How to prevent suspect components from entering your supply chain
A supply chain is reliant on stability and quality. If anything threatens either of these facets, providers will have a difficult time ensuring overall supply chain excellence. Unfortunately, counterfeiting is a high risk. How can you minimize the potential risk of your supply chain being infiltrated by imitation or suspect components?
These tips will help you identify suspect devices and avoid having them infiltrate your supply chain.
What is a suspect component?
The definition of suspect components tends to be broad, as 'suspect' varies in meaning from person to person. On one hand, suspect devices might be counterfeit items such as replicas or the actual product. On the other hand, a manufacturing part that is labeled as new but bears signs of use could also be considered 'suspect.' It doesn't matter whether the part is a counterfeit or if it has simply been repackaged after several years off the production line. Both of these circumstances present a risk.
With this in mind, this criteria can describe a suspect device:
- An unauthorized replica or fake model of the actual product
- An older device that has misleading markings which disguise it as a different device
- Defective parts that were scrapped by the original manufacturer of the part and unknowingly resold
- Any parts that have been salvaged from scrapped pieces and resold
Audit your carefully selected suppliers.
You can't slack when it comes to security provisions for your business. Whether you're personally purchasing the material or outsourcing the purchase, you need to have a consistent level of management over the supplier relationship. Experts recommend audits of all unknown independent suppliers. They also recommend having a clear understanding of the management methods these suppliers use for their other supply chains.
Consider these questions regarding whether to use an independent supplier:
- How long has the company been in business?
- Are they the legal owner of the stock they're selling? Or are they a middleman for another company?
- What checks are in place to mitigate suspect device risks?
- Does their offer seem realistic, or is it too good to be true?
Sometimes, when a company is in the midst of crisis, it's tempting to ignore the system of checks and balances that you've put in place. If you're running low on stock, you might do anything to get what you need; you might not want to analyze their supply too closely. But you should consider what you know about the company already, what impacts your purchase might have on your company's reputation if the product is suspect, and what your gut instinct is telling you.
It would be nice if you never had to buy outside of a product's franchised network, but you might need to use independent sellers for any number of reasons. After you've found an independent source that has proved reputable, experts recommend striking up a partner relationship between your businesses to avoid looking to potentially suspect businesses to fulfill your needs.
Pay special attention to the receipt.
Goods inspections can be done through many different formats. Usually, these inspections depend on proven quality levels and traceability of the components. An inspection might be a simple visual process, or you might want to use X-ray technology to confirm authenticity. Decapsulation is a more aggressive inspection technique. You can use any number of different tools to identify suspect components in your business.
If the parts come from the franchised network rather than an independent supplier, you'll likely find a visual inspection adequate for your security. But independent suppliers should be more thoroughly inspected to be sure their products will not cause failure or delays on your manufacturing line.
Regardless of the understood level of risk that the supplier poses, experts recommend doing a thorough inspection of any goods that have been supplied through a first-time supplier. This is a logical quality control measure in addition to being good for your peace of mind. If you log the control measure appropriately, you can prove that you've done due diligence should any faults occur following the electronics manufacturing of the parts.
Maintain a reference database.
After you've conducted your inspection and audit of the supply company, you should make sure that the inspection and audit details are properly logged in your company's database. It's a good idea to create a reference database that contains information about all of the purchase orders you've made and the supply companies who provide them.
When you have a reference database, you can determine what inspection levels future products from the same supplier should undergo. If previous inspections passed with flying colors, a visual inspection might be enough. Meanwhile, if a shipment contained suspect items previously, you'll want to do a more thorough inspection to make sure they're correct.
You can also use the reference database for training new employees. When you have a database with all of your records of 'suspect' components, inspectors have a better idea of what to look for. Whenever a staff member is involved in inspections of a purchase order, they should be trained with whatever materials you have available. They should also be kept abreast of the latest inspection techniques and inspection-related news in the marketplace.
Electronics Manufacturing Solutions
Circuits Central is a company which provides a number of different electronics manufacturing solutions and services. If you're undergoing any changes in your manufacturing plant, Circuits Central can help you out. To learn more about our solutions, call us today at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.