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Guide to the BS EN 9278:2018

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Obsolescence is a significant risk factor for an organisation and/or a programme activity regarding the continuity of productions, services and maintenance in operational conditions of equipments and systems. It can appear in any phase of the product life cycle. Thus it is essential that the organisation determines the best strategy to be implemented in order to control these risks, implying its customers and suppliers in the definition of this strategy.

This recommendation is a document meant to be used as guidelines, for an organisation and/or a given programme, for the implementation of a coordinated management process of obsolescence risks related to chemical products and to their effects on products, especially on materials, processes and mechanical parts.

The following can be subject to obsolescences:

  • all categories of equipments as well as their components;
  • materials and processes used to produce, operate or maintain a product;
  • all that can be bought, manufactured, repaired, be it done internally or externally;
  • means of production, test and maintain. This document excludes obsolescences related to electronic components and softwares (for more information on that subject see EN 62402).

What is the BS EN 9278:2018? BS stands for British Standards Institution, the EN means European Norm, 9278 means the 9278th European Norm developed at the British Standards Institution and 2018 means the year when the norm was created.

The BS EN 9278:2018, Guide to the management of obsolescence risks of products, processes and services is a document written with the goal of systematically developing and progressively releasing information related to the understanding, the control and the management of risks related to obsolescence in a way that is adapted to the different requirements of the different manufacturers on the market. The industry takes part actively in the work done by the technical committees of the British Standards Institution. The result is a systematic approach that allows manufacturers to indicate more clearly and concisely to their suppliers and / or customers the measures they can take to avoid the risks related to obsolescence.

Obsolescence has multiple consequences leading to a network of interrelated causes that are difficult to manage individually. Because of that the publication of each new European Norm is used as an opportunity to emphasise the need to evaluate risks associated with obsolescence by design, especially in the choice and use of materials and processes.

Obsolescence is the intentional or unintentional disappearance from day-to-day use of a product or service that had existed previously. It has effects on the quality, the price, the market, on the environment and on safety.

The main reason for obsolescence is the need for technological progress. It is essential for continuous development, for cost reduction and competitiveness. Obsolescence due to technical progress is often seen as a positive and desirable phenomenon. However, it also has negative consequences, for which it is important to be aware of them. This is why it is essential to manage the risks associated with it systematically.

Obsolescence of products can happen on three levels:

  • Products become obsolete in the sense that they do not satisfy the needs of the market at a given time. The main reason of this type of obsolescence is a lack of interest and so their disappearance is healthy. The products still have a certain life-cycle and remain a satisfactory alternative for a number of years.
  • Products become disabled after a period of time in the sense that they are not longer usable. They become unusable or too expensive to maintain. This type of obsolescence is harmful for the organisation.
  • Products become obsolete in the sense that they are no longer available on the market or that their production is stopped. This type of obsolescence is the most harmful because it severely impacts a number of products, processes, systems and services. Their disappearance can cause financial losses and has serious economic and social consequences.

The obsolescence of materials, processes and components must be considered depending on the specific context of a given organisation or of a given programme. In many cases, it makes sense to determine their replacement by profiling the different products and the different equipments to avoid too much diversity. They can’t be used as an excuse for excess production or stock on the long term. They must be seen rather as a way to pursue improvements in production processes, continuous improvement, transparency, predictability when choosing between purchasing design and customisation.

It’s an obligation of a manufacturer to guarantee their services to their customers. As a consequence, they must design their products in a way that makes them last a certain time. If a product is important for a manufacturer and they consider that it will have a long life in their production or for their clients, they must take the engineering “Quality of Life” into account during the design process. The same goes for suppliers, as it is their role to provide the best quality and the best prices possible through a long period of time. If the quality is not an important point for a manufacturer, they must be aware of the fact that the change of a supplier can lead to an important obsolescence of their products.

For customers, obsolescence doesn’t affect them as much directly, so the study of obsolescence is mainly focused on the engineering “Quality of Service”. However, most of the time, the service life of the products does not guarantee a lifetime service.

Customers and manufacturers must work together to make sure not only to find the best possible solutions for a product to be used for a long time but also to make sure the service can be performed for the whole lifetime of a product, even if the product is no longer in production, when the service is no longer covered or when the provider of the services is no longer available.

This document refers to obsolescences due to technical development and not to obsolescence due to errors in the design, manufacture or operation of a product.

This document is not considered as a technical design guideline, instead it is considered as a document describing how to control and manage

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