What is AS6081?

An auditor examining stock in a warehouse

One of the biggest dangers to the electronic component supply chain is the growing sophistication of nonconforming, suspect counterfeit, or counterfeit parts. Electronic components are held to some of the highest quality standards due to the risk they pose should they malfunction in a device. If an electronic component fails, it could cause anything from a smartphone to a pacemaker to fail. Counterfeit components are destined to fail, and the risk of that failure can range from an inconvenience to life-threatening.  

The history of counterfeit components in the electronic component supply chain is about as old as the industry itself. Unfortunately, most products, from components to handbags, are at risk of having suspect counterfeit products enter their supply chains. The electronic component industry was valued at $304.30 billion in 2022 and has a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6%, making it a lucrative target for counterfeiters.  

Over the last decade, the number of counterfeit components uncovered within the electronic component supply chain has been startling. In 2011, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimated counterfeit electronics cost the industry around $7.5 billion annually. The exact number now varies; most estimates were given before the pandemic. Currently, the extent of the damage counterfeits caused during the semiconductor shortage is unknown. However, considering the desperation many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), contract manufacturers (CMs), and electronic manufacturing service (EMS) providers faced, it could be astronomical.  

In 2019, months before Covid-19 was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Electronic Resellers Association International (ERAI) announced that 66.91% of parts reported to their organization were deemed counterfeit. These counterfeits were sold to manufacturers by companies outside of China, indicating that purchasing from companies outside China and assuming they are quality is not a fool-proof strategy. Counterfeits can come from anywhere.  

Counterfeits are also getting more sophisticated as their sellers find new ways to avoid detection when tested. So, what should OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers do to not fall victim to suspect counterfeit components?  

Purchase from a distributor that possesses the appropriate certifications.  

For many manufacturers, this means ensuring their distributor possesses ISO 9001:2015 certification. ISO 9001 is an international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS) published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These standards are based on a plan-do-check-act methodology with a process-oriented approach to documentation and review structures, responsibilities, and procedures. The 2015 revision to ISO emphasizes risk-based thinking to enhance existing process approaches.  

ISO 9001 certification helps companies develop a strategy to ensure the quality of the electronic components sold through them. These standards help many organizations mitigate counterfeit electronic components, but extra precautions and standardized processes are necessary for high-reliability industries. For medical, aerospace, defense, and a few specific markets, distributors must possess AS6081 certification if these companies plan to purchase electronic components from them.

What is SAE AS6081 and AS6081A?

AS6081 or SAE AS6081 Counterfeit Electronic Parts: Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation and Disposition for Distributors is “the SAE aerospace standard (AS) that presents standardized practices to identify reliable sources to procure electrical, electronic, and electromechanical (EEE) parts, assess and mitigate the risk of distributing suspect counterfeit or counterfeit EEE parts, control suspect counterfeit or counterfeit EEE parts, and report incidents of suspect counterfeit and counterfeit EEE parts.”

The AS6081 certification is the highest certification standard used by distributors to manage suspect counterfeit and counterfeit components. Under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standardized guidelines, AS6081 is broken down into four specific areas.

  1. Identification of reliable sources to procure parts.
  1. Assessing and mitigating the risk of distributing fraudulent/counterfeit parts.
  1. Control of suspect or confirmed fraudulent/counterfeit parts.
  1. Reporting suspect and confirmed fraudulent/counterfeit parts to other potential users and authorities having jurisdiction.

Distributors with AS6081 certification should have a rigorous QMS built on ISO 9001 guidelines. AS6081’s counterfeit mitigation process ensures high-reliability industry buyers comply with the rules and regulations that safeguard them from suspect counterfeit parts. Furthermore, distributors that are AS6081 certified are required to take the additional step of reporting and controlling any substandard parts to prevent future counterfeit components from entering the supply chain.  

AS6081A or AS6081 Appendix A is a recent revision improving upon the language found in the original 2012 release of SAE AS6081:2012. To address new challenges and the industry’s evolution, AS6081 underwent changes that were released in AS6081A on April 21, 2023. The latest revision of AS6081 has broadened its application to include more organizations that procure and distribute electronic components by distinguishing independent distributors, brokers, and others previously excluded.  

One significant change was altering how the standard’s requirements apply in transactions to prevent confusion among customers who believed that certified organizations automatically conducted testing for all products in every transaction. Secondly, the expanded scope now strengthens risk assessment, improves reporting requirements, optimizes supply chain traceability, enhances testing methods, updates training modules, and develops cybersecurity aspects—all to promote avoidance, detection, and mitigation of counterfeit electronic components.  

Sourceability’s Certification

As an AS6081-certified company, Sourceability and its leading e-commerce site, Sourcengine, continues to put its global resources and team’s expertise into ensuring the utmost quality of its electronic components. We look forward to offering rigorous counterfeit avoidance, detection, and mitigation processes that align with your stringent market standards for our clients in high-reliability industries such as aerospace, defense, and healthcare. If you’re curious to learn more about our AS6081 notification and if your company requires such testing, you can contact our team today to learn more.  

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