The importance of AS6171 to prevent counterfeiting and tampering in the electronics supply chain

Military electronics parts designers, systems integrators, and contract manufacturers all are in the same boat when it comes to safeguarding military forces from detrimental effects of counterfeit parts or those that have been subject to unauthorized tampering.

Dec 1st, 2017
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Military electronics parts designers, systems integrators, and contract manufacturers all are in the same boat when it comes to safeguarding military forces from detrimental effects of counterfeit parts or those that have been subject to unauthorized tampering.

It's crucial for contract manufacturers and others in the electronics supply chain to help keep tampering and counterfeiting out of military systems.

One industry standard gaining momentum in the fight against parts tampering and counterfeiting is the aerospace standard (AS) 6171 of SAE International in Warrendale, Pa. AS6171 lays down inspection and test procedures, workmanship criteria, and training necessary to detect suspected counterfeit electrical, electronic, and electromechanical parts, as well as those suspected of malicious tampering.

Contract manufacturer IEC Electronics Corp. in Newark, N.Y., is jumping aboard the AS6171 bandwagon, and company officials say others involved in the defense electronics supply chain are likely to follow. The reason is Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFARS) 252.246-7008.

This guideline, which became effective late last year, essentially imposes responsibility on everyone in the defense electronics supply chain to carry out procedures and practices to mitigate the effects of tampered and counterfeit parts.

"It has to do with the whole liability factor," says Audra Gavelis, director of marketing and investor relations at IEC Electronics. "If a component is found to be counterfeit, everyone in the supply chain is at risk of being brought to court. The government says that everyone is responsible and must have due diligence on parts authentication and testing."

The AS6171 lays down the test methods necessary for accreditation to the ISO 17025 quality standard. "This regulation continues to outline expectations of the supply chain when it comes to counterfeit or suspect components," Gavelis says.

AS6171 applies to parts with an unknown chain of custody without pedigree back to the original manufacturer, or that have been acquired from a broker or independent distributor.

Experts developed AS6171 in response to an increasing volume of suspected counterfeit or tampered electronic parts, which could compromise the quality of military weapons systems. It offers uniform practices for testing parts to mitigate the risks of using tampered or counterfeit parts. IEC is among the first electronics manufacturing companies to earn accreditation to ISO 17025, and to open an on-site laboratory that tests for parts tampering and counterfeiting.

"Our Analysis & Testing Lab is a critical resource to help our customers with their risk mitigation planning," Gavelis says. "The AS6171 test methods with the ISO 17025 accreditation was just one way we felt we could lead the industry in the conversation of how to ensure their supply chain is as robust as possible when it comes to counterfeit component detection."

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