SMTA CALCE Counterfeit Material Symposium


Michael Ford, Sr. Director Emerging Industry Strategy, Aegis Software


On March 14th, for the first time, this CALCE (Centre For Advanced Lifecycle Engineering) symposium, normally held annually in Washington DC, is coming to the MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) in Coventry, UK.

Aegis have been a supporter of this event for a number of years, as traceability within manufacturing plays a pivotal role. As and when counterfeit materials have been discovered, traceability is the essential tool to identify where suspect materials are across the operation, and more importantly, in which products they may have been used, directing the scope of immediately needed actions.

Using traceability internally, and sharing such data throughout the supply-network, are two completely different animals. Internally, manufacturing is a relatively secure, trusted environment, where data is freely collected, contextualized and stored by FactoryLogix, with appropriate security and access controls provided for everyday use, improving quality and yield, as well as providing assurance should counterfeit or other supplier quality problems arise. Everyone internally is working for, and responsible to, the same company.

Traceability throughout the supply-network however, involves many different companies. To determine the provenance of materials and sub-assemblies within a finished product, it is necessary to consider information related to materials added, and processes performed, by dozens of different companies, including logistics, all the way to the origin of each material. There are many points of potential tampering and counterfeit ingress under the control and management of different organizations. The simplistic approach of sharing traceability data, basically dumping everything into a shared data-ocean, is wrong on so many levels, including exposure of business IP, privacy, and immense cost of storage for the massive amounts of data, creating an unsustainable cloud computing regime. These issues are not the most significant however. Traceability data created within the many different domains, which may or may not adhere to standards specific to that domain, each with methods and language, is fit for purpose within an internal traceability solution, but requires significant translation and interpretation in order to be contextualized across the supply-network. Performing this contextualization as an after-thought, reveals unbridgeable gaps in data, which in effect, renders the whole effort, almost useless.

New software technologies are now available that provide the ability to share facts and information without exposure of the raw, source data, thereby retaining privacy, security, and IP, reducing the costs of day-to-day provenance requirements by an order of magnitude or two. This is achieved without the need to necessarily change internal processes, domain-based traceability standards, existing solutions and existing data storage methodologies. How to do this is the subject of a paper that I will present at CALCE UK 2023, together with Damian Glover of Wider.Team and Lubna Dajani of This is an area where things are really beginning to happen!

The CALCE event always includes exciting content, including descriptions of law enforcement in action, discussion on standards for reporting, inspection and early detection, and a shocking look at statistics coming out of respected laboratories, not only within electronics. The event will really make you think seriously about how naïve the industry has been in addressing counterfeit material ingress, in the most sensitive and potentially life-changing products. For me, the most important tool in the box, is the ability to eliminate the threat of counterfeit materials at source, creating robust and sustainable methods to successfully block counterfeits, as well as having a clear assignment of responsibility that ensures processes, procedures and enforcement are correctly focused.

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