Counterfeit: A Quality Conundrum


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To find a holistic, singular solution for the entire shopping list is the goal. In electronics assembly, a great deal more than 80% of materials are placed today with SMT machines, which are very complex with respect to the way materials are used and consumed, especially when considering dual lanes, multiple modules and materials that exist in multiple instances. These same issues actually also apply to the latest assembly process robots, as well as some manual processes.

To gather accurate traceability data requires precise communication with the machines themselves. Of course, machines in isolation don’t usually understand what the materials are, other than their shape, so continuous reference to a material identification, logistics, and management system is required, including the unique identification of each instance of a material carrier. It sounds like a lot of work, until you consider the values that can be gained. Typically, using Lean material logistics, shop-floor material stocks can be reduced by between 75% and 95%. With accurate accountability of material usage and spoilage, unexpected material shortages can be eliminated, leading in most cases to a vast reduction of buffer stock in the warehouse, which can double the number of material turns.

The saving of material investment, plus the ability to utilize the process and material traceability data for active quality management already yields a significantly short ROI. It is therefore not necessary to justify investment in the software by talking only about potential disasters. With the built-in specialist support for incoming inspection, where the rules and guides are already a part of the software, performing the various tests and inspections can now be done with a regular production operator skill level, trained only to follow the easy-to-use guides. The materials are already uniquely labeled. The infrastructure is in place to manage any deviations or defects in material performance.

There are now two active tools against counterfeit materials in manufacturing, made possible in a way that brings business benefits every day, plus, has the potential value of being able to avoid catastrophic quality events due to counterfeit materials, quickly and quietly managing any minimal consequences that may have occurred. This is the smart way to move forward. It is time to become aware of the latest modern smart software for manufacturing out there. The default options of enterprise resource planning (ERP), and perhaps a simple manufacturing execution system (MES), will not provide the specialist tools needed in this new world that we made for ourselves. Look around now for your smart logistics solution that address what some say is the most serious threat to the industry that there has ever been. Look also into your own life—the flights you take, the car journeys you embark on, the medical devices you depend on in times of need, the controllers of the nuclear power plant that is supplying your electricity, and all the other electronic aids that are now an integrated part of your life. To what degree of tolerance are you willing to accept the risk and consequences of counterfeit materials?

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of SMT Magazine.

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