Concerns over counterfeit components grows - Embedded.com

Concerns over counterfeit components grows

LONDON — The Component Obsolescence Group (COG) is warning that the number of counterfeit or substandard products coming onto the market is likely to increase as more organisations look for solutions to the growing problem of component obsolescence.

Michael Trenchard, chief executive of COG, said, “As components become obsolescent, demand may outstrip supply. There is a temptation among some unscrupulous operators in the supply chain to fill the gap in the market by selling on fake, second hand, reclaimed or reject products as something they are not.”

“For organisations which are desperate to source hard to find parts to keep vital equipment up and running, this is likely to compound their problems rather than solve them.”

In extreme cases, according to the COG, the product may not even work, or it may work in a very similar way to the specified component, but with a vastly reduced reliability or life-span. In other cases, parts may not meet all the necessary criteria for a particular application, e.g. a commercial component may fit the end-users’ memory requirements, but may not have the temperature resistance required for high specification industrial equipment.

According to COG, for industry sectors such as the defence, aerospace, transport, utilities and the medical sectors, in which equipment costs are high and the focus is on maximising product life expectancy, as well as maintaining safety standards, this is likely to be a significant issue.

Trenchard, explained, “We could see increasing numbers of companies fall victim to this as the pace of technological change speeds up and more equipment in a wider range of industries is affected by obsolescence.”

“Often these products pass through several more links in the supply chain before getting to the final customer, so that it is almost impossible to untangle the trail.”

“Reputable distributors and end-users often have no idea until it is too late that the component is not what it should be, particularly if the accompanying paperwork has also been falsified. This practice could also impact negatively on the original component manufacturer, if a product which is substandard or not fit for purpose is re-branded as one of theirs.”

COG believes organisations should establish a pro-active strategy to manage component obsolescence is key to mitigating costly obsolescence problems. This should help reduce the amount of unplanned component purchases from unknown sources, thereby minimising the risk of inadvertently purchasing a counterfeit or substandard product.

The acceptability of a product, particularly for components which have been obsolete for some time, must be assessed, as it may be harder to trace their origin. For example, organisations could request datasheets or a sample batch of components for testing prior to a bulk order. However, COG warns that even these measures may not necessarily give absolute assurance of a component’s long-term, in-service performance.

Trenchard, added, “Although lack of traceability does not mean that the product is in some way inferior, it does mean you have no guarantee from the supply chain as to its quality and origin, so the onus is on the end user to check, as far as possible, that it is fit for their purpose.”

Companies should also establish what warranties may be provided by the supply chain and whether they are negotiable, if you have any concerns about a component’s suitability.

COG was established in 1997 and has over 160 member organisations including OEMs, component suppliers, solution providers and government departments.

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