In today’s global economy, it is easier than ever to procure counterfeit products – intentionally or otherwise – from around the world. With production equipment especially, this represents a disaster waiting to happen for manufacturers and their customers.
The word counterfeit is defined as ‘made in exact imitation of something valuable with the intention to deceive or defraud’, and the production and sale of counterfeit goods is a global, multi-billion-pound issue that has serious economic ramifications for Governments, businesses, and consumers.
There is evidence that the number of counterfeit and ‘me-too’ copies available on the market is growing. In industries like manufacturing, they are not just an irritation to legitimate original equipment manufacturers (OEM) — they can be extremely dangerous with potential to cause untold damage and jeopardises the safety of individuals.
A point for discussion is when a product states that it ‘is compatible with’ a recognised brand or product. Just because the same fittings can be used and the product looks the same, it does not necessarily mean the ancillary product will perform to the same standards or offer the same product assurances as the original.
Many of these counterfeits claim to be manufactured to an expected standard but use cheaper and inferior materials that undermine product performance and integrity. This manufacturing process side-steps important development, including rigorous testing, and often fails to meet critical safety criteria. This means that when sub-standard products are used for integration into larger systems, there is an increased risk of failure, including a commercial threat to the system integrator and end Customer.
What Is At Risk?
For example, if counterfeit aluminium profile is used as part of a larger manufacturing production line, any fault or malfunction caused by substandard components could lead to a substantial financial impact through manufacturing downtime. Even worse, a lawsuit.
It is often the case that counterfeit or imitation product failures are dangerous in their own right, failing to meet strength tests or pull-out forces of connectors as examples. This can lead to extensive damage to surrounding equipment and potentially present a risk to employees who work in the vicinity of the sub-standard product.
While Project Managers and Buyers are under increased pressure to meet deadlines, especially when OEM products are not available in the lead time or price required, there is a temptation to search for another source of supply. But, this grey (parallel) market is where goods are traded outside of the manufacturers’ authorised trading channels.
Buying from these unauthorised channels, although not illegal, carries risk, and this is the point when counterfeit products are most likely to enter the supply chain with potentially catastrophic results.
Unfortunately, such as in our example, companies may not realise that they are using an incomparable aluminium profile. As production of such goods ramps up in countries with less regulation than the UK/EU, there are more and more sophisticated counterfeits and cheaper alternatives available on the market. Many of these claim to meet the same high standards as OEMs and can go undetected, ending up as part of integrated critical manufacturing systems.
The responsibility is on all businesses to be aware of counterfeit products available on the market, especially those that source their equipment via the internet, where there is the most risk attached. If equipment is not purchased directly from an OEM, or an authorised distributor, there is always a risk it could be counterfeit and not meet industry standards.
Protecting Your Business
There are two main ways that manufacturers can help to guard against counterfeit goods entering the supply chain.
- Marking products and packaging with identifiable data and logo.
- Limit and protect the supply chain.
While identity and logos can be copied, it does increase the entry cost of production facilities for counterfeiters. Plus, with an effective company Counterfeit Prevention Policy in place, a manufacturer can manage and police a secure supply chain, offering the most effective method of preventing counterfeit components from entering the industry.
With industrial supply chains infiltrated with copy-cat aluminium profile, we must all be aware of grey imports and ensure that businesses in the supply chain conduct themselves according to the industry’s applicable rules and regulations.
Legitimate Supply Chains
As an individual, you should also question your supply chain. A compliant and responsible business will have no issues discussing these issues with you and will have a counterfeit parts policy in place for your reassurance. Ideally, and in accordance with ISO practice, all suppliers should be evaluated and proven to adhere to such a policy.
To help, and guard against receiving counterfeit components, we advise our customers to only buy direct from the manufacturer or an authorised distributor. It is the suppliers’ responsibility, and potential liability, that the supply chain is legitimate and meets with current regulations and standards.
MiniTec UK Ltd is a leading UK supplier and integrator of modular aluminium profile building systems. The aluminium profile is manufactured to the highest industry standard with traceability of the composition of raw materials.
Trusted amongst world-leading blue-chip businesses, we work closely with you to supply, design, manufacturer and install solutions, including safety guards, to workstations to automated conveyor assembly lines.
With many years of research, development and testing behind us, MiniTec is the art of simplicity.