Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Unreliability

Both coins are fake silver
We are at a point where imitations, knock off, and off quality parts are making their way into our traditional MRO supply chain. Some estimate as much as ten percent of the materials purchased last year were counterfeit. If you look around you will begin to see the effects of these cheap parts. It is costing sites maintenance dollars, production output, and safety performance. It started with imitation bolts that did not meet the grade standards. Then it became apparent with wiring and electrical parts. Now we are seeing knock off bearings, belts, electrical cards and even whole machines. They are produced in China and India where making a perfect look alike copy is culturally a revered skill.
While in China recently I was shown domestically produced equipment that were copies of designs out of Europe and the US.  I even brought back a few copied items to share with my others to make the point. I chose smaller items that travel well but they are available in all sizes. The first one is the US and Chinese coins shown above and the second is the 14 gauge wire shown below. The orange and green spool of wire is labeled as 14 gauge but when you compare it to true 14 gauge RCA wire it contains about half the copper strands and total mass and is encased in a clear plastic shell that magnifies the copper making it look just like the nice heavy gauge wire. The coins were such accurate copies that even using some of the more common test they could not be distinguished. They ring like silver and they weigh the same as the silver coin they mimic but you guessed it they are not silver. I saw other items as well including bearings, grade 8 bolts, electrical connectors, all in perfect copy packaging but with no guarantee of their reliability.
If they were truly exact copies then other than the obvious intellectual property rights issues it would
RCA cable is real Pyramid Power is undersized fake
no be so bad but many of these copies are made with substituted material. For instance a bearing may look like a perfect copy all the way down to the packaging but the metal and production process used can be wildly different. Some are produced with scrap metal with no eye to the metallurgy required.
In the electrical world you see parts and electrical boards that have been copied or re manufactured after not passing initial quality inspections. These off quality boards were meant to be destroyed but instead were sent to facilities where they are "repaired" with no assurance of quality and reentered into the supply chain as "new" parts. The US government and aviation industry have both experienced this in the last year and the cost to replace the counterfeit components after the fact was staggering.
This is leading to failures that are affecting safety, environmental and profitability of facilities both in the US and abroad. I have provided a few links below to further educate about the potential of this problem to affect you and your facility now and in the future.  

Reference Links:
Google search for fake bearings
IHS Parts
SAE Parts
Google search for counterfeit parts

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps to make it worse, is the fact that as asset maintainers we are becoming more reliant on the supplier to provide the specification we request as we have less time available to thouroughly interogate items that appear to have the correct paperwork verifying its suitability.
    Thanks for the insight into this problem. I hadn't given it too much thought to be honest.