As an independent distributor, I am frequently asked by manufacturers about our quality control (QC) and anti-counterfeiting certifications, and rightfully so, because these are and should be sticking points. But beyond asking about certifications, it's important to understand the certification processes, the operational guidelines required, and, most importantly, what companies do beyond the certifications.
My company, Smith & Associates, has been active in the stringent anti-counterfeiting quality standards-setting and certification processes for independent distributors in the semiconductor and electronics industry for 28 years. We encourage pushing the quality envelope and adhere to inspection process guidelines as daily routines, which are supplemented with rigorously detailed inspections by state-of-the-art laboratory testing.
As an independent distributor, what does it mean to have a certification and then “go beyond the standard?” There are various certification processes: One is the Quality Management System Standard for Independent Distributors of Electronics Association Members, the IDEA-QMS-9090-A. (See: Independent Distributors: New Standards, New Image?) There are also the IDEA-ICE-3000, IDEA-STD-1010-A, and the Components Technology Institute’s Counterfeit Components Avoidance Procedures (CCAP-101). When an independent distributor holds IDEA and CCAP certification, there is a considerable investment of time, effort, personnel, and money in the initial training and certification award; and in the equipment and ongoing recertification of quality engineers and inspectors.
What does all that mean from my desk at Smith? For me, quality certifications are not just a routine that my company follows on an annual basis — they are meaningful every day I am involved in QC and anti-counterfeiting. But we see the certification standards as a starting point. The QC findings of every order that passes across my desk are reviewed and discussed with our clients' engineers, purchasing managers, buyers, QC team, and so forth.
It really does take a village: From vendor audit and ongoing ratings in our internal database to detailed reviews of the quality inspection reports on the results of tests for the parts requested (x-ray, decapsulation results, solvent resistance, die analysis, part marking tests, XRF analysis, solderability, specific functionality testing, customized tests, etc.) — I rely on our vendor rating system and our commodity managers' expert knowledge to keep abreast of the latest issues on certain parts. On occasion, I even work with customers to help vet other vendors for them.
If we can't help our customers find parts, I still feel it's my duty to make sure you buy parts only from reliable sources so we can close doors to counterfeiters. After all, relationships and quality make a difference.
Being a diligent sourcing partner is critical in today's marketplace, and going the extra mile to audit vendors to ensure they are selling legitimate, quality products is essential. Starting with certification standards, and adding the most stringent and careful QC processes and procedures, we can dramatically reduce counterfeit parts in the supply chain.