Kramer on Counterfeits: Bad Customers

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Recent news reports of people maimed by shrapnel slicing through a car's interior has the public shocked, mainly because we all climb into the crosshairs of an airbag many times a day. The manufacturer’s recall was limited to warmer climates in response to information linking higher temperatures and humidity as contributing factors. Just days before, an article surfaced about loaded missile racks falling from warplanes--victim of faulty attachment assemblies.

Both cases can be traced to substandard components either not meeting design specifications or not being evaluated thoroughly. The AS6081 Counterfeit Mitigation standard provides direction for the detection, mitigation, and disposition of fraudulent and counterfeit components. It's this document that supplements the purchasing process while augmenting quality/reliability and safety requirement flow-down.

When cost and schedule are allowed to supersede quality and safety like a carrot on a stick, a mentality is nurtured that induces latent defects. Cheap parts are hard to resist, but it’s these fakes that risk human life and critical systems. Electronic assemblies are seeing a much longer life than originally expected, such as those used in the B-52 bomber designed in the 1950s, or the growing number of vehicles that are older than 10 years on today’s roads. The demand for pre-owned vehicles has not slowed as the economy sputters back to health, making the practice of driving cars longer a necessity. Maintaining these systems puts pressure on suppliers to find ever-diminishing supplies of replacement components, which produces opportunity for counterfeit parts. Fake, substandard components that have failed, shorted out, or are otherwise beyond their useful life, damaged or rejected by the manufacturer are inherently hazardous. Integrating them into circuits, subsystems or systems only increases the risk.

As parts become obsolete, finding a trusted source that meets OCM specification evolves into a science. Secure Components, for example, partners with suppliers to locate hard-to-find parts, teams up with authorized test centers and amplifies customers’ supply chain. Purchasing can become so focused on cutting cost it unknowingly introduces counterfeit components into the supply stream generating costs downstream erasing any initial savings.

Read the full column here.

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of SMT Magazine.


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