Traceability or Where Has This Legacy Part Been?

bigstockphoto_eyesee_40215How do you get traceability to the original manufacturer on a part that is obsolete and no longer available from the component maker?

Inland Empire Components works with our clients to secure the supply chain by addressing the question, “Where did this part come from?”  Effective September 16th, 2016, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)  released Procurement Notes relating to the purchasing of part numbered items. The notes state that contractors to the DLA shall notify the contracting officer when  there is a change in the availability or revision of a part number.

The focus here is on the language regarding discontinued and obsolete parts and the traceability requirements of contractors. Our challenge in providing spare parts to the clients that rely on us for legacy components is providing traceability that is acceptable. The goal is to make sure parts are identified throughout the supply chain including the name and location of every supply chain intermediary between the contractor to the Government. I use this example to help my clients understand how we provide traceability when required.

There are various solutions to providing acceptable traceability. Not every solution is noted here, however, the following describes what we look for when evaluating an obsolete part.

  1. Electronic material purchased from the original manufacturer will generally come with paperwork certifying the form, fit, function and that the product conforms to technical requirements. This document is usually signed by the Quality Manager. This traceability paperwork should remain in the box with the material and not be separated. Buyers, receiving, inspection and warehouse personnel can implement systems to manage the traceability document including scanning the document when it arrives in the building and keeping it in an easily accessible archive. When traceability documents are available, we keep these in digital PDF format readily available for retrieval.
  2. Microcircuits and semiconductors without traceability can be confirmed by a certified testing facility. A series of tests can be ordered including external visual inspection, physical dimension, marking permanency, internal visual inspection or  de-cap (removing the top of the part to view the component die inside),  X-Ray, XRF analysis, AC / DC functional electrical testing, date code verification, burn-in qualification, and solderability testing. Clients are encouraged to test within their own facility to protect intellectual property. This provides for comparing known good parts to the obsolete parts being screened.
  3. Offers to purchase excess surplus material should come with a request for all traceability documents. These are usually packing slips with the Quality Assurance stamp and signature of the Quality Assurance Manager. As an alternative, the Quality Assurance Manager at the facility selling the surplus material can provide a blanket certification for the lot of material referencing the purchase order numbers. When this material is resold in the market place, this traceability document can be provided to the buyer of the material.
  4. Acceptable traceability may be a document provided by the dealer or reseller that certifies the supply chain traceability back to the original manufacturer based on information received. In other words, trusted suppliers in the network state how the part came through the supply chain and that is documented for the buyer on a company statement or certificate. For example, we recently sold an item that did not have actual paperwork tracing back to the manufacturer. We purchased the surplus material from a defunct out of business supplier that previously sold parts to the DLA.  The supplier had sold the exact part from the exact lot on a previous contract to the DLA so we offer a traceability statement with our certificate of conformance because we know the supply chain intermediaries – the original manufacture who sold to the out of business distributor who sold to us. This traceability statement was satisfactory to that client.

Ultimately, when it comes to determining if a legacy part is indeed real and from the original manufacturer, the supplier will need to work with the buyer to provide acceptable traceability.  We want everyone to sleep at night knowing the best was done to protect the supply chain.

Dana Jiron
Inland Empire Components, Inc.


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