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News

How to survive a short lifespan

Component Obsolescence Group (COG) : 10 June, 2004  (Company News)
Given the pace of technology, consumers should be thankful for the Component Obsolescence Group. Since 1997 the group has provided a platform to discuss the problem of outdated equipment and Teri-Ann Winslow, its new chairwoman, will be encouraging more companies to take part.
Given the pace of technology, consumers should be thankful for the Component Obsolescence Group. Since 1997 the group has provided a platform to discuss the problem of outdated equipment and Teri-Ann Winslow, its new chairwoman, will be encouraging more companies to take part.

Electronic components used to be designed to last for many years. But as component prices have fallen, so have their life span. As technology advances, goods such as PCs and mobile phones have become more disposable -indeed, some manufacturers are designing components to last only a few years, particularly semi-conductors.

As so many companies rely on the same components, the ability to repair equipment is becoming more difficult and obsolescence all the more predictable. Some rail companies are reported to have bought stocks of old computers just for their chips, against the day their signals fail. It is estimated that 2,000 components become obsolete every month as maufacturers renew their designs.

Winslow, as managing director of the industrial designers Winslow Adaptics based in Brecon, has represented the company in COG for more than two years. She also chairs several COG committees and the COG Steering Group.

'We are very much a throwaway society,' Winslow says. 'Much more than five years ago. A very good example is mobile phones, which seem to get changed every year nowadays.

'COG is making an important contribution to helping companies manage and mitigate obsolescence problems, which could have a significant adverse impact on company performance and reputation.

'When we started it was much more driven towards the aerospace and defence industries. It is now our job to go out there and cover almost anything.'

The group still counts companies such as BAE Systems, Westland and Bombardier among its 167 members -military and aerospace companies make up about 75 per cent of them -but now addresses the problem of obsolescence in such industries as medicine, transport and power. A host of international companies work with COG from countries including America, Norway, France, Spain, Singapore, the Netherlands and Sweden, and it has attempted to strengthen international co-operation further by launching a German arm. It seems clear that companies are becoming more susceptible to cost cutting and without COG the expense of replacing equipment could become unmanageable.
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