We’ve just heard that a recent ‘STAR’ in the world of milling machines has been “obsoleted” and replaced with another model. This has certainly caused some concern on the part of owners of this machine and dealers who have sold this champion over the past few years. It should be noted that the work horse machine is still be a viable production aid and the manufacturer will provide parts and second tier support for the next few years. But it brings into question, why obsolete it and replace it with another model? There are many reasons why a company might obsolete a product including lack of sales based on the industry moving in another direction, or lack of sales based on a higher cost to produce and sell, or just plain old advancement in technology.
In 1970 I had two ‘Gold Foil’ restorations placed by my dental student father in number nineteen and number thirty buccal pits. One was for the course on gold foil restorations and one was for the board exam. They were the only gold foil fillings he ever did in his practice. Some of you reading this do not even know what a “Gold Foil” restoration encompasses, but I won’t go into an explanation because they are, well …obsolete and were replaced by composite.
All of us want to purchase a piece of equipment once and have it last for twenty-five to thirty years like that old vacuum mixing machine from Whip Mix; and then have parts to repair it for the remainder of our careers. However, in this day and age that is nearly impossible. When our company has obsoleted a product, I’ve actually had customers ask if we stopped making it because of, “an engineering flaw”. While many times improvement in the engineering results in a new piece of equipment, it does not mean there was an “engineering flaw”.
We live in a very fast paced world where advancements in materials and equipment will happen at a more accelerated rate than ever before. This means that there will be things that are obsoleted in a much shorter time period. Purchase planning for the Technician and the Laboratory Owner is simple; purchase for what you currently need, plan on a Return on Investment (ROI) in three years or less and set aside dollars for replacement costs. Any other plan will create a disaster at some point.
When a product does go obsolete, don’t feel as if you have been abandoned. Manufacturers typically have a plan in place to continue to supply parts and service for those items for a set period of time. After that set period, replacement parts and service are no longer available. To help protect your lab, pay close attention to any inconsistencies with your current machine, continue with your scheduled maintenance, and plan for the purchase of a replacement, don’t wait for it to break down. Purchase a second machine as soon as possible and use the old machine as a fall back or safety net. If you are purchasing used equipment, check with the manufacturer before you purchase it to see if it has been obsoleted and if it has, if there are parts available and for how long.
We are all moving forward in our industry with new and upcoming products and techniques and eventually nearly all of the current products will be …obsolete.