Obsolete or discontinued parts are the bane of design engineers’ lives, which is why RS has created a digital tool to alert customers of potential problems

For any design engineer looking to create a product, or iteration of an existing one that they hope will stand the test of time, one of the biggest risks they face is that one or more of the components within that product may become obsolete. RS has now created a tool to help businesses and individual designers avoid this issue.
“Obsolescence management is a challenge, whether you’re in early-stage design or late-stage maintenance and repair,” explains Mike Bray, Vice President of DesignSpark at RS. “It’s the single biggest obstacle to finishing a new design because you need to have the confidence that a part will be viable two or three years down the line.
“This has been an issue for a long time and previously, as an end manufacturer of a product, the only way you could be confident in checking that all the components in your product wouldn’t become obsolete would have been to manually check the status of every part you’ve used with each manufacturer,” he adds. “Doing this requires a lot of time and technical knowledge working through every component individually to check their long-term viability.”
"Obsolescence Manager means you can see at a glance if a product is still active and fit to be used in a design, or if you need to find an alternative "Mike Bray, Vice President of DesignSpark, RS
Obsolescence Manager
The solution that RS have created is a digital tool called Obsolescence Manager, which sits within the DesignSpark website. “The concept behind Obsolescence Manager is fairly simple,” says Bray. “We wanted to provide engineers with an easy ‘look up’ guide to see if products are in stock and if they’re likely to become obsolete in the near future. It means you can see at a glance if a product is still active and fit to be used in a new design, or if you need to find an alternative that will do the same job.
“Finding out this information early in the process saves huge amounts of time and money,” Bray adds. “Obsolescence Manager makes it even easier by providing all this information through one easy-to-use source – registered users can simply look up information by entering a product or part number into the search box. From this you can see the status of parts and whether you need a different product.”
So what happens if the part you need is obsolete? Handily, the tool will automatically suggest an alternative part. It also enables users to save parts lists for re-checking throughout a design cycle, or to change as design requirements iterate.
“We created this tool as a response to demand from our customers,” says Bray. “Obsolescence is an ever-growing issue in our industry simply due to the pace that technology is advancing, which means the shelf life of parts is getting shorter all the time.”  
Effective solution
Organisations and individual engineers needed an effective solution and we believe Obsolescence Manager is the answer,” he adds. “We genuinely believe that this is a tool that helps set RS apart from other design and MRO suppliers.”
"We genuinely believe that Obsolescence Manager is a tool that helps set RS apart from other MRO suppliers "Mike Bray, Vice President of DesignSpark, RS
RS also has plans to add new functionality to Obsolescence Manager in the near future, which Bray believes will make the tool even more useful. “The next stage for us is to add notifications to the system so that users can choose to be alerted when products move from green to amber status [at risk of discontinuation] so that our customers can be proactive and not be caught out when they need to buy or replace a part.
“We are also looking to expand the tool so that users can also see non-RS stocked parts as well,” he adds. “This would mean that people could see information on the product ranges of all the manufacturers we work with, even if RS doesn’t specifically stock those products.”