There are two concepts associated with extending the life of a product. One deals with developing a robust product design to begin with (inherent product RMQ) so that the life of the product is longer than it would have been if less robust materials, parts, processes, etc. had been used.

The other is related to steps that can be taken to extend the service life of a product that has been on the market (or in customers’ possession) for a “very long time” and is approaching its end of life. The resources may not be available to develop or purchase a full-blown replacement product (time, Affordability). For a practical example, consider an old car, with very high mileage, lots of wear and tear, body rust, etc. What are your options if you can’t afford to buy a new car? You can replace the engine, overhaul the drive train, paint or replace rusted body parts, etc.  For any of these actions, a conscious decision has been made to extend the life of an existing product. These factors and the decision-making process are what is known as a Lifetime Extension Assessment.

On a larger scale, the same types of decisions can be made (and frequently are) about extending the useful life of aircraft, ships, bridges, dams, trains. Life extension activities can cover mechanical or electronic commodities, or even major software upgrades in lieu of hardware replacement. Hardware upgrades may include the use of newer technology materials (e.g., lighter composites) and more advanced electronics (reduced size, but with significantly more functionality). Based on the age of the system, Component Obsolescence Planning is often required as aging components become unavailable. In such cases, the selection of suitable replacement components requires the same  Parts/Materials Selection considerations as in the original design phase. The Reliability Data Collection and Analysis from the system’s development and operation, particularly from a Failure Reporting, Analysis and Corrective Action System (FRACAS), can often provide useful information for component selection decisions and life extension assessments in general.