How to Avoid the Danger of Counterfeit Electronic Parts

A trusted supplier can navigate supply chain leaders through a minefield of counterfeit electronic parts. Here’s how to spot and avoid fishy vendors.

Everything requires a semiconductor chip these days. Refrigerators used to have the simple job of keeping your orange juice and lettuce chilled. Now, they’re expected to reveal their contents and sketch grocery lists. The same with cars: They used to only get their drivers from point A to point B. Not anymore. Now they talk, parallel park on their own, and you can customize the beep of your horn.

With the rise of semiconductors in products, demand for these amazing, little chips has also increased. During the 2020-2022 global shortage, the struggle to meet supply-demand by chipmakers gave unsavory characters the chance to take advantage of desperate buyers. The amount of counterfeit electronic components in the supply chain is known but has grown significantly over the last few years.  

OEMs and CMs need to be vigilant to keep suspect counterfeit components out of their supply chain.

Here’s what to be on the lookout for with counterfeit electronic parts and how to avoid investing in the wrong supplier.

The Danger of Counterfeit Electronic Parts

A counterfeit electronic part is a component that claims to be a legitimate, high-quality component; however, it is either a shoddy recreation of a quality part or it is fabricated from a compilation of scavenged parts.  

The first and foremost danger of counterfeit parts is that they can present a threat to human health and safety. A knock-off component can fail under pressure where a genuine part would normally thrive. For instance, a heart monitor that requires a chip to last for five years but only lasts for one could miss a crucial health event. Or a self-driving feature on a car could go haywire and result in a crash.

Secondly, counterfeit parts and the resulting sub-par electronics endanger a company’s reputation. A common result of counterfeit parts is a final product that doesn’t last as long or work as well as one made with genuine parts.  

When leaders are faced with the imminent halting of operations due to a missing part, they may overlook the warning signs of a counterfeit product or an untrustworthy supplier. Panic buying and just-in-time production led to dire situations where leaders give in to pressure and ignore their suspicions about a fishy parts vendor.

How to Ensure Authentic Parts in Your Production

The best way to be confident in the legitimacy of every part in your BOM is to trust your gut, trust technology and place your trust in the experts.

1. Trust your gut

If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Counterfeiters bank on leaders’ desperation for hard-to-come-by parts. They’ll undercut the rest of the market and claim to have a large, ready-to-ship stock. Make sure to research any supplier before you do business with them. Leave a wide berth around suppliers without any reviews or with just a few vague reviews from companies you’ve never heard of.  

2. Trust automated quality control

Automated counterfeit detection can detect anomalies that are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Plus, machines driven by massive data sets and machine learning can recognize patterns quickly and accelerate the quality control process. External visual inspection is no longer thorough enough to detect counterfeit components, as they are becoming more convincing by the day. It’s better to have artificial intelligence assist human staff wherever possible to expedite processes and lower the occurrence of human error.

3. Trust a quality assurance and global logistics expert

The best way to improve your confidence in the legitimacy of every electronic component is to partner with a vast marketplace of vetted suppliers. Sourcengine is a leading electronic component marketplace with more than 3,500 traceable or vetted vendors and 1 billion parts, all covered by a three-year warranty for better peace of mind. Instead of spending precious time visually inspecting or conducting background research on suspect suppliers, Sourcengine makes buying your entire BOM simple and stress-free.

Also, supply chain leaders should try their best to never be in such dire straits that they sacrifice quality for speed. Digital tools can assist in alerting users to taking advantage of market fluctuations to make sure leaders buy the right amount of product at the right time. Datalynq provides predictive analytics to and alerts buyers to the best buying windows to take advantage of cost savings. Its market intelligence capabilities also give insight into real-time inventory so leaders can purchase before a product becomes scarce or obsolete.

Authentic Parts Make for Superior Electronic Products

Having the right partners by your side can ease the part-purchasing process and keep your supply chain moving smoothly. Working with a certified supplier that documents their QMS system can help provide assurance that all parts are genuine and quality.  

Submit an RFQ today to learn more about Sourceability and ease your supply chain operations.

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