Most modern factories will be relying on older equipment, which despite being well-made and reliable, can leave organisations at risk of obsolescence due to the challenge of obtaining spare parts as equipment ages. However, there are several strategies in terms of spares and maintenance which can be adopted to help manage an ageing asset base.
Thomas Boswell, reliability engineering manager at ERIKS UK & Ireland, talks through the best ways of avoiding obsolescence to ensure engineers and their facilities aren’t left exposed.
Manage your critical spares
In case the worst happens, organisations should have an idea of critical spares availability, storage, condition, age and location. Ultimately, this will determine how long it will take to get equipment back up and running as soon as possible.
Organisations should prioritise equipment in phase-out as spare parts for discontinued products can still be in stock for as long as 10 years. Companies should stock up on these critical spares to ensure access to components the manufacturer has ceased to supply and support.
Co-ordinating factory stores inventory with the criticality of equipment will help to manage the risks of obsolescence and reduce downtime. It won’t always be possible to hold stock close to the point of use though, so other options include shipping from site to site or using a national or regional store with spares shipped to individual sites when needed.
Undertake an obsolescence audit
Equipment obsolescence needs proactive management as part of a company’s obsolescence policy. In an ideal scenario, an obsolescence audit should be undertaken at least every two years in order to ascertain the current state of the equipment as well as the potential associated risk factors, such as parts availability.
Standardise your assets
Where possible, organisations should make the most of what they already have, in terms of stock and relationships. This includes using common readily available equipment or components from a preferred partner or supplier.
Consider a reverse engineering service
It isn’t unusual for factories and sites to be using older equipment with no spares availability. In this scenario, it is worth having access to a reverse engineering service, whether it’s in-house or outsourced, to change or redesign obsolete components so as to have the best chance of keeping ageing equipment operational.
Track your End of Life (EoL) announcements
One of the key planks of any obsolescence policy should be awareness and planning in relation to End of Life (EoL) announcements from OEM manufacturers. How do you normally receive EoL announcements? Who do they go to in the business? Where are they logged?
When faced with an EoL announcement, it can be easy to take a knee-jerk response rather than a strategic one but once EoL announcements are logged, a proactive plan should be put in place.