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A new professional network is looking to address the growing scope and sophistication of obsolescence management

Earlier this month saw the launch of the International Institute of Obsolescence Management (IIOM). The new body has evolved from the network developed by the Component Obsolescence Group (COG) in 1997 and plans to extend support for Obsolescence Management (OM) into a far wider range of industries and materials.

"Obsolescence management has changed significantly since the establishment of COG," said Stuart Kelly, chairman of COG UK and IIOM. "As a membership-based organisation, COG was created to allow defence and aerospace companies to share knowledge and expertise in managing the in-service obsolescence of electronic components in equipment which typically has an operational lifetime extending out to 25 years or more."

According to Ian Blackman, who leads the Institute's secretariat, it was proving difficult to implement the COG organisation, as originally set up, in other countries, although there was a desire to develop an internationally recognised organisation.

Commenting on the new body, Blackman said: "The effects of obsolescence are being experienced by a far wider range of industries. IIOM membership extends beyond avionics and the defence industry and, today, obsolescence management is no longer seen as a component engineering or procurement discipline.

"Members' order books are being determined by long term support issues and they are involved in a much wider range of industries – from nuclear power to oil and gas. Obsolescence, and its effective management, can now involve materials and software, as well as mechanical, electrical and electronic components.

"OM tools and mitigation practices are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and, as a result, we believe there is a real need for a professional body capable of providing best-practice guidance, training, career development and qualifications to an emerging class of professional obsolescence managers."

Electronic component obsolescence has always presented numerous design challenges for engineers, who have to address issues such as continuity, quality, cost management and support for the total life of the product. It is no longer simply about the component.

"It's a critical design challenge," says Blackman, "but one that has often been overlooked. Collaboration between end product manufacturers, original component manufacturers, component distributors and project consultants is crucial. We believe that obsolescence management is something that shouldn't be outsourced; organisations need to be able to manage it in-house."

A growing number of companies and organisations have been looking to undertake formal training in obsolescence management but have been unable, until now, to provide any meaningful record of the training being undertaken or to offer recognised industry-backed qualifications, explains Blackman.

As a result, the IIOM – supported by the University of Maryland in the US and by the Cranfield University and the Ministry of Defence – is working to introduce tiered membership classes, which will allow individuals from any country to progress along a defined career path in Obsolescence Management.

"These classes will range from Student membership, with no competence requirements, up to classes which will require members to prove their competency by completing an IIOM-approved course and passing a final examination," explained Blackman. "These classes of membership will entitle qualifying individuals to use post nominal letters – Associate (AIIOM), Member (MIIOM) and Fellow (FIIOM)."

In order to ensure that training standards are met, the IIOM will also establish an international network of IIOM Endorsed Trainers and Assessors.

"Trainers will focus on developing the OM skills of individual members, while Endorsed Assessors will audit projects and organisations for compliance against the International Obsolescence Management Standard IEC 62402:2007," Blackman continued.

According to Blackman courses in obsolescence will be available in April 2016.

IIOM is also planning to host a biennial International Conference. The first of these will take place in Edinburgh in June 2015.

Author
Neil Tyler

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