Industry 4.0 will not do away with obsolescence risks. This is the conviction of Stuart Kelly, director of the IIOM, the International Institute of Obsolescence Management. On the contrary, Industry 4.0 will bring OM issues to the fore.

One would expect that Industry 4.0 will reduce the risk of obsolescence, since Industry 4.0 entails decentralization in the supply chain, making it easier to replace devices locally instead of replacing components in manufacturing equipment on a specific location.

However, Kelly says he is experiencing quite a different situation. Instead of a waning interest in OM due to the Industry 4.0 phenomenon, the interest in OM seems to be growing due to the fact that more communication between OEMs is needed when setting up a horizontal supply chain. Thus, the IIOM is being asked more regularly how to deal with obsolescence risks.

Likewise, 3D printing will not lead to less interest in obsolescence management, according to Kelly. It is true that components can easily be manufactured using a 3D printer. Kelly: “At the same time we are not anywhere near the situation that any component can be printed with the correct specifications.”

This certainly is the case for electronic components. The predecessor of the IIOM, the Component Obsolescence Group (COG), owns its reason of existence to the problems that arose when replacing electronic components in products coming from the aerospace and defense industry. Whereas the products in these industries may have a lifespan of some 25 years, electronic components may only have a lifespan of some five years, hence the obsolescence risk and the need to manage such a risk.