In today’s global economic climate, it is easier than ever before to procure counterfeit products intentionally or otherwise. In the world of industrial manufacturing equipment especially, it represents a disaster waiting to happen for manufacturers and their customers.
Counterfeit is defined as products being misrepresented in their origins or quality. The production and sale of counterfeit goods is a global, multi-billion-pound issue and one 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 comparable standards or offer the same product assurances as the original.
Many of these counterfeits are said to be manufactured to an expected standard, but instead use cheaper and inferior materials that undermine product performance and integrity. This practice side-steps development with rigorous testing policies, often failing to meet key safety criteria. This means that when these sub-standard products are sent out for integration into larger systems, there is an increased risk of failure and commercial risk to the system integrator and end Customer.
What are you risking?
If, for example, counterfeit aluminium profile was installed as part of a large manufacturing production line, a fault or malfunction could potentially lead to huge financial impact through days or weeks’ worth of manufacturing downtime, or 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. These types of failures 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.
Project Managers and Buyers are under increased pressure to meet deadlines, and when OEM products are not available in the lead time or price required, there is a temptation to search for any source of supply. This grey, or parallel, market is where goods are traded outside of the manufacturers’ authorised trading channels. Buying from these unauthorised channels, although not illegal, does carry risk. This is when counterfeit products are most likely to enter the supply chain with potentially catastrophic results.
Unfortunately, companies may not realise that they are using an incomparable aluminium profile but would ultimately be held accountable. There are more and more sophisticated counterfeits, or cheaper alternatives, available on the market - many of which claim to meet the same high standards as OEMs – and can go undetected and wind up integrated into critical manufacturing systems.
The responsibility is on all businesses to be aware of the counterfeit, or imitation products, that are available on the market - with those that source their equipment via the internet most at risk. If the equipment is not purchased directly from the OEM or an authorised distributor, there is 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. Firstly, marking the products and packaging with identifiable data and/or logo to protect the supply chain. However, because these marks can be copied it is not an entirely secure method of protection. Secondly, company’s Counterfeit Prevention Policy is based on ensuring a secure supply chain. This is the most effective method of preventing counterfeit components entering the industry.
With the industrial supply chain infiltrated with copy-cat aluminium profile, we must all be aware and ensure that businesses conduct themselves in compliance with the industry applicable rules and regulations. You should ask the question - a compliant and responsible business will have a counterfeit policy in place for your reassurance and no issues discussing this with you. Ideally, and in accordance with ISO practice, all suppliers should be evaluated and proven to adhere to such a policy.
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 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 you, and guard against receiving counterfeit components, MiniTec advises its customers to only buy direct from the manufacturer or an authorised distributor. It is the suppliers’ responsibility, therefore 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 raw materials composition.
Trusted amongst world-leading blue-chip businesses, MiniTec works closely with you to supply, design, manufacturer and install solutions, including safety guards, to workstations to automated conveyor assembly lines. MiniTec is the art of simplicity.