsolete

  • Low Demand Expectations

Parts become obsolete when they are no longer manufactured by the Original Component Manufacturer (OCM). Once demand drops and cuts into profit margins, or there is an upgrade on the component that stops people from buying it, logically it makes sense to stop producing these parts. 

According to a report from IHS Markit, the average life cycle for integrated circuits (IC) has decreased by an average of 30% over the past 8-10 years.

Image Source: IHS Markit

  • Demand for Newer Equipment

Based on different technological advancements, some spare parts from previous versions of equipment may become obsolete. In some cases, vendors may advise against the use of some earlier versions of the parts, which can also make the parts obsolete. 

Today’s modern customers’ voracious appetite for newer products mean newer parts constantly add to the reduction of the component life cycle

  • Updating Regulations

The changes that happen to government regulations can also lead to more frequent End of Life (EOL) announcements for different electronic parts. 

According to research done to illustrate the amount of EOL notices recorded, check the image below to see how the number of EOL notifications keeps increasing. It was recorded at its highest in 2014 with 5,506 notices recorded.

Image Source: Electronic sourcing 

When do Electronic Components Become Obsolete? 

According to earlier reasons that can make parts become obsolete, obsolescence is not just about components becoming outdated or phased out. It’s also about managing the issues concerning availability which can be caused by insufficient production capacity or some uncontrollable events. 

With an effective obsolescence plan, you can gain insight into the obsolescence of some parts. 

Here are some additional factors that can make parts obsolete:

  • Shortage of raw materials 
  • Creation of components with shorter life spans 
  • Less capital available for manufacturing companies resulting in sub-optimal component production 

How Designers Should Handle Obsolete Electronic Components

Designers should ensure they do not see obsolete electronic components as a failure at their end, but rather as an opportunity to build better designs. Both designers and companies can benefit from identifying obsolete components and with the right supply of raw materials and organisational skills, they can make smart decisions concerning obsolescence. 

Tips to Mitigate the Impact of Obsolete Electronic Components 

Here are some design management tips that can help to mitigate the impact: 

  • Great Supply Chain Networking

Being in touch with the manufacturers of components or their distributors for older designs is important. Understanding the supply chain can help you to get to know the latest information in the market and then potentially incorporate it into your decision making process. 

Many part manufacturers may be running short on raw materials supply and if you have good relationships with them, then you won’t be surprised by sudden stock changes. You may also be able to stock ahead. 

  • Comprehensive Bill of Materials 

A bill of materials is a list of the raw materials, sub-components, parts and the quantities of each required to manufacture a product. It’s used to communicate between manufacturing partners.

Having a comprehensive Bill of Materials (BOM), especially for older designs can help with identifying alternatives to obsolete parts. Essential data should be recorded to ensure that the replacements when necessary are made correctly. It’s a great idea to review the BOMs of past productions to ensure their accuracy and details. 

  • Clear Schematics

Some Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designs have unclear schematics which can compound component management challenges. Many of the parts in circuits are often made into new designs and are overlooked during design reviews. Parts must be marked and identifiable to ensure the risks of obsolescence are mitigated. 

  • Parts Monitoring

Production companies should take note that the circuit boards for equipment must be well monitored to ensure the specific parts needed are available. Component manufacturers can alert in any case of delay so you’re not caught off guard and forced to stop production. 

You can use a PCB CM to monitor these parts to avoid surprises. A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) has a panel that can be used by the Contract Manufacturer (CM) to stay updated with information concerning their purchase. It’s also called a “Customer PCB Panel”.

The Way Out of Obsolete Electronic Components

Obsolescence is a part of manufacturing that can not be avoided. What you can do is stock up on a part before it becomes obsolete, identify alternative parts, and prepare well ahead of any issues. 

Here are two tips to help you do these:

Life Cycle Analysis

A life cycle analysis program will help assess the general environmental impact of a component and before you start purchasing the components you can ask your supplier for parts that may need to be replaced and for suggestions of alternative components. 

Obsolescence Management

You can take advantage of obsolescence management companies to ensure that professionals are involved in your production, you can check out our obsolescence support in a case like this. 

Using a team of professionals gives you detailed risk information that you need to reduce obsolescence for your electronic parts and this can save you money and time in any case of reported obsolete parts.


As you have read obsolescence can’t be totally avoided and now that you have found out why parts become obsolete, you must make sure your company is safe from the effects of electronic parts obsolescence. 

If you want to do this, check our services to see how we can help you ensure that your components are quality and give you more details that you need for consistent production. 

Emily Lawrence

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