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New Tool Approved for Counterfeit Component Mitigation

ECIA and PRI have jointly released the audit checklist AC7403.

Checklist Enables AS6496 Certification

In a joint press release the Electronic Component Industry Association (ECIA) and Performance Review Institute (PRI) announced the release of a new standard titled “AC7403: Audit Criteria for Counterfeit Mitigation by Authorized Distribution.” Per the announcement: “This checklist provides the framework for audit and certification through PRI to the requirements of the standard for counterfeit mitigation in authorized distribution, AS6496.”  It was noted that the same members were involved in developing both standards and included several aerospace OEM representatives.

According to Kevin Sink, VP of quality at TTI, the benefit of this new standard is that it “enables the authorized channel to provide further confidence to customers that authorized distributors have certified procedures to ensure that counterfeit materials do not enter the supply chain.” 

“This certification also provides confidence in their authorized distributor’s compliance to the requirements for counterfeit mitigation,” added John Sharp, TE Connectivity global quality leader. “There is no need for the OCM to audit, assess, or verify their authorized distributors. Evidence from the PRI audit is acceptable.

“Additionally, OCMs can provide this evidence, from their distributors, to our joint customers,” Sink added. “This reinforces the benefits of using authorized distributors and reduces potential product compliance, legal issues and costs related to counterfeit materials being introduced into the supply chain.”

The audits will be performed by PRI. The first audit has already been performed with Mouser Electronics, a subsidiary of TTI, according to Pete Shopp, VP of global operations.

Audits will be performed by PRI and utilize a process like that employed in its world-recognized, leading audit process for special processes, NADCAP. Because of the rigor of this approach, all members in the supply chain can rest easy when working with a certified supplier. The first authorized distributor to be audited to the AC7403 checklist by PRI was Mouser Electronics.

“Mouser is proud to be the first Authorized Distributor to complete all the requirements for AC7403 certification,” said Pete Shopp, VP of global operations at Mouser Electronics. “With the current supply constraints in the marketplace, it is even more important for customers to know that their distributor is meeting the AS6496 anti-counterfeit measures.”

Aerospace Involvement Highlights Safety Issues

The press release specifically noted the participation of “several aerospace OEM representatives.” This highlights the particular safety problems posed by counterfeit components. In a recent report it was noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) discovered 3,000 suspected unapproved parts (SUPs) in inspections since 2011. In assessing the problem in the aviation industry, one of the main points of vulnerability has been identified as maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) units in foreign countries. Incentives to cut corners and use SUPs comes from cost control pressures, profiteering, and a shortage of genuine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts.

“A lot of our airlines have outsourced their heavy maintenance overseas, where one criminal could put in a part that’s going to cause a critical failure in that aircraft,” U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio recently cautioned. Illustrating his fear was a recent report by a whistleblower, who claimed some parts manufactured in China were made with inferior materials and processes, and then shipped with fabricated documentation. The pressures for SUPs will only grow as rising demand for spares on some popular engines are predicted to outstrip supply in 2019.

Another Valuable Tool

This latest audit standard will provide another important tool in battling the continuing challenge of counterfeit components. Implementation of this audit standard across the supply chain will be required if it is to be successful in its mission. That means other key industry organizations and regulatory bodies will need to mandate its use.  For example, the FAA will need to impose this standard on all key players who have any role in introducing components into airplanes, whether it is at the point of production or in maintenance operations. 

This is a valuable tool, but only one tool in a complete approach that needs to be implemented to provide supply chain protections. New technologies such as blockchain can also create the type of visibility that is needed to shine light on the problem of counterfeit parts and erect barriers to their introduction to the supply chain.

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