Crowdsourcing the Counterfeiting Problem

Many minds make light work: That's the wisdom of crowdsourcing. A new online community is hoping to leverage the power of the people to help address counterfeit risk and obsolescence headaches in the supply chain.

Network Product Solutions LLC has launched the Trusted Global Buyers Network (TGBN), an online community that will allow members to rate sources of supply to help buyers find trustworthy sources of parts.

“Today, buyers purchase parts from independent distributors primarily when they cannot find inventory at authorized sources,” said Ed Odette, founder and president of NPS, in a press release. “TGBN offers buyers and engineers the ability to collaborate and share their experiences with suppliers by rating them based on their quality, compliance controls, trustworthiness, and warranty.”

Once authorized channels have been exhausted, electronics purchasers are faced with the challenge of sorting through the choice of independent component distributors and brokers. Some industry organizations, such as the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA), work to create standards and point to resources. IDEA members must each have a proven quality management system (QMS), be active in advancing ethical standards, and adhere to a variety of standards. At the same time, there's room for more collaboration.

“The technology has been there to mitigate false availability problems; the willpower has been missing,” said John Becker, former Special Assistant to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (DUSD) for Logistics & Materiel Readiness (L&MR), in the written statement. “TGBN's approach opens up new ways to mitigate the problem.”

TGB, not only provides information on known good sources, but also points to problem parts and suppliers. Member buyers and engineers rate and review suppliers, and share best-practices.

Check out the infographic below… Do you think crowdsourcing has the potential to help OEMs fight the counterfeit component problem?

— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page Friend me on Facebook

19 comments on “Crowdsourcing the Counterfeiting Problem

  1. jesse_securecomponents
    April 18, 2014

    Hailey – thanks for sharing this. I am all for the exchange of data and information. I need to explore the site a bit more and better understand how the supplier rating system works before I determine how useful a tool it is.

  2. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 18, 2014

    Thanks, Jesse. We look forward to hearing your thoughts once you've reviewed it. Like you, i believe that collaboration is going to be an important part of solving or at least mitigating this problem. Let us know what works and what doesn't!

  3. aimeejune
    April 18, 2014

    Hi, Jesse. I'm the editor of TGBN and, yes, the exchange of data and information can be an incredibly useful tool when it comes to sharing experiences with suppliers. The one-to-one exchange between peers or colleagues in an email or a phone call simply doesn't scale. Only a few benefit. The “one-to-many” concept behind community allows everyone to benefit. That's why we incorporate a Ratings & Review system (Bizarrevoice) into TGBN so that members could rate and review suppliers. To our friends in the non-electronics world, we say “think Angie's List meets”. Buyers connect with other buyers and rate and review suppliers. 

    There are plenty of great organizations creating standards and educating about best practices to prevent counterfeiting (this publication included!). Some of them have extensive lists of good suppliers. We strongly support all those organizations and their efforts. But access to that information can be limited and, worse yet, not all buyers are aware of what these organizations are trying to do. With the Supplier Directory on TGBN, we are allowing buyers to see for themselves who the good, the bad, and the ugly are based on the members reviews. 
    We don't pretend this is a silver bullet. It's just another weapon in the arsenal.

    I'd be happy to share more with you at any time. We recognize that this is a unique concept and we are anxious to educate. We are especially anxious to do our bit — along with our participating members — to help take the gray out of the gray market. 

    Since we just recently launhced, we are still populating our Supplier Directory. Feel free to contact us regarding any suppliers you don't see there yet and we'll get them listed promptly.


    Aimee Kalnoskas
    editor-in-chief, TGBN.

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 18, 2014

    @Aimee, welcome to the EBN community. We're glad to help get the conversation started.

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 21, 2014

    @Rich, what you say is true..and don't get me started about what I learned about Amazon reviews working at a consumer electronics company. Scary stuff.  Many reviewers are paid under the assumption that no one is really willing to be teh first reviewer.

  6. Anand
    April 28, 2014

    When it comes to demand and supply of electronic products, there are simply many sources through which a part may be changed. The counterfeit goods are something that should be avoided, no matter how good these are claimed to be by the distributer. This dependency on other goods has increased because of unavailability of best products in local markets, if companies need customer satisfaction then they need to put help stations with a lot of inventory control.

  7. itguyphil
    April 28, 2014

    I think a mind shift is needed. People will always go for the cheaper price. If there's enough education to let people know that the counterfeiting is what also makes the genuine products more expensive, it may make a difference.

  8. ahdand
    April 29, 2014

    @Hospice: Yes indeed at least for a start its good. Good that they started it because even though the technology was there nobody used it.      

  9. ahdand
    April 29, 2014

    @ananadvy: Well if the demand is there many would shorten the supply just to create an extra demand. I think it's a good strategy though because that opens another market         

  10. fwlymburner
    April 29, 2014

    @Rich  You are correct that there is fraud in the commercial ratings world, but honestly its a small percentage and most saavy readers can detect the BS reviews easily.  Quanity also helps!  In addition on TGBN we are deploying one of the most advanced ratings and review systems out there, a review goes through two review processes and then also can be reported by users.  We also have tied the reviews to the community members reputation system therefore allowing how much they contribute to be tied to the power of their rating.  As a supply chain expert I would love to see your reviews of suppliers you have dealt with on TGBN!!

  11. fwlymburner
    April 29, 2014

    @rich Nope.  Just my experiences being in B2B high-tech social for the past 5 years, having managed about 15 communities (many in the semiconductor space.)  I was part of the team that deployed ratings and reviews for Texas Instruments and am well versed in the methodologies to prevent such fraud.  Hey I'm not saying it doesnt happen, just that in my experiences in the electronics space it hasnt been a problem.  Maybe this would be a good article for EBN, an interview on this with the heads of social at all the major tech companies, I know most of them and would be happy to introduce.

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @Pocharie, the shift you are talking about is going from the price tag to true price. We need to start thinking about the price of recalls, brand tarnshiment and poor customer expereince caused by counterfeit components.

  13. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @fwlymburner, welcome to the conversation! I think that user reviews can be helpful… especially as a community develops. A regular contributor starts to gain credibility (or lose it) based on the thoughts that he or she has offered. Further, a review is just one tool of many…i don't think anyone is going to make a big and important purchase decision based on a single review but it can be a helpful part of a broader investigation.  What would you say are some of the ways that you could use to judge the helpfulness of a review?

  14. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @fwlymburner, that would make a great article or live chate and i'd love an introduction. Please feel free to shoot me an email and i'll gladly take your help:

  15. fwlymburner
    April 29, 2014

    @Hailey  Thanks for the welcome.  I couldn't agree more, reviews are just one tool in the arsenal in combatting the challenges of obsolescence, counterfeit, and hard-to-find parts.  The challenge we saw was that there was nearly nowhere to go on the web to find any type of review at all!  Most information that is available is kept behind logins and regulations.  We think the combination or collaboration, ratings & reviews, proactive planning, and understanding of process, procedures, and standards are the winning combination.  

    Specifcally to ratings and reviews there are many ways to establish validity. 

    1. Quantity of Reviews on the Product  – a single reviewer can be good but will almost always be biased in some way.  True reviews come from the masses.  Those same masses have a way of filtering bogus reviews as well 🙂
    2. Quantity of Reviews by a Reviewer – If a reviewer writes once (good or bad) they are most likely biased as well.  Either they were burned or delighted… single experiences are valuable but never the end all be all.  Its consistency that means everything.  So looking to see how many reviews the person has written and what about it a good way to judge.  I myself tend to only rate games… because they are my passion.  If I wrote a review on a vaccuum it would carry less weight that if I wrote a review on a new game.
    3. Quality – Short is not sweet when it comes to reviews.  If someone has written a review with no arguements it should be dismissed.  Most of the fraudulent reviews end up being “I loved it” “it was great” but reading a three paragraph review about someones experience can always be valuable.
    4. Website Repuation – Trust is earned.  Having been a member of eBay for nearly 15 years I trust its ratings and reviews/reputation system.  They are constantly improving and tweaking.  

    I'll leave you with a story.  My boss recently had to change out his projector in his home theater.  When he bought the first one it was in a store, with professional help, install, etc.  The total cost was more than my first car cost.  When he did the replacement he did it all without talking to a single sales person.  Replaced the entire system using only ratings and reviews on various sites.  And his system is amazing and he got some great deals.  

    Now if this 60+ year old, non-web savvy guy can use this methodology the incrediably smart engineers and procurement professionals can too to make their purchases less risky.  Counterfeit is growing like crazy (we project 17-22% per year) Let's try something new cause the same ole same ole of the past twenty years isnt stopping the problem.

  16. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @fwlymburner, thanks for the comprehensive response. I agree with it all… It'll be interesting to see how the community develops. Peer experience is always helpful.

  17. itguyphil
    April 30, 2014


    That is a good & different perspective that I didn't count. It's undeniably damaging when counterfeits cause issues in the marketplace. If the brand recognition truly only lies with the original manufacturer, it will be a black eye for them.

  18. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 29, 2014

    The potential downfall caused by countetfeit components ranges from merely inconvenient to truly life and death. I think about electronic content in vehicles, airplanes, medical electronics. Failures in these areas can have dire consequences.

  19. itguyphil
    May 29, 2014

    I agree. That's why context is so important. But all in all, it's still risk business & damaging as a whole.

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