By Rosemary Coates
Your field service techs are key when it comes to recognizing and dealing with counterfeit parts. Counterfeit parts can have significant impact on equipment operations or may cause safety hazards and endanger lives. For example, a counterfeit part installed in military or commercial aircraft may cause malfunctioning of other systems and result in deteriorated performance or even loss of the aircraft.
Of course, counterfeiting is not limited to defense goods. Any electronic gadget or equipment, automotive parts, industrial goods, and other products might include some counterfeit component parts.
China is the largest source of counterfeit items. Trade figures show approximately 80 percent of bogus items across all industries come from China, where there are few legal restraints to control counterfeiting. Eastern Europe, South America, and the Middle East are also known sources of counterfeits. Using the latest manufacturing and printing technologies, counterfeiters are able to duplicate finishes, stenciling, print boxes, labels, and security codes that mimic those on genuine products. Many fakes are undetectable to average field service personnel.
Counterfeiters are getting better and better at it. It is so difficult to tell counterfeits from legitimate parts, that industrial buyers are often fooled. Even the price of counterfeits may be equivalent or close to legitimate parts, thus eluding suspicion about parts origins.
SO HOW CAN YOU TRAIN YOUR FIELD SERVICE TEAM TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN COUNTERFEITS AND THE REAL THING?
1. Maintain Control over your supply chain.
The only way to control counterfeiting is to maintain control over your entire worldwide supply chain. This means verifying and monitoring suppliers, distributors, subcontractors, and manufacturers, a daunting task where you will need to work with your sourcing and procurement departments.
2. Develop a process for field service people to handle situations when counterfeit parts are discovered.
Your customer may or may not know that there are counterfeit parts installed, and your field service person will have to break the news. FSEs will need training for this.
3. The field service person should check part numbers to see if any record of serialization exists, made report any counterfeits to management
If serial numbers cannot be validated, or bogus part numbers have been stamped on the part, the FSE should notify his manager and others such as the Procurement and Quality organizations as appropriate Many industry groups such as the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) also have a central reporting function that allows member to share information and data on counterfeiters
4. Determine if the warranty on the equipment has been nullified because of this counterfeit part.
The field service person should gently explain to the customer that a counterfeit is suspected or identified, as this may invalidate the warranty and cause equipment to malfunction. Ask your customer if he or she prefers to swap out counterfeits for genuine factory parts (at replacement cost, of course) or leave counterfeits installed and suffer warranty consequences. Replacing parts may have significant cost impact to your customers and provide a real business incentive for buying only genuine parts from you in the future.
You can achieve a “winwin” with customers who have counterfeit parts by educating them on the risks of using them and having a “face-saving” way to replace them with your genuine parts.
About the Author:
Rosemary Coates is the president of Los Gatos, Calif.-based Blue Silk Consulting, which advises companies on global supply chain issues, and the author of “42 Rules for Superior Field Service.” Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has consulted with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an Expert Witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. Ms. Coates is a Board Member at the University of San Diego Supply Chain Management Institute.