HED: AS6081 – A Partial Solution When the Authorized Channel has no Solution

As the title of this blog implies the recently-approved SAE standard AS6081 is not applicable to authorized component sources such as Rochester Electronics. This standard only applies when the purchased product comes from the non-authorized – also called “independent” or “broker” — market as outlined in section 1.2 of the standard.

It should also be noted that section 1.2 ends with the statement: “This standard does not ‘qualify’ or ‘certify’ the electronic parts.” This is an important distinction because some people will confuse the requirement of AS6081 “testing” with somehow qualifying or certifying the product.

As the famous statistical quality control advocate Harold F. Dodge said: “You cannot inspect quality into a product.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_F._Dodge for more information.) It would be a mistake to forgo an authorized product on the assumption that a brokered product with AS6081 “testing” is the same thing. It’s not and never will be. Like all things in the open market, it’s not equivalent to purchasing from authorized sources.

That being said, the fact that this standard exists at all is a good thing: it finally documents the bare minimum visual inspection methods to be used when procuring parts from the independent or broker market. Without this standard in place, the methods used for visual inspection were all over the map. All the while, parts were sold as being “visually inspected” without adhering to any particular inspection standard

Below is Table 1 from the AS6081 standard:

It is important to note that the minimum requirement of this standard is visual inspection, with “Level” options available. These options may or may not be explicitly called out in component purchasing contracts. In effect, that makes this standard an “optionally good” standard: it’s a good standard if the optional levels are used, but not good enough if the levels are not called out. Mistakes are going to be made by people generically saying things such as “we had AS6081 testing done on this product.”

If the additional Levels (A-G) are not called out or required, this standard amounts to bare minimum visual inspection commonly done today across test houses and independent distributors. This means that if a component purchasing contract calls out AS6081 “testing” — but doesn’t call out the Level options — it is nothing more than the obvious hand-waving bare-minimum inspection being done to look for issues with open-market parts. While visual inspection can catch , it only catches the most obvious defects. That class of “obvious counterfeit” is diminishing over time as the counterfeiters get better and better at board-pulls and refurbishing.

The bottom line for purchasing: Buy authorized if components are available through that channel. Open-market purchases should only happen if no authorized solution exists. If the only option is an open-market component purchase, AS6081 Level options should be required. Even with those Level options, this standard does not qualify or certify the product but it may be the best that can be done given the part had to be procured through the independent channel.

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