Systems and Best Practices Ensure Preferred Supplier Status

Procurement of materials is often a challenging task for those involved with the aerospace industry supply chain.  Parts and supplies are not always readily available from traditional sources.  Long lead-times often get in the way of on-time delivery, setting production schedules behind.  Obsolescence issues can cause huge headaches, especially when it comes to procuring spare parts for older planes and equipment.  When a part is going to ultimately end up on an aircraft, quality and safety are top concerns.

In these procurement binds, an aerospace buyer often needs to look to the independent distributor market to help them fill in supply chain gaps.  But due to some of the risks involved, including the possibility of obtaining non-conforming or counterfeit materials from unqualified vendors, it’s imperative to proceed with great caution.

Rockledge-based SolTec Electronics – an AS9120 certified and AS6081 compliant supplier of aerospace parts and electrical components that specializes in helping its client base procure hard-to-find materials – buys materials from all over the world on behalf of its aerospace clients and has developed processes and systems to help mitigate these risks to their clients.  Here are some things SolTec looks for in a supplier as well as implements internally to assure the quality of the materials they sell:

AS9120 Supplier Certification.  This shows a supplier has processes and controls in place to positively impact safety and reliability of parts and that they have been verified by a third party.  Controls of records and evidence of conformance are high on the list.

Traceability of Supply.  When dealing with sensitive aerospace materials, SolTec tries to find materials with traceability directly back to the manufacturer.  When this is not possible, they trace as far back into the supply chain as possible.  The company always asks upfront for conformance paperwork.  When full traceability and conformance are not available, it is discussed with the end-user who then determines what risk-mitigation can be implemented on their end and if they want to proceed.

References & Reporting.  When considering working with a new vendor, it is always best to check some of their trade references to see how they grade in areas of quality and on-time delivery with their other clients.  It is also a good idea to check to see if they have ever been reported for dealing in suspect materials on industry sites such as GIDEP.org and ERAI.com.

Inspection of Materials.  The process of inspection and quality control are important to assure that product orders match data sheet specs.   A reputable supplier would be willing to share their procedures with a potential buyer as part of a standard Vendor Approval Process.  Their inspectors should be trained to read data sheet specs and they should have the proper tools and equipment on hand to verify parts and component upon receipt. 

AS6081 Compliance.  This is the new standard for aerospace parts distributors (not yet released to the public) similar to the AS5553 for manufacturers, which prescribes counterfeit part avoidance requirements.  A handful of distributors who sit on the committee who have helped to put this standard together are already aware of the stipulations and able to comply with this standard.

Electrical Testing & Counterfeit Avoidance.  As outlined in the AS6081 standard, there are many industry best practices in testing and inspection when it comes to electrical components and effectively identifying any suspect counterfeit parts.  These tests include: X-Ray, Decapsulation, Electrical Testing, and XRF materials analysis.

When partnered with a reputable distributor that is certified, has good references, and is on top of the latest industry best practices in safe aerospace procurement, risks can be effectively avoided and procurement doesn’t need to be such a grueling task.

SolTec Electronics

Founder & CEO: Dawn Gluskin

Location: Rockledge, FL

Founded: 2008

Certifications: AS9120, ESD S20.20 and ISO9001 Certified for Quality Management