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Talking about Counterfeit Components at Productronica

It’s hard to quantify the cost of counterfeiting to the electronics manufacturing industry. Having started by simply replacing the printed identification on low cost devices with that of much higher cost item, the counterfeiters have steadily become more sophisticated in the way they capitalize on the complexities and the supply chain.

We wanted to track down some expert thoughts on the topic so we went to Productronica, one of the largest electronic manufacturing events in the world. Plenty of people were working on the biggest issues plaguing manufacturers around the world. Held earlier this month, in Munich, Germany, the show attracted more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and 55,000 visitors.

Philip Stoten assembled a well-informed panel to discuss this crucial topic, who work in all areas of the debate. Keith Bryant, global director of electronic sales at Yxlon, a well-known expert on x-ray technology, was joined on the panel by Michael Ford, European marketing director of Aegis Software, a regular columnist on all things ‘Industry 4.0’ and a regular panelist on many software and supply chain related topics. The third panelist to join us was Dr. Bill Cardoso, chief executive officer of Creative Electron, an expert in the field who is also part of the organizing committee of one of the industry’s events that focuses on this topic.

The problem of counterfeiting is complicated and widespread. An example mentioned in this debate is the replacement of military grade devices, that need to have undergone more rigorous testing, with commercial devices that, whilst identical to look at, do not meet the same standards. Let’s not forget that this is not merely a financial challenge, it is also one of safety, particularly in mission critical equipment or where power devices can cause a shock or fire hazard.

Solutions come from three avenues. One tool for combatting the counterfeiters is inspection using x-ray equipment or something similar. Another is to have a rigorous, traceable, and transparent supply chains that exposes any counterfeit source. And the third is, of course, prosecution, including imprisonment. This combination of detection and deterrent are at the core of any strategy to ensure the components that reach the line are as intended and conform to the specification required.

Click on the video below to hear these experts outline the some of what’s going on for electronics OEMs in terms of addressing counterfeiting issues.

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