Buying through authorized channels is supposed to reduce the risk of receiving counterfeit components, yet franchised distributors are among the most active adopters of counterfeit prevention measures. Counterfeit parts can enter authorized channels, and distributors are doing whatever they can to plug holes in the system.
Say a "customer" orders 100 parts from an authorized distributor and obtains 100 counterfeit parts. The customer reports to the distributor that the parts it ordered don't work for some reason -- the design spec has changed, for example -- and must be returned. The customer then sends the counterfeits to the distributor, which then sends the customer 100 more authentic parts. In the meantime, the counterfeit parts could go back on the distributor's shelf for resale.
The system should work, since purchases were made through authorized channels. The problem is with the process. That's why distributors such as Mouser Electronics Inc. have sought AS9120A certification. The standard, developed for the aerospace industry, addresses chain of custody, traceability, control and availability of records. AS9120A certification requires rigorous purchasing, handling, storage, and traceability controls to prevent counterfeit and nonconforming electronic components from entering the supply chain. Components are inspected before they leave a distributor's warehouse and when they are returned. The process flags retuned products that aren't authentic.
"Receiving this qualification gives customers the added assurance that they are getting genuine parts globally," says Kevin Hess, vice president of technical marketing at Mouser. "I think a lot of distributors are taking this approach, and for us, it means components get inspected even when they are returned. There is an accurate and comprehensive review of the component's origin to make sure it matches the part that is returned by the customer."
As a catalog distributor, Mouser (one of EBN's sponsors) releases as many as three or four new products to the market each day. The company handles a huge volume of small transactions. "We need to have the products we sell available, so we have to have the right inventory on the shelf," says Hess. "It's a risk we take from the inventory stocking standpoint and the number of transactions we process. We have to have a strategy that enables us to stand behind our products. This is key."
Mouser also supports the Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts (SEC. 818) law. According to SEC.818 (which we've covered before), several measures must be taken to avoid counterfeit components. For example, Department of Defense contractors and subcontractors are required to obtain electronic parts that are in production or available in stock from the original component manufacturers (OCM) or their authorized dealers. In addition, contractors that supply electronic components are now required to establish policies and procedures to keep counterfeit components out of the defense supply chain.
Mouser has also adopted relevant requirements of SAE standard AS5553 Counterfeit Electronic Parts; Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation, and Disposition into the AS9120A Quality Management System. The company is a contributing member of the SAE G-19 Counterfeit Electronic Parts Committee that wrote AS5553.