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Anti-Counterfeiting Best-Practices: Certifications Are Only the Start

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.

13 comments on “Anti-Counterfeiting Best-Practices: Certifications Are Only the Start

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 21, 2012

    These standards have gone a long toward improving the overall reputation of independent distributors. As a whole, independents have recognized that some of their peers are not the most stringent when it comes to sourcing components. Companies that go through the processes described above make it clear to customers they are serious about maintaining quality in the supply chian.

  2. _hm
    May 21, 2012

    I have marked that sometime, there is desperate need for some obsolete parts by DSCC Columbus. They must have these parts to support legacy systems. They have to get these parts and they are enticed to purchase counterfeit parts.

     

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 22, 2012

    I totally agree . When the situation is desparate , when a critical system is down and when somebody's neck on the block, such buying decisions are bound to be taken .

     

    Only thing that can be done is after the emergency situation is taken care of,  a detailed inspection and quality check should be carried out and if possible the parts bought in emewrgency situation should be replaced by the parts from authentic sources as early as possible

  4. _hm
    May 22, 2012

    During war situation like that of Iraq an Afghnistan, many different parts were needed on regular basis.

  5. ahdand
    May 23, 2012

    Getting a certificate does not mean you got free license. It's just permit for you to drive business. Sadly right now when it doesn't happen right now

  6. elctrnx_lyf
    May 23, 2012

    That's an extensive list of test procedures to execute. So will all the lots undergo this testing or only based on the supplier type. In general do you work with any suppliers other than big oem chip companies?

  7. Nora Gibbs
    May 24, 2012

    That's a great question. Each part we purchase does go through an inspection process in house, but no- we don't decap and xray every part that passes through. But if you want us to, we certainly can.

    We do have a vendor rating system we use in house, which helps us identify the vendors for which we use our regular inspection process. If we feel the need, we can xray or decap in house for those vendors that we either don't have a long relationship with, if there's a part that's been flagged in the system as suspect in the past, or honestly- if we just think it needs to be done. We have 28 years of experience behind the metrics that make up our rating system, so we stand by those results. As I said though, we also take it to the next level and use our market and/or commodity knowledge in deciding if parts need extra testing. And of course, if there are any flags at all during the initial inspection process, we can always pull it and do more thorough testing on it.

     

    We do have a large supplier base, so it's imperative that we have a screening process for our vendors. “Know thy vendor” is one of the rules here at Smith that we all abide by. We are only as good as the products we sell.

     

     

     

  8. Nora Gibbs
    May 24, 2012

    From time to time you hear a story about the gov't buying a bad part and it having disastrous effects on their side.

    We would certainly be willing to try to help in situations when there is a legacy product involved. In my experience, those are some of the high dollar items that are easy to duplicate, thus the plethora of bad parts in the market. Again, with a known vendor, stringent testing procedures and an open relationship with said vendor, a lot of these situations can be avoided.

     

  9. nuhugirl123
    May 27, 2012

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  10. nuhugirl123
    May 27, 2012

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  11. ahdand
    May 30, 2012

    Well Im not sure but I think there is o even there will be in the near future

  12. ppicone
    June 7, 2012

    After the trouble we have had, we now do not ship anything from China that is not traceable without going to a 3rd party test lab. For a small Company like us, our internal QC was lacking. The days of using my Orafec machine and acetone are history…. We use AAA Labs as they have a test facility right in China. It is not cost effective of course but pricing parts a bit higher to ensure complete quality out weighs everything else.

  13. ahdand
    June 10, 2012

    PPICONE: You certainly have a good point here. I also feel that you cannot only focus on the budget. It should be both and wait till the time comes. It cetainly a plus factor in the long run.

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