Obsolescence could be defined as the dark side of relentless innovation. The more manufacturers in every industry, including the electrical and electronics sector, come up with new designs and improved products, the faster the previous ones become obsolete.
Consumers often find that consumer electronics items like washing machines and printers do not last as long as they used to. The assumption is that these products have an “inbuilt” obsolescence, planned by manufacturers, which prompts buyers to purchase new items. While this may be a risky strategy, several companies are known to have implemented such policies. As a result, programmed obsolescence has become the target of regulators in countries like France and similar legislation is being considered in the European Union. But even when it is not programmed, obsolescence should be managed – ideally proactively – by industry to reduce the environmental impact of out-of -date products and reduce electronic waste.
Recycling and reusing
IEC is leading the way in this field by issuing several standards which help to plan the life cycle of electrical and electronics systems and devices. A number of vertical standards concern specific items, including consumer electronics products such as washing machines. But IEC also publishes horizontal standards which can be used across industry and even, in some cases, by other industries as well.
IEC 62402, Obsolescence management is precisely one of these standards. A new edition of the document was published in May by IEC Technical Committee 56: Dependability, which standardizes core performance attributes of reliability, maintainability and supportability for products. The idea is to promote clean energy technology applications which encourage energy conservation and embrace design principles to recycle and reuse products as much as possible.
The 100-page standard defines the requirements for managing the obsolescence of any type of item. The document provides guidance for an obsolescence management policy, for establishing an obsolescence management infrastructure and organization, for developing strategies to minimize obsolescence during design, etc…
Environmental legislation can also make some materials obsolete because of their negative effect on the environment. This has to be taken into account in a risk assessment policy for obsolescence which is specified in the standard.
By following the IEC 62402 requirements, manufacturers the world over will reduce costs and improve their environmental credentials and reputation.