Electronic components are pivotal in ensuring the performance, safety and reliability of end products. A proactive quality control system and processes in electronic component sourcing play a critical role, guarding against substandard, counterfeit or unreliable components entering the supply chain.
Quality control is particularly important when working with independent electronic component distributors. These suppliers can prove extremely useful when sourcing obsolete, long lead time and shortage electronic parts. Closely investigating their quality processes, paying particular attention to counterfeit mitigation, looking carefully at their accreditations and customer reviews will all prove to be time well spent.
In this article we explore the importance of working with electronic component suppliers that implement the right inspection and testing, adhere to key regulations, and follow a thorough vendor selection process.
The most common quality control issues for electronics
As the quality of electronic components directly influences the performance and reliability of the end products they are integrated into, inferior or counterfeit components can lead to severe consequences – resulting in anything from inconvenience to catastrophe.
Supply quality control minimizes the risk of defective, flawed or inconsistent electronic components. It is the foundation upon which we build trust in technology, one that assures us that our electronic devices will perform as expected and do so reliably over time. This is why Cyclops Electronics has integrated quality control and risk management through all our operational processes, making quality our top priority.
There are a range of common concerns when sourcing electronic parts from an independent supplier. These concerns can be identified and dealt with by the supplier’s quality control system. They generally come under three classifications:
- Counterfeit Components: Counterfeit components infiltrating the supply chain are a grave concern. These components mimic authentic ones in appearance but lack the necessary quality and reliability standards.
- Remarked Components: Recovered or refurbished parts can be renovated in an effort to restore them to a ‘like-new’ condition. This process usually involves resurfacing and remarking the parts with the object of making them pass as new components.
- Substandard Components: Components that may have been stored incorrectly leading to damaged pins, poor visual appearance, ESD or moisture sensitivity issues, oxidisation, and failure to solder correctly.
Donna Sykes, QA Manager at Cyclops Electronics, explained:
“Poor quality components can have a profound ripple effect on an electrical product, from performance issues to safety concerns. Beyond that, it is the reputation of your business that is at stake, as it is not just the components that lose trust, but the entire brand – this is something we are determined to avoid for all concerned.”
The core pillars of quality control
In order to uphold the integrity of the supply chain and ensure the quality of end products, we observe two key pillars of quality control to ensure the quality of your components: component inspection and testing, and on-going supplier assessment.
Supplier assessments involve the systematic and on-going evaluation of suppliers. When we assess a supplier’s ability to consistently meet quality standards, we consider factors like their own quality management systems, accreditations, trade references and ERAI checks for any alerts, issues or disputes. This helps Cyclops Electronics select reputable suppliers, build trust and mitigate any risks associated with substandard or counterfeit components.
Component inspection entails our own in-house evaluations of all incoming electronic components. Our component inspection process, developed over 30 years, includes visual inspections, dimensional checks, and resurfacing, acetone and scrape testing among others. When required, we will submit the components to additional external testing through our third-party accredited test hoses, including advanced technologies like X-ray analysis to uncover hidden defects. Discover more about the quality control processes we undertake at Cyclops.
How supplier assessment affects electronic component quality
It is not just the testing and inspection process that provides quality control adherence, but also the selection and management of vendors in the global supply of electronic components. By diligently evaluating and selecting reputable suppliers, we mitigate supply chain risks, ensure regulatory compliance, and ultimately deliver high-quality electronic products to our customers.
A comprehensive and reliable supplier assessment process is the cornerstone of a successful electronic operation, fostering long-term partnerships and driving overall business growth.
Key aspects of our supplier assessment include:
Supplier Qualification: During the assessment process, various factors are considered to qualify suppliers. These factors may include the supplier’s reputation, financial stability, certifications, quality management systems, and adherence to industry standards.
Quality Control Systems: Assessing a supplier’s quality control systems provides insight into their ability to consistently produce high-quality components. This evaluation may involve examining their processes, testing procedures, inspection methods, and traceability systems to ensure adherence to quality standards.
Past Performance and Track Record: Evaluating a supplier’s past performance is crucial to determine their reliability and consistency. This assessment may involve reviewing their history of delivering defect-free components, responsiveness to quality issues, and their commitment to continuous improvement.
Vendor Grading System: Cyclops’s approved vendor list, consisting of over 2,000 suppliers, is supported by a robust vendor grading system, which is visible to all buyers within the company. Continual monitoring and reviewing of supplier status is conducted by our purchasing teams using documented criteria and gradings amended accordingly. An annual supplier review is also conducted, and where necessary, results fed back to key suppliers.
Important electronic industry standards to adhere to
Compliance with industry-specific quality standards and regulations is more than a checklist requirement; it is an investment in reliability, safety and ethical responsibility. These standards are gatekeepers that guarantee the quality and integrity of electronic components supplier, contributing to the overall success and reputation of businesses like ours.
At Cyclops, we focus on the following key standards integral to electronic component supply:
ISO 9001: ISO 9001 is one of the most recognized quality management standards globally. It outlines requirements for quality management systems, emphasizing process control, customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. Cyclops Electronics has held ISO 9001 accreditation since 1996, successfully transitioning to the latest standard, ISO9001:2015 in March 2018.
RoHS, REACH, and WEEE: Environmental stewardship is critical in electronic component sourcing. The RoHS directive, REACH regulation, and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive are key legislative frameworks that guide the industry. RoHS and REACH limit the use of certain hazardous substances, while WEEE focuses on the responsible disposal and recycling of electronics. Compliance ensures that electronic components are not only safe and sustainable but also that end-of-life electronics are managed in an environmentally sound manner. This approach minimizes the ecological footprint of electronic components and promotes the health and safety of both the planet and its inhabitants. Cyclops Electronics’ adherence to these standards demonstrates our dedication to environmental responsibility and ethical business practices.
Conflict Minerals: In the realm of electronic component sourcing, the issue of conflict minerals — typically tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold (3TG) sourced from regions embroiled in armed conflict — is of paramount concern. Cyclops Electronics is committed to ethical sourcing practices and adheres to regulations that discourage the use of conflict minerals. We ensure our supply chain is transparent and free from materials that could finance armed groups, aligning with initiatives like the Dodd-Frank Act. Our stance on conflict minerals reinforces the integrity of our products and the value we place on human rights and corporate responsibility.
JOSCAR (Joint Supply Chain Accreditation Register): This register is essential in aerospace, defence and security sectors. It is a standardized supplier accreditation system that ensures the highest level of quality, reliability, and compliance with industry standards. Cyclops has been JOSCAR registered since 2016, which demonstrates our commitment to stringent quality control and ethical sourcing practices.
ERAI Membership: Cyclops Electronics takes pride in being a member of ERAI (Electronic Resellers Association International), a respected global information services organization that plays a vital role in the electronics supply chain. As a member, we gain access to crucial information that helps us mitigate the risks of counterfeit and substandard electronic components. Leveraging ERAI’s resources, we ensure that our practices are aligned with the best in the industry, sourcing electronic components with precision and ethical consideration.
As we navigate this ever-changing technological landscape, the message is clear: quality control is not just an option, it is an imperative. It is an investment from us to the long-term success of your business, the safety of your customers, and the reputation of your brand.
That is why we prioritise our Quality Management Systems and make a promise to our stakeholders to ensure that every component we source contributes to a brighter, safer future.
Through a multifaceted approach, including component inspection, testing, supplier assessment and adherence to industry-specific quality standards, we safeguard our sourcing and our customers’ supply chain and brand reputation.
If you have a particular interest in investigating the regulations or latest updates behind quality control technologies in the electronics industry, you might find some of the following organisations useful in this regard:
IPC – the association connecting the electronics industry that provide access to training and resources.
Quality Magazine – publishes articles and resources related to quality control, including electronic component testing.
Electronic Design – offers articles and insights on quality and reliability in the electronics industry.
EDN Network – provides articles and insights on quality and reliability in electronic component sourcing and manufacturing.