What is the best way to determine the end-of-life time-line for ICs other than contacting the manufacturer directly? Is there a central registry or service where I can subscribe and get EOL notifications for the parts used in my designs? How does everybody else handle EOL problems?
There are few professional services which integrate notifications from manufacturers and can manage your BOM:
Probably others I'm not aware of.
Most of big companies in aerospace and defense business subscribe to one of these services but they have dedicated component management departments.
Also only few components really need attention for EOL notifications, for instance memories (DDR). EOL notifications are submitted almost 1 year in advance so you can check the PCN on a monthly or weekly basis of few manufacturers for your critical components.
Some distributors send me the end of life notifications and change notifications for components that I have purchased from them. DigiKey and Mouser do this. Buying components from them have automatically subscribed me to the change notices. But... I haven't heard any statements about coverage. Does this work for every component and supplier in the distributor's inventory? Does the distributor pull the notifications, or the supplier pushes them? What are the odds that there will be a slip and the notification will not be sent to me?
Let's assume that we are talking about a non-regulated product (non-medical, non-military, non-automotive). The majority of the line items in the BoM are run-off-the-mill components, such as passives, standard small signal transistors, etc. Finding a second source or a replacement for them is usually not a big problem. So, an obsolescence of such components can be dealt with reactively, rather than proactively. The important single-source components (such as controllers of all sorts, power semiconductors, power inductors) are a different matter.
p.s. The front panel connectors are some of the most painful obsolescences to deal with. The nature of the front panel connector is usually both: electrical, and mechanical, and aesthetic.
There are few players in the market ( not as expensive as IHS / Silicon Expert ). One of them we use is www.eolmanager.com. They comes at very cheap price compared to the big guys, but reliable in terms of the service they provide.
May be you can try them or something similar to these guys.