Standards have long been a way for the electronics industry to keep quality expectations high and keep trading partners in check. Companies certified in this or that area have some cachet in winning contracts over those that don't hold a similar badge of acceptance.
A similar development is now happening in a niche of the market that, for years, was considered the wild stepsister to the more broadly “accepted” sourcing channels. In the last few years, a number of standards, whitepapers, and certifications have been drafted specifically for independent distributors, with the aim of weeding out sketchy brokers of excess inventory or low-cost, hard-to-find components, from those that offer value-added supply chain services. The first standards initially focused on component inspection processes. (You can browse the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA) site to get a sense of what's been targeted so far.)
This year, two elements are being added to the list, and they are directly related to new US legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is aimed at curbing the growing prevalence of counterfeit parts showing up in military and aerospace systems.
Last week, I wrote about the recently ratified IDEA-QMS-9090 standard, which outlines advanced quality management system requirements and establishes guidelines for independent distributors “procuring and distributing electronic products for both the high reliability and commercial markets,” according to IDEA. (See: Raising the Bar for Independent Distributors.)
The other standard worth mentioning in the same breath is the SAE International G-19 committee's AS6081, which will provide guidance specifically for military and aerospace distributors, which will have to comply with terms of the NDAA.
The AS6081, will:
- …prescribe counterfeit parts avoidance requirements directly applicable to distributors. The intent of the document is to describe a program to establish and maintain certified distributors of electronic components whose regular use of anti-counterfeit process controls and requirements (in their purchasing and supplying operations) is designed to ensure delivery of authentic products that meet original component manufacturer specification.
The standard has gone through a second round of balloting, and the committee is meeting regularly to refine draft revisions and get it ready to move it through final approval. Ratification and public release of AS6081 could be two or three months away, said Phil Zulueta, a consultant and SAE G-19 committee chairman. He added that once AS6081 is released, Anne Poncheri, one of the G-19 members, will conduct a course to help companies come up to speed.
The image below provides an AS6081 overview:
As I mentioned in the previous blog cited above, independent distributors are involved at various levels, and there has been a lot of cross-industry interest in AS6081. Besides the fact that IDEA-QMS-9090 extends AS6081 requirements beyond aerospace and defense to the commercial sector, IDEA executive director Debra Eggeman is a member of SAE's G-19 Counterfeit Electronic Parts Committee. And, while AS6081 certification is not a requirement right now for IDEA-QMS-9090 certification, Eggeman says it will likely be required in a future IDEA standard — the IDEA-QMS-9091, “Quality Management System Standard for Independent Distributors of Electronics Association Members Providing High Reliability Parts.”
Now that we've covered a few of the ways independent distributors are making quality a top priority, I'd love to hear from OEMs and contract manufacturers about the best practices they are implementing with independent distributors. Please post your comments below.