The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative, an association of semiconductor OEMs, claims to have new ways to keep counterfeit components out of your supply chain. If it doesn't, it won't be for lack of effort.
First envisioned way back in 2011, the project called for companies to donate a small amount of staff time -- about three hours a week -- to analyzing data from supply chain operations. The goal was to identify where the fake goods were most likely to wiggle into the production process.
At first they identified four types of products that appeared most appealing to counterfeiters. "Manufacturing shortfall and product shortages, high value products; obsolete, discontinued, and legacy devices; and options or upgrades" were the most often targeted, they found.
This makes intuitive sense in some cases, but was contradictory in others. A shortage situation always creates chaos, and a solution to an unexpected shortage is always an appealing thing for an OEM to hear from a supplier. Due diligence lags in those situations.
Similarly, obsolete products get less scrutiny, because they're no longer profit centers.
But the high value and upgrade-related products were surprising. These are the products OEMs are most keen to defend. They were getting targeted successfully anyway.
Of perhaps more concern, some of these highest value electronics were coming from the aerospace, medical, and defense industries. There, the cloned or copied technology wasn't just valuable and proprietary -- it also carried a higher level of legal sensitivity, and ultimately, literal risk for the end user.
Understanding the risk
The result was an effort to, first, get some idea of how the problem's size: a reliable metric that would "enable iNEMI members to assess the risk of counterfeit use in their respective industries, the risk of untrusted sources of supply in that industry and generate the total cost of ownership associated with those risks."
In other words: Everyone knew this was a problem. But how big was it, and where were the trigger points?
That's the information the organization is going to talk about in an upcoming series of webinars in which it's recruiting companies to help plan and participate in the ongoing research. Though the process began as a concept more than two years ago, the work itself is only now underway.
A call for participation is still open. It requires an application and admittance by the project's managers. The goal is to finally draw a kind of map of where the leaks are in the electronics supply chain. Not company-by-company, but industry-by-industry. It's an ambitious idea, but a bottom line goal: improve the integrity of each product, and the industry in aggregate.
A summary, and a way to get in contact, is here.