How independents combat counterfeiting

hand and circuitModern independent distribution is involved in developing the anti-counterfeiting tools that support obsolete and end-of-life material, explains 4 Star Electronics.

Over the past decade, the electronic component industry has struggled with the proliferation of counterfeit material throughout the channel, as well as obsolescence caused by shorter component lifecycles.

These factors required quality independent distributors (ID) to provide high-level testing services and solutions. Independent distributors often get categorized as brokers, simply buying and selling parts, but modern independent distribution is much more than that. IDs aid the development of anti-counterfeiting tools and techniques that support obsolete and end-of-life material.

Developing standards

The Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA) IDEA-STD-1010 was introduced in 2006 to address inspection of electronic components distributed in the open market. Another important development has been the SAE’s AS5553 standard, which encourages original equipment manufacturers and contract manufacturers to streamline purchasing practices and tighten supplier requirements. These best-practice procurement strategies prioritize original component manufacturer or authorized distribution purchases and recommend qualifying any open-market vendors.

OEMs and CMs therefore need to use caution when choosing an independent distributor and limit their number of approved open market suppliers. Thorough management of multiple vendors is difficult and costly, especially if the qualification process includes on-site audits. Also, utilizing a large number of independent suppliers tends to drive up component costs when only a limited source of supply exists. Finally, not all independent distributors are created alike. Those that provide quality inspection and testing to authenticate parts deliver components that are more likely to be free from defects and counterfeit concerns.

Test out IDs

The level of testing required for open market purchases varies by the amount of risk associated with the application, but the minimum acceptable testing generally includes parameters performed to the latest industry standards, including IDEA-STD-1010B, AS6081, CCAP-101. These should include: specification validation and researching reported counterfeits on industry databases such as ERAI and GIDEP. It should also incorporate visual inspection of packaging and components, surface and marking analysis, x-rays and decapsulation for die examination.

Higher levels of risk will require additional testing. Electrical testing, confocal scanning acoustic microscopy (C-SAM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and other customer specified tests may be used to aid component authentication, or to demonstrate reliability.

Director of operations at independent distributor, 4 Star Electronics, Scott McKee, said: “We’ve invested in equipment, personnel and training to provide customers with quality material. Counterfeiting continues to get more sophisticated, which has caused us to look at higher levels of testing. We perform all basic AS6081 testing in-house and partner with experts for specific needs such as scanning electron and acoustic microscopy and functional electrical testing.”

Supply chain solutions

Another area where independent distributors provide value is purchasing support, including processes for bill of material (BOM) and lifecycle analysis, vendor management, kitting and sometimes acting as a purchasing department for customers. The top tier independent distributors have developed rigorous vendor management programs for dealing with large numbers of open market or non-authorized suppliers. This is a result of years of experience dealing with counterfeit and sub-standard product and a realization that preventing the use of poor vendors can be just as important as inspection and testing.

By implementing these strategies and adding value to the supply chain, independent distributors help address counterfeit issues by providing quality components and reducing the risks associated with obsolescence.