The US Department of Defence showed us in 2012 that it is serious about eradicating counterfeit electronic components from their military supply chains and in all probability other defence sector have a similar problem, writes Adam Fletcher, chairman of the Electronic Components Supply Network (ECSN)
The counterfeit of electronic components for military and avionics applications is primarily carried out by numerous small Chinese based organisations but, at risk of appearing alarmist, is merely a counterfeiting “cottage industry” compared to the scale of electronic components counterfeiting in the commercial world.
The current estimate is that counterfeit electronic components account for at least 2% of the global sales revenues, which equates to 100s of millions of counterfeit components spanning the product range – resistors, connectors, relays to semiconductors.
In contrast to counterfeit components destined for military applications these products are being professionally made by large well established organisations based primarily in Asia, which fortunately is where (currently) the vast majority of the counterfeit devices are purchased and used, often in full complicity between the buyer and seller.
And western consumers contribute as well: When a Chinese produced games terminal or MP3 player fails we’re seemingly content to simply throw it away and buy another one.
But the problem of counterfeit electronic components is inevitably migrating towards our manufacturing infrastructure and make no mistake, when it impacts it will cause severe problems in our industrial, medical and transport sectors, where we need and expect a much longer in-service life than in the consumer products sector.
The New Year resolution for all western-based electronics organisations must be to take decisive measures to avoid sourcing counterfeit electronic components by ensuring that they only buy electronic components direct from the manufacturer, from an authorised distributor or another well established, known and trusted local source.