industrial machinery

The risks of replacement: outdated perceptions of obsolete technology

industrial machinery

Darren Halford, sales director of industrial automation supplier EU Automation, challenges the outdated perceptions of obsolete technology

We’ve all been there, the vacuum has been rattling for months and you’ve gotten used to the slight aroma of charred carpet after every clean. But a final diminishing groan forces you to admit your trusty vacuum has had its day.

Instead of trying to patch up old Henry, most of us would take his demise as the perfect excuse to splash out on that lightweight, wall mounted, cordless number we have seen on the telly. In industrial environments, dealing with broken equipment is not quite as simple as a trip to the local retail park. 

Rather than upgrading to a shiny new model, replacing a broken part with a second hand or obsolete device is often a much more cost-effective choice for manufacturers. However, in some cases, the potential headache posed by sourcing obsolete parts overshadows the high cost of purchasing brand new equipment and, as a result, manufacturers will often opt for a costly, unnecessary upgrade instead.

Obsolete doesn’t always mean old

While it’s true that using any kind of technology beyond its intended lifespan means reduced levels of OEM support and maintenance, don’t fall into the trap of believing parts won’t become obsolete before that date rolls around.

Obsolescence doesn’t necessarily mean the device is past its use by date. It simply means that the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has stopped making that specific product. 

The rapid rate of technological advancements in equipment manufacturing means that new, upgraded versions of products can replace current models in a matter of years, often rendering ‘almost-new’ devices obsolete.

Obsolete yet efficient

Industrial devices have a bad reputation when it comes to energy efficiency, and manufacturers often assume that obsolete devices are likely to fail against modern day legislation. In fact, there is an abundance of obsolete devices operating today that meets and often surpasses current energy standards. This is what is known as eco obsolete technology (EOT).

Since EOT still complies with energy efficiency standards, it can still be used in industrial settings. This way, compliance with modern legislation such as the energy savings opportunity scheme (ESOS) won’t be affected by sourcing obsolete.

Stick to what you know

According to a recent ARC Strategy Report, 58 per cent of manufacturers surveyed admitted they had no formal plan to manage the lifecycle of their technology. But when disaster strikes and parts break down, opting for that shiny new device can often be more trouble than it’s worth.

Almost a third of industrial production systems are over 20 years old. For these older manufacturing systems, replacing a broken part with a new, upgraded device can require compatibility testing, sometimes leading to an entire systems and software upgrade. In these cases, it’s easier for manufacturers to stick to what they know and source an exact replacement instead. 

There are thousands of obsolete automation parts readily available for industry and that’s why European Automation’s catalogue of automation parts is searchable by part number, part manufacturer or part category. So take pity on your industrial equivalent of Henry Hoover, and don’t put it out to pasture without checking whether he can be saved first.