December 14, 2016

Why More Data Isn’t the Answer – The Future of Obsolescence Management

A number of years ago, I was involved in an eye-opening debate about data tools (often provided to customers in a Software as a Service – SaaS- or subscription model) and the security that multiple subscriptions offer the supply chain for electronic components. At face value, this is sound logic – the more data sources you have, the better chance of capturing critical information. But as the debate progressed, the main limiting factor became apparent: people and their capacity to interpret the sheer volume of information. Realistically speaking, the law of diminishing returns applies very quickly when using any method to process multiple sources. However, when relying on people to make decisions, it’s very easy to overwhelm them with volumes of data.

In another blog post, I outlined a presentation that I delivered earlier this year at Electronica in Munich, Germany. I opened the discussion stating that there are three distinct phases to data acquisition – content, context and control – and significant obstacles arise if you don’t have either of the first two.

Content we’ve previously discussed. This is gathered from external sources. Perhaps you have feeds of component obsolescence or product change notes (PCN) from your component distribution partners. This is content because it’s external. It just exists as data points, which don’t change regardless of the audience. This data stays the same no matter who you are.
Context is more interesting. Context is the environment within your company into which you pull this content and the market conditions that your company exists within. The reason you conduct contextual analysis is to make decisions. Those decisions change depending on any number of reasons: material availability, suitability of components, longevity of supply, customer considerations, engineering and design specifications the list goes on. The key point is that context is internally dictated, whereas content is externally generated.

The final pillar to this triumvirate is control. Without being able to place external content into internal context, you cannot have control in your supply chain. The reason that anyone expected to utilise varying data sources makes poor decisions is that they still believe that the pure data is the most critical aspect of their process, and they fail to contextualise this external content against their current position or wider needs compared to the marketplace.

External companies, with data, experience and a deep understanding of the global markets, as well as agnostic of industry vertical, can help. However, they must be part of your overall strategy. Content in context gives control. Successful organisations control their supply chains more than they react to them.

I’m keen to understand your thoughts and discuss further. Contact me at and we can talk.

Keep innovating!

November 30, 2016

Transatlantic Obsolescence; Electronica 2016, DMSMS and Converge – The Future of Obsolescence Management

Every other year, Munich plays host to the world’s largest electronics fair. Over 70,000 visitors and almost 3,000 exhibitors gather for a week in November to share new technologies, meet with customers and clients, and work on best practice and ideas sharing. At electronica 2016, the Converge team met with over 100 customers at our stand and many more out in the myriad halls throughout the event. Overall, the tone of the conversations was positive and shared a single underlying theme – in an uncertain time in the industry, having reliable and secure partnerships with certified, qualified and experienced partners is a key pillar of long-term supportability and successful industry presence…regardless of your end customer.

One question we were continually asked centred on what effects we’re seeing in the wider electronic components supply chain on obsolescence caused by manufacturer acquisitions and consolidations. The effects and our position depend entirely on our perception of how vital these manufacturers are to our supply chain.

At Converge, we work to understand the unique position each of our customers occupies. To do this we need to listen, to learn and to offer relevant solutions to their current needs. It pays to think differently about the suppliers we choose to rely upon…it also helps if we understand game theory (in short, game theory is the study of how and why people make decisions). Consider whether an organisation you trust in your supply chain is trying to ‘win’ or trying to change a paradigm – there is a distinct advantage to following the former if you need the latest cutting-edge technology and the lowest price, but if you’re considering long-term support, where should you put your faith?

Unfortunately, nobody has the ability to wind back the clock and make better-informed decisions about the kit that they now need to support for the next 30 years. It’s a little late for that! So while Converge, and our amazing Field Application Engineering (FAE) division in our parent company, can help with future applications at an early stage, today most engineers are concerned with where they’re going to get obsolete parts to support their product.

This was a topic I covered in a short, 30-minute talk at the ICC Media Embedded Forum at electronica – the balance between understanding where your internal information and data lie in the relevance spectrum when compared against open market contextual information. This talk explored how much control a company can exert in their supply chain when able to fully visualise wider, marketplace data in the context of their application. I’ll share the recording in a future post.

With that dichotomy in mind – the immediate against the potential risk – the Converge team travels to Denver the week of 28th November to the DMSMS (Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages) event to meet with and help high-reliability, military and aerospace companies address their pressing obsolescence and supply chain issues.

If you’re in Denver and planning to attend the show, please come and talk to us. My American counterpart, Bill Fliegel, has extensive experience within the military and aerospace industry, and we’d be more than happy to learn more about your current supply chain and electronic component challenges. We’ll be at booth #908. Come join our obsolescence community!

Keep innovating!

November 11, 2016

Los Angeles Goes Obsolete – The Future of Obsolescence Management

At our previous Future of Obsolescence Management (FOM) events in Amsterdam, we were delighted that several representatives from customers and partners located in the United States were able to join us. In fact, two of our guest speakers at FOM 2016 joined us from across the Atlantic to lead a discussion around innovation in early September, receiving a great response from attendees regarding their perspective and experiences on supply chain disruption.

Supply chain disruptions – where unexpected or unplanned events adversely affect a company’s ability to complete or deliver projects – are becoming increasingly worrisome throughout the electronics landscape. In a 2015 study by the Business Continuity Institute, 48% of respondents admitted that they were either “concerned” or “extremely concerned” about supply chain disruptions. Tellingly, 72% of respondents admitted that they lacked full visibility of their supply chains. In the very same study, 14% admitted that losses from supply chain disruption had cost over €1m.

Obsolescence can be a key problem, and once redesign (replacing one component with another) and re-certification (ensuring that the replaced part functions as it should in end applications) are taken into consideration, the costs here can easily hit nine figures.

Obsolescence, of course, is not a problem limited to those of us in Europe, and it would be poor form to forget that the United States is the second-largest trading nation on the planet, with a large focus on high-reliability and high-criticality goods, and a need for obsolescence best practices, communication and innovation. The Los Angeles County area, for example, is home to over 300 aerospace and defense (A&D) companies with almost 60,000 employees, not to mention world-leading educational institutions such as UCLA, Stanford and Caltech.

By hosting an FOM event in this area, we felt we could harness the experience of cutting-edge engineering minds to share their experiences and visions of the future, which are key aspects of FOM. With this in mind, we were delighted to accept an invitation to attend the Arrow Electronics Technology Forum in early October in North Los Angeles to bring FOM to the United States.

For the event, my counterpart Bill Fliegel, Americas director for FOM, collaborated closely with Converge sister companies Arrow Supply Assurance and SiliconExpert to explain the benefits of working on an end-to-end solution for data and component tracking, mitigating the risk of obsolescence and supply chain disruption.

Bill was joined onstage for a panel discussion by industry experts from Arrow Supply Assurance, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, and Orbital ATK, covering a wide variety of topics and taking Q&A from the floor. Innovative ideas around collaboration and both upstream and downstream data sharing, as well as lessons learned from the automotive industry, were extremely well-received and promoted thoughtful debate.

Following the event, and after reviewing feedback from attendees and contributors, we’re excited to announce that Converge will be bringing FOM to the West Coast (USA) in 2017. We’re already compiling an agenda and identifying speakers, and are open for paper submissions. If you would like to be involved, contact me at

Visit this blog for future details, join the FOM community or contact your local Converge contact.

Keep innovating!

October 31, 2016

FOM 2016, Bimhuis Amsterdam – The Future of Obsolescence Management

In my previous blogs, and in a number of Twitter updates, I’ve eagerly been discussing our pioneering Future of Obsolescence (FOM 2016) conference. Now in its second year, the conference was an incredible opportunity for key leaders and industry strategists across high-reliability supply chains to come together to share and learn new ideas. 

A key pillar of FOM – along with fulfilment and data analytics – is communication. Ideas are useless if you can’t communicate them properly, and our annual FOM event aimed to provide the opportunity not only to impart ideas to our collected delegates, but to promote discussion, new perspectives and collaboration.

We were delighted this year to host a collection of dynamic, experienced, innovative thinkers from across our supply chain spectrum, representing every stage of the increasingly complex landscape.

Tyler Moore, Director of Arrow Supply Assurance, started our day by discussing how obsolescence is addressed in vastly different ways by different industries, with very different results. Questions flowed from the attendees, challenging us to learn and communicate outside of our comfort zones.

Bill Stypa, ON Semiconductor’s product marketing head for custom logic and aerospace products in Europe, walked us through ways to avoid obsolescence by actively engaging with the component manufacturer, not just reacting to product change notices (PCNs).

We next moved to three complementary speakers. Stuart Broadbent, Obsolescence Director for Alstom Transport, introduced a detailed look into the challenges of reconciling the long life cycles and support expectations of the rail industry with the short life cycles of commercial and industrial components.

Feeding solutions to the challenges presented by Stuart, Ludwig Hiebl, Head Component Engineer for Zollner Elektronik AG, explored ways that data and data management can be administered by electronic manufacturing services (EMS), simplifying and untangling the volume of data the electronics industry generates.

Finally, Jürgen Lauter of ETL (Elektrotechnik Lauter) built upon logistical issues by discussing the main bottleneck in most decisions: the human factor. Interpretation of risk and the understanding of layers of training or experience generated heated debate.

After lunch we welcomed two excellent speakers to close the FOM 2016 event. Lorenzo Carbonini travelled from Genoa, Italy, to present his view on challenging regulatory management updates from his perspective as Head of Component Standardisation at Leonardo, formerly Finmeccanica Group. Following this came Marijan Jozic, Development Manager for KLM Royal Dutch Airline, who shared his knowledge of the aviation industry’s perspective on obsolescence.

A lively debate followed, led by Björn Bartels, Managing Director of AM-SYS, including contributions from our delegates, evolving ideas from our panel of speakers and 60 minutes of fascinating insight.  

Overwhelmingly positive feedback and support from attendees and our parent means that FOM 2017 in EMEA is a certainty. Further, however, and due to great intellectual investment and input from U.S. colleagues and customers, we’re working hard to bring FOM to the U.S. next year. In my next blog, I’ll provide some details on our first “Mini FOM” which took place in Los Angeles with our USA FOM Director, Bill Fliegel on 4 October.

Finally we’d love to hear from you about topics for 2017, and if you’d like to speak at our next FOM event … please get in touch.

Keep innovating.