Supply chains faced pressure early on as many governments globally shut down nonessential manufacturing in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Many manufacturers scrambled to find new suppliers who weren’t yet affected. This temporary move away from trusted suppliers created a situation where counterfeiters could more easily pass their wares, bringing on renewed calls for businesses to do due diligence in their electronic part search. If anything, the pandemic has shown how strategies for electronics sourcing need to include manufacturers and distributors in the supply chain.
The Importance of Using Trusted Suppliers
Regardless of how counterfeit parts end up in the supply chain, they can affect the dependability of end products, which should concern any electronics manufacturer. Knowing where parts originate plays an important role in quality control. Authentic parts have been tested, whereas the reliability of counterfeit ones is unknown. As such, potential blowback for manufacturers could include:
- Additional warranty costs
- Exfiltration of electronic data
- Need for more testing and inspections
- Product failure
- Product recalls
Using trusted suppliers when doing an electronic part search will only increase in the future. Substandard components – most of which are counterfeit – inevitably translate into lost revenue. Everyone in the supply chain must participate to limit the damage from counterfeiting. Knowing where electronic parts originate and ensuring their authenticity by working closely with trusted partners in their supply network and using technology to track parts will help both manufacturers and end users to limit the damage counterfeiters do.
Using Electronic Part Search Engines
Manufacturers approach their electronic part searches through computer-aided software (CAD). In 2004, Purdue University researchers developed a system that used CAD software that could allow users to search electronic parts online, a system now widely used to source electronic components. These electronic part search engines make it easier for companies to reuse designs and create new ones based on the designs of older parts. There are now numerous electronic part search engines that aggregate specifications, availability, models, lead time, and specifications so buyers can find almost everything they require through a single website.
Like Google and most other search engines, they allow electronic part searches for free but run paid advertising to promote certain vendors. They include:
- Ultra Librarian
Information electronic part searchers can glean from this search software includes:
- Component specifications that allow quick sourcing of suitable alternatives.
- Direct links to distributors.
- Many electronic part search engines include libraries that include model and footprint access.
- Up-to-date prices and stock from major distributors.
While distributor websites tend to gear searches on their websites toward product specifications, such electronic part search engines can also find parts based on their functionality. This pressures manufacturers to list specific applications for their components.
The technology that analyzes images in an electronics part search has also helped manufacturers minimize the risk of counterfeits at each stage of the procurement process. Every supply chain point must guard against counterfeit components ending up inside finished electronic goods.
How companies select suppliers can reduce the risk of receiving counterfeit parts. While ordering components directly from manufacturers, along with their authorized distributors and agents, there’s still a small risk should a dishonest user return a counterfeit part instead of a real one. Many independent distributors have formed and belong to associations that seek to reduce counterfeiting, such as the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA). Most counterfeit goods come through smaller unlicensed distributors, who are more likely to buy through brokers or on the Internet without verifying the parts. The IDEA recommends that companies choose suppliers who stand by their products, are established, and have good reputations.
When receiving electronic components, they should be screened visually. This should include paperwork, packaging, labeling, and the parts. When receiving goods from a distributor, consider the following:
- Consistent markings.
- Incompatible date codes.
- Dates on code and label don’t match.
- Evidence of corrosion and peeling.
- Inconsistent date codes.
- Match packing slip, invoice, purchase order and compliance certificates.
- Neatness of packaging.
- Product dimensions.
- Spelling errors on labels.
- Standardization of soldering.
- Whether original part numbers and other details have been covered up, a technique called blacktopping.
Any of these can indicate a counterfeit item.
Quality & Tracing
Suppliers should have procedures to ensure quality and that counterfeit parts don’t enter the supply chain. These include quality certifications, which include:
ISO 9001:2008 – to show suppliers are committed to providing quality components and customer satisfaction by continually improving management systems.
AS5553 – created to deal with growing counterfeit parts in NASA’s supply chain, it lays out methods that reduce the risk of receiving counterfeit components.
Suppliers should also keep accurate and easily accessible records for customers, so that they can ascertain a part’s origin. Tracking components through an electronic parts search is also in line with quality procedures that ensure accountability and quality control.
Inspecting for Counterfeits
Suppliers should test electronic components with guarantees that they meet international standards for physical condition and origin. Numerous techniques help prevent counterfeiting, such as:
- Acetone tests help detect whether parts have false coatings, immersing components in an acetone solution then wiping it to determine original manufacturers markings.
- Comparing images in electronic part searches with received components.
- Decapsulation removes the covering of electronic circuits to check dies, wafer-thin blocks made from semi-conductive material on which integrated circuits are made.
- Electrical testing to ensure they meet specifications.
- Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to determine internal images at a microscopic level, using electrons that magnify up to 100 thousand times.
- X-ray fluorescence analysis helps determine the chemical makeup of components and is used throughout the electronics industry to identify components’ “Restriction of Hazardous Substances” RoHS status.
- X-ray inspections offer an internal view of their structure.
It’s important for businesses that rely on authentic electronic components to train workers how to spot counterfeit parts. Regular training should occur on how to buy, identify, register and discard counterfeit parts. The more knowledge those directly involved in the supply chain have, the more effective anti-counterfeiting efforts will be.
Systems & Policies
Any company that deals in electronic components should have plans to control counterfeit parts’ risks. Mitigating such hazards should be an integral part of the manufacturing process. When conducting electronic parts searches, businesses should:
- Conduct programs to manage their products’ life cycle, especially as they near obsolescence.
- Determine risks from current and potential suppliers.
- Develop quality assurance plans to detect counterfeit components that include inspecting and testing.
- Evaluate availability of genuine parts.
- Maintain lists of accepted suppliers.
- Procedures for documenting suspected counterfeit products.
- Procedures for investigating counterfeit parts once detected.
Though every effort in electronic part searches should be made to prevent ordering counterfeit components, it may still occur. It’s important to collect evidence and report such issues correctly. While initial reactions may instinctively be to send counterfeits back to suppliers, this isn’t the best course, as it allows suppliers to send such components to less discerning buyers. It also gives counterfeiters a red flag, showing that they’ve been detected and leading toward more intricate efforts to camouflage counterfeit parts. Opting not to pay unless suspect parts are independently screened would be a better option.
Collecting evidence is especially important if counterfeit electronic components are found for goods already in production. It’s recommended that manufacturers impound and destroy counterfeit parts to keep them from being resold. Reporting is key to helping curb counterfeiting.
Contact Solid State When Electronic Part Searching
Solid State Inc. provides customers with a range of electronic parts. Located in Bloomfield, New Jersey, our electronics supplier and distributor is a trusted name in the electronic components market. Solid State supplies components to manufacturers globally, distributing authentic quality parts through a trusted network of suppliers. Contact us today to learn more about our products!