Quality Management System Standards

The Section 818 of the FY 2012 NDAA for will require DOD to implement a program to enhance contractor detection and avoidance of counterfeit electronic parts and to establish processes for the review and approval of contractor systems for the detection and avoidance of counterfeit and suspect counterfeit electronic parts. NDAA Section 818 further states that the review and approval processes are to be comparable to those established for contractor business systems under section 893 of the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2011.

[I updated this essay 22 January 2012 to clarify a few points based on interchanges with colleagues directly involved in QMS standards and certification activity.]

During the development of SAE International Standard AS5553, a number of us within the aerospace and defense community discussed the need to incorporate requirements for detection and avoidance of counterfeit parts into key Quality Management System (QMS) standards (e.g. ISO 9000, AS9100, etc.). In 2009, I performed a gap analysis of QMS and lower level standards vs. elements required for a robust counterfeit avoidance program that are generally accepted by both US industry and US government subject matter experts (see slides 25 thru 29). At the time, I observed that lower level standards, particularly AS5553, provide excellent coverage for these elements. I also observed that high level standards for QMS did not address key elements required for a robust counterfeit avoidance program. Industry organizations involved in maintaining key US and international QMS standards had yet to initiate definitive steps to embed counterfeit avoidance elements into QMS standards and supplier certification programs.

Now that congress has introduced requirements for DOD and its contractors to strengthen protections against counterfeit electronic parts coming into the defense supply system, I believe it is time to take definitive steps to incorporate counterfeit component avoidance and detection requirements into key high level QMS standards and supplier certification programs. Doing so will go a long way to establish consistent expectations across DOD’s supplier base, including the lower tiers where counterfeits tend to find their way into the supply chain. Unless AS9100 and other QMS standards establish an expectation that “the organization” establish and implement policies and procedures to detect and avoid counterfeit electronic parts, the implementation of standards and associated work will continue to be sporadic throughout the supply chain.

Section 818 of the FY2012 NDAA has now established an expectation of DOD and its contractors with regard to counterfeit avoidance and detection. While this will directly influence prime and second tier contractors, there is nothing to drive the remainer of the supply chain to follow suit. If QMS standards, such as AS9100, required the organization to establish policies and procedures to avoid counterfeit electronic parts as defined in low level standards and the organization’s certification depended on it, this would go a long way toward shoring up defenses throughout the supply chain.

The facts of life today are (1) counterfeits continue to escape though many of the suppliers that allowed these escapes are certified to QMS standards, (2) the counterfeit parts problem continues to grow, (3) Congress found the need to legislate a solution to the problem for DOD, and (4) QMS standards activities and certification programs have yet to engage on the problem and embrace key tenets necessary to deal with it. Given that counterfeit avoidance and detection is now required of DOD and its contractors by law, I believe it is the civic duty of standards bodies and associated committees to drive these requirements into QMS standards and associated supplier certification requirements.

© Henry Livingston

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