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Eye on Counterfeit

Survey Says: Buyers want information, education on counterfeit electronics

The danger of counterfeit components remains a top concern among design engineers and purchasing professionals, and most say they need help identifying quality sources of supply when they have to turn to the open market for obsolete or hard-to-find parts, according to a counterfeit components study from Penton Media’s Design Engineering and Sourcing Group.

Supply chain professionals agree that purchasing electronic components directly from the manufacturer or their authorized distributors is the first line of defense in the war against counterfeiters; but they also say it’s not always possible.  Component obsolescence remains a key obstacle to purchasing “authorized only,” and although authorized distributors are devising new ways to meet customers’ long-range component needs,  the bottom line is that customers frequently find themselves in need of electronic parts that their key suppliers no longer have in stock.

That’s when they turn to the open market.

Last summer, more than 2,300 subscribers to Electronic Design, Machine Design and SourceESB participated in Penton’s first annual Counterfeit Electronic Components Survey, which asked about top concerns and sought to gauge industry attitudes and awareness of the counterfeit components problem; subscribers include design engineers and procurement professionals. Fifty-four percent of those respondents said they need help identifying quality sources of supply on the open market, and 50% said they need better training and education on the techniques and tools used to identify counterfeit parts.

The study identified other key issues as well—particularly the need for a clearer understanding of reporting procedures and counterfeit mitigation plans; 34% of respondents said they need help understanding how to report counterfeit parts found in the supply chain, and 14% said they need help in developing a counterfeit mitigation plan for their companies.

The New Year will undoubtedly bring a new slate of educational resources and opportunities to help designers and procurement professionals get a better handle on these issues and more.  Standards-setting group SAE International is one of the first to update its slate of programs for 2013, offering a new course for distributors on implementing its newest standard, SAE AS6081, which was developed to provide uniform requirements, practices and methods to mitigate distributors’ risk of purchasing and supplying counterfeit electronic parts to aerospace customers. Sessions are scheduled for January, June and November. SAE will also host a counterfeit electronics parts avoidance training session in California in June aimed at a wide range of professionals throughout the supply chain.

Supply chain professionals can also keep up with the latest information at’s Counterfeit Components Resource Center, which features a list of agencies and associations leading the fight against counterfeit electronics as well as news and features on the topic.

Victoria Fraza Kickham is the distribution editor for Electronic Design magazine, SourceESB and, where she covers issues related to the electronics supply chain.

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