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Dave Doherty of Digi-Key looks at measures that can be taken to avoid counterfeit components

With increasing pressures to speed prototyping and accelerate time‐to‐market, manufacturing organizations are putting extreme pressure on design engineers and purchasing professionals alike. These time‐line pressures often lead to a false panacea of either cheap copies, or failed, unsuitable or non‐functional components. These can look very similar to the genuine and fully‐functional devices and it is difficult, often impossible, to differentiate between them.

According to industry experts, up to 25

per cent of all available electronic components may be counterfeit. This crisis is costing the electronics industry around $100 billion a year. The buying of these parts not only creates problems for the purchasers, but also for the end‐customers buying prototypes and final products made with parts that aren’t genuine.

To counter this problem, many global

distributors are increasing their vigilance by putting into place quality‐control practices to avoid allowing counterfeits to enter the supply chain. At the same time, there is a movement among the standards organizations like ECIA, ECSN and CEDA to tighten the standards and improve the processes needed to discourage the distribution of counterfeit parts. This, in turn, will play a significant role in protecting customers from buying fake or damaged components.

As an authorized distributor, Digi‐Key

has contracted directly with 750 quality component manufacturers to ensure that the parts purchased are 100 per cent authentic and maintain their full warranty. The company has also implemented a system of checks and balances with suppliers, where both parties consistently monitor each other and hold one another accountable for authorized transactions.

Purchasers should take proper 18 July/August 2014

Digi-Key has contracted directly with 750 quality component manufacturers to ensure that parts purchased are 100 per cent authentic

precautions, only buying components that are properly sealed, and do not appear to be re‐marked or show signs of tampering. If they come across a part that seems suspect from a seemingly trusted source, they should report it to the proper authorities immediately.

Proof of authorization is based on the

industry’s standard definition of a ‘legally authorized source’, which links production of the product to the original manufacturer. One way to assure a product is authentic is to check the component manufacturer’s website, which lists all the authorized channels through which a customer could

purchase its original components. Digi‐Key is an active member of all

Authorized global distributors guarantee proper packaging, handling and storage of all their parts

relevant standards organizations, playing a role in supporting and communicating the value proposition of authorized distribution. The ECIA website,, is a valuable resource for customers seeking an easy way to search for parts that come directly from legally authorized sources.

It is inevitable that some electronic

components will pass through multiple channels before reaching the end‐ customer. However, when an order is placed through an authorized distributor, the product comes direct from the supplier to the distributor’s warehouse and, from there, is shipped to the intended end‐ customer. Highly regarded authorized global distributors guarantee proper packaging, handling and storage of all their parts. A purchasing professional should check a distributor’s website for its genuine product standards/agreements before making their final purchases.

An authorized supply chain provides a

clear sequence of custody and ensures the manufacturer warranty remains intact. The chain also aids in the communication of information when manufacturer alerts or notifications are published regarding the availability of product, or even a recall due to the discovery of a defect.

It’s true that counterfeit electronic

components are a growing concern throughout the industry. However, with the dedication and diligence of everyone involved, from industry standards groups to authorized distributors to suppliers and end customers, we can mitigate this risk and assure customers only receive genuine, fully‐functional components.

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