Shelter from the storm

ESNA Mar15 Pg16 Falcon 2Buyers sourcing components for military and aerospace programs face a perfect storm of counterfeit parts, but there are measures that can offer some protection, explains Falcon Electronics. 

The 21st century has ushered in a host of new and wonderful technologies. Unfortunately, these innovations have caused obsolescence issues that wreak havoc across all major military and aerospace programs. Buyers wading into today’s sourcing requirements are forced to navigate through a perfect storm of suspect product.

Military and aerospace programs have extended life cycles well beyond 20 years, while technology has increased the speed of obsolescence for many electronic components. In this cost conscious era, funding for redesign is often not available and paying exorbitant prices for discontinued products creates a ‘gold rush’ to fill those requirements.

Wave of counterfeits

Consequently Asia, the leading source of low cost manufacturing, has now become the primary source for counterfeit products making their way into these programs. While it is true that there have always been unscrupulous individuals willing to defraud companies, the cheap labor of the Far East, coupled with the marketing power of the internet, have made this trickle of suspect parts into a powerful wave crashing into these programs. This has created a proliferation of bad and misrepresented components entering the supply chain resulting in costly rework and at times, equipment failure in the field, or potential loss of life.

The Government and the prime contractors have been fighting an uphill battle for the last 15 years trying to limit purchasing from non-authorized sources. It’s virtually impossible for customers to avoid independent distributors altogether, so new sourcing requirements have been put in place to authenticate product from non-authorized sources. Testing has grown more costly in the attempt to weed out counterfeit product. Yet despite all this testing, bad product still continues to slip into the supply chain.

Purchasing departments are sometimes their own worst enemy. In the attempt to keep costs down, they often utilize non-approved manufacturers of obsolete components due to high costs and minimums. Buyers are further hampered by corporate edicts to reduce the number of suppliers they use. Also in today’s purchasing environment, like everywhere else, there are less people to do the work.

Safe sourcing

So where should buyers source products for older programs? The first answer should always be the original manufacturer and their authorized distributors. That is the easy part. The challenge is finding safe ways of sourcing products outside of authorized channels. While many initially react to the price, they should be more concerned with product integrity and functionality, as well as long term support. There are companies who can source and manufacture many of the obsolete components in today’s marketplace.

Falcon has several authorized suppliers who support older/obsolete technologies. These include API Technologies, Datel, a division of Murata Power, DPACI, Natel Engineering and Xtreme Semiconductor. They offer Falcon solutions that not only solve the immediate obsolescence problem, but can also offer long term support, along with counterfeit risk mitigation. These companies have the expertise and the QML certifications to address these issues, but are underutilized by the very companies that desperately need their services.

Falcon Electronics has used this approach since its inception and claims never to have had a counterfeit component pass through its system. This commitment to serve customers through legitimate sources brings the capabilities of these companies to the fore in the battle against counterfeits.