Prevention better than cure for mil/aero customers

Rochester Electronics’ technical sales manager, Ken Greenwood, discusses how military and aerospace customers can protect themselves from supply chain disruption

When the world began emerging from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic 15-months ago the semiconductor market’s capacity issues became apparent. The first sign of trouble was the automotive market’s inability to meet high volume orders with the minimal stock available. Since then, this has become a common incidence throughout almost every market, including the military and defense sectors.

However, the defense market always stood the risk of being ‘squeezed’. With the sector’s comparatively smaller production runs and strenuous testing needs, the sector long ran the risk of shortage.

Now in 2022, fab capacity has practically disappeared and lead times are extended beyond practicality. Additionally, as demand for more modern technologies rises, third-party fabs have begun closing rising numbers of legacy fabs. Often, those shuttered product lines have been those viewed as ‘long term secure’ technologies.

With original component manufacturers restricting production priorities, many have pruned older product families, process technologies and package styles. Given the aerospace and defense markets’ components have some of the longest production and service lives on the planet a significant issue has arose. With both short and long-term component availability more uncertain than ever, how do companies minimize these risks without creating new ones? How can industries whose components frequently have extended production runs and service lives predict future needs in volatile times?

In an unpredictable world, the best risk mitigation practices are as follows:

Dual sourcing: While approving multiple manufacturers for the same device is rarely possible, it is fully possible and essential to source the same device through several authorized supply channels. Always ensure that components are securable through another route if one supply closes.

Be warned in advance: Trusted suppliers with a business’ shared critical part list can warn companies in advance of potential crises. Whether it be natural disasters, extended lead times or market trends which threaten vital supplies, a trusted supplier can assist through potential downfalls. If a hurricane were to halt production at a plant, a supplier could alert which components would be affected, organize inventory to prevent line-stops, efficiently working as pro-active support.

Track component lifecycles: Never rely just on online component databases’ lifecycle algorithms. Instead, seek second opinions from authorized end-of-life (EOL) suppliers and manufacturers. Many components marked as ‘discontinued’ on databases are still in production from authorized EOL sources, sometimes decades after formal EOL dates

Anti-counterfeiting policies: Unfulfilled demand and extended lead times drive premiums for those with available stock. Seeking to take advantage, counterfeiters offer fraudulent product with lower prices. Traditional trademarks of counterfeit product listings containing spelling mistakes or packages containing no die no longer holds true. Modern scammers employ sophisticated processes to pass off reconditioned products as brand new, hiding the origins of components and faking the proofing paperwork. Only by sourcing from authorized EOL distributors and manufacturers can a business maintain foolproof safety.

As worldwide markets continue shifting in unpredictable ways, companies must ensure the viability of components. The necessities of supporting future and past components, foreseeing potential crises, obtaining a long-term supply of critical parts and maintaining relationships with manufacturers cannot be overstated. To ensure continued success a relationship with an authorized sourcing partner is of utmost importance.