Can Planning Help Thwart Counterfeiters?

Can something as simple as good planning contribute to anti-counterfeiting measures? Of course it can. But a successful plan has to be proactive rather than reactive. In other words, a plan has to be put in place before a key component in your design ends up as an end-of-life (EOL) device.

The best way to avoid counterfeit components is to put a plan in place while the device is still active. Once a component reaches its end-of-life (EOL), the chances of sourcing a counterfeit part skyrocket. Some companies buy EOL inventory and resell authentic products. Others may take substandard parts and pass them off as EOL devices. A buyer or repair-person desperate for an EOL part might not know the difference.

If you are a manufacturer, look at your new product design and ask the following question: How many of these components will go EOL before my production schedule has reached its end?

Chances are, a good number of these parts will be EOL, particularly if you manufacture a product with a long lifecycle. Any product designed to last a decade or more likely requires extensive certification and qualification approvals. Medical, aerospace, communications, and transportation systems face the EOL challenge every day. So what do you do?

First, talk to a long-term authorized component specialist while the product is still active. Spell out your needs. Try to anticipate how long your production cycle may last to avoid a future hassle. Don't concentrate on what products are funded today, think about what will have to be funded tomorrow.

Few manufacturers can confidently predict how long their product will be in production. Markets and customer demands can change a lot in 10 years. Funding allocations also change. However, a proactive company will plan for EOL anyway and talk to specialists in that market. With a proper long-term supply plan and the right authorized partner, it is possible to ensure a safe, financially-sound supply chain for years to come.

Tomorrow, at 11:00 a.m. PST/2:00 p.m. EST, panelists from Rochester Electronics and Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) will discuss EOL and anticounterfeit measures in a Webinar, The Holistic Approach to Anti-Counterfeiting. ADI, a leading chip manufacturer, has worked with Rochester for more than a decade. As an authorized source for ADI products, Rochester supplies both EOL and active components to ADI customers. The two companies work in conjunction with customers to ensure the authenticity and continuing supply of EOL parts. Find out more tomorrow by registering at the link above.

14 comments on “Can Planning Help Thwart Counterfeiters?

  1. Daniel
    September 12, 2012

    I won't think counterfeits can be avoided at any cost, but can be minimized to a certain level. Space and Defence establishments are the places where counterfeit components have to be avoided at any cost and they had deployed various measures to avoid counterfeit products/ components. But last year we had read that certain cases that supplier had mixed counterfeit components with space grade materials.

    September 12, 2012

    When parts go EOL it can cause a myriad of headaches and not just counterfeiting so your article was well received and appreciated.

  3. ddeisz
    September 12, 2012

    Thank you!

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 12, 2012

    I can see where OEMs may balk at planning for EOL when their product is still new. My guess is there must be an equation where risk (of EOL) is weighed against current and future costs. Is this one of the services EOL planners can provide for OEMs?

  5. VG
    September 12, 2012

    Counterfeit has always been a problem especially companies that do not like to change or update their designs especially Medical and Military. Now due to RoHS, if not all good 50% parts are convereted to RoHS due to material restriction and upgrades, so problem is much higher than ever before.

    I wonder why no one talks about RoHS as one of the biggest reason of counterfeit.

  6. obsbuyer
    September 12, 2012


    Don't forget often you can buy good ROHS parts from franchised distributors and turn them into non-rohs  and vice versa using  ANSI-GEIA-STD-0006 which companies like Corfin and Tin-Tronics perform. Corfin meets strict Navy standards because of the equipment they use. This has helped meet lots of time due to poor planning or EOL issues that you described.

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 12, 2012

    @VG: Funny you should mention that. It was covered on today's webinar on counterfeiting, which will be available in archives soon. Although the component might be the original device, when you change the packaging it affects performance. So even though a device is “authentic” by most standards, changing the packaging and thereby misrepresenting the device (RoHS compliant or non-compliant) technically makes it counterfeit. That was news to me, but it makes sense when you think about it

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 12, 2012

    @obsbuyer: That's good to know. It didn't occur to me until today that changing the packaging on a device can technically make it “counterfeit” in that it might misrepresent the device (at least as the manufacturer intended.) If there are agencies that can do this that are approved, that is the better course of action.

  9. SP
    September 13, 2012

    Definitely planning can help thwart counterfeiters. Counterfeiters dwell on demand for a component. If the companies allows some of their team's time to be spent on proactive obsolescence management, I feel many risks in the cmponent sourcing can be avoided. I remember when I was leading this kind of projects for Applied Materials, the team first used to analyze the complete BOM. Check which components are critical design wise. How many sources are available. For all the components check if there is any EOL listed. Talk to the manufacturer on their production plans for next  5 years. Then for components that are nearing EOL, raise a flag and take action. The team also made a database for automating some of these steps. It was a huge success, management found huge ROI in this. I guess for all companies that are in production, proactive obsolescence management must be mandatoty. Its win win for everyone involved

  10. stochastic excursion
    September 13, 2012

    Is not meeting specifications enought to call a part counterfeit?  To me a typical counterfeit part is a recycled or bad part that is packaged and falsely branded.  It seems to me that a lot of the counterfeits can be caught with adequate incoming inspection.

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 13, 2012

    @se: I believe the criteria regarding what is and is not counterfeit came from either the government or an industry association (I'll have to check the Webinar archives or hope Dan or George bails me out here.) It was a surprise to me as well: your definition matches mine. It makes sense that the performance of something as complex as a semiconductor would be taken into account; but it broadens the base of what devices are considered counterfeits and makes all the more difficult to spot them.


  12. ddeisz
    September 13, 2012

    Bail-out attempt for Barbara…..I think you are correct in saying that a lot of counterfeit parts can be caught. The definition of “adequate incoming inspection” needs to be clear and I don't think most places take it to the degree necessary today. To date, the only agreed upon standard in this regard is visual (not dynamic) and it's not adequate in my opinion. SMT is pioneering visual-only inspection methods in detection of counterfeit. They are a broker and they do not do dynamic testing (seperate and much bigger problem determining long-term reliability). Their visual methods are really second-to-none that I have seen. Investments by SMT include SEM surface analysis, marking, die marking, scraping, etc….. That being said, doing dynamic testing using the OCM test program (like we do at Rochester) is the only real way to determine reliability of a product. Visual tells you nothing about reliability.

    With regards to your question about not meeting specs enough to call a part counterfeit. Yes and no. It depends on the spec because the original part may not have met the spec either. We see this all the time with components controlled by source control drawings. If you do a comparative analysis (like we do at Rochester) on every single pin for every single parameter in a dynamic test environment on every replicated part, you have something on which to base the judgement. When it comes to products not governed by an SCD (standard product offering), your statement is correct most of the time…..most of the time.

    Dan Deisz

    Rochester Electronics

  13. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 13, 2012

    @se: Yeah…what he said 🙂

    Thanks Dan!

  14. stochastic excursion
    September 14, 2012

    I would think an electron microscope would do the trick!  Wondering if even a low-magnification visual might uncover differences in the layout surface reflectivity pattern and so forth, between IC's.

    Dynamics testing also highly effective, with prop delays and setup times typically uniform for a given part number.  But just thinking of a DOD issue with chips having higher functionality being re-tasked by foreign powers.  Depending on how real this issue is and how artfully the counterfeiting is done, this seems like it would present the most challenge.

    Great info, thanks!

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