Mouser Builds a Better Parts Trap

Buying through authorized channels is supposed to reduce the risk of receiving counterfeit components, yet franchised distributors are among the most active adopters of counterfeit prevention measures. Counterfeit parts can enter authorized channels, and distributors are doing whatever they can to plug holes in the system.

Say a “customer” orders 100 parts from an authorized distributor and obtains 100 counterfeit parts. The customer reports to the distributor that the parts it ordered don't work for some reason — the design spec has changed, for example — and must be returned. The customer then sends the counterfeits to the distributor, which then sends the customer 100 more authentic parts. In the meantime, the counterfeit parts could go back on the distributor's shelf for resale.

The system should work, since purchases were made through authorized channels. The problem is with the process. That's why distributors such as {complink 12816|Mouser Electronics Inc.} have sought AS9120A certification. The standard, developed for the aerospace industry, addresses chain of custody, traceability, control and availability of records. AS9120A certification requires rigorous purchasing, handling, storage, and traceability controls to prevent counterfeit and nonconforming electronic components from entering the supply chain. Components are inspected before they leave a distributor's warehouse and when they are returned. The process flags retuned products that aren't authentic.

“Receiving this qualification gives customers the added assurance that they are getting genuine parts globally,” says Kevin Hess, vice president of technical marketing at Mouser. “I think a lot of distributors are taking this approach, and for us, it means components get inspected even when they are returned. There is an accurate and comprehensive review of the component's origin to make sure it matches the part that is returned by the customer.”

As a catalog distributor, Mouser (one of EBN's sponsors) releases as many as three or four new products to the market each day. The company handles a huge volume of small transactions. “We need to have the products we sell available, so we have to have the right inventory on the shelf,” says Hess. “It's a risk we take from the inventory stocking standpoint and the number of transactions we process. We have to have a strategy that enables us to stand behind our products. This is key.”

Mouser also supports the Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts (SEC. 818) law. According to SEC.818 (which we’ve covered before), several measures must be taken to avoid counterfeit components. For example, Department of Defense contractors and subcontractors are required to obtain electronic parts that are in production or available in stock from the original component manufacturers (OCM) or their authorized dealers. In addition, contractors that supply electronic components are now required to establish policies and procedures to keep counterfeit components out of the defense supply chain.

Mouser has also adopted relevant requirements of SAE standard AS5553 Counterfeit Electronic Parts; Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation, and Disposition into the AS9120A Quality Management System. The company is a contributing member of the SAE G-19 Counterfeit Electronic Parts Committee that wrote AS5553.

10 comments on “Mouser Builds a Better Parts Trap

  1. elctrnx_lyf
    March 6, 2012

    I believe all the distributors will start getting this certification to get a chance to seel the components for the defense market. Probably this wil result in a new set of jobs who actually taking care of the counterfeit components. There should be clear plan of tests to be executed to get only the right components to the end customer.

  2. Anna Young
    March 6, 2012

    The initiatives taken by mouser electronics Inc to adopt AS9120A is certainly assuring. This indicates positive measure to support and reduce counterfeit electronics parts within the supply chain. Great move!.

  3. tioluwa
    March 6, 2012

    Great move by mouser, but i would like to ask:

    If a customer buys some products and detects them to be counterfiet (by any means) will mouser accept them back?

  4. Ariella
    March 6, 2012

    @tioluwa That's a very good question.

    @Barbara love the title!

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 6, 2012

    @TIOULWA: I should have made it clearer: this “customer” is a fraud and intentionally tries to swap bogus parts for the real thing. In many cases, the counterfeit parts will be accompanies by the paperwork attached to the real parts. So, if a distrbutor just assumes all is well (there is a record, after all) and doesn't inspect the returned parts, that's how the counterfeits get circulated. Legitimate customers would not knowingly send back counterfeits.

    And no, Mouser would not accept them back.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 6, 2012

    Thanks Ariella! I labored over it for awhile then 'eureka'!

  7. Ariella
    March 6, 2012

    @Barbara the results are worth the effort here.

  8. tioluwa
    March 7, 2012


    sorry, I get the picture clearly now.

    However, i'm really thinking that if Mouser is putting so much to ensure that no counterfeit part enter's their stock, how come it is still the problem of the customer who buys from them if any part turns out to be counterfeit?

    I know its not an easy battle, but i agree that Mouser has taken a great step in the right direction.

  9. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 7, 2012

    TIOUWLA: That's the absurdity of the move the government has put into place–it “penalizes” the OEM for not doing all the same types of inspection that should be done in the supply chain. Buying parts through a company such as Mouser is supposed to reduce the risk of counterfeits considerably, as long as everyone in the channel is doing their part. Auditing processes is just as important as auditing handling in this case.

  10. garyk
    March 7, 2012

    Distributors must buy from Authorized or Approved Manufactures PERIOD!

    Sensible Micro Corporation stated that 95% of couterfiet part come from CHINA, please read SMT News Letter.

    The big question is how can we trust CHINA?

    They buy most of our re-cycled PCB, computors, electronics, etc. they have a BILLION people to keep busy!

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