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Counterfeit, Fraudulent, and Suspect Items (CFSI)
In the last few years, the industry has become aware of an influx of counterfeit items in the American market. Counterfeiting is a problem in numerous areas. The automotive industry has seen problems with fake parts, and the aviation industry is struggling with an increasing arrival of unapproved parts and assemblies. Even here at Ahern, we have seen our share of misrepresented Material Test Reports, and incorrectly marked material. Some manufacturers and suppliers use inferior materials and processes to manufacture Counterfeit, Fraudulent, and Suspect Items (CFSIs) whose properties can significantly vary from established standards and specifications. Substandard materials pose immediate and potential threats to the safety contractor workers, the public and the environment.
In most cases, fraud is the cause of the problem. Companies or persons who misrepresent material, provide materials that don’t meet standards. Or they alter markings to make product appear to meet standards are in fact defrauding the government, industry, and the public. Unfortunately, this problem continues to increase despite measures to detect and eliminate counterfeit, bogus, or unapproved items. In 1994, counterfeiting was estimated to be a $20 billion business in the United States. By 2000, it had expanded to a $200 billion business ($1 trillion globally).
Identified CFSIs include electrical breakers and switches, bolts, tube steel, flanges, lifting slings, and brake pads and linings. Commercial nuclear and private industries, as well as government and the public, are not safe from these parts and materials. Tragedies have occurred as the result of materials that did not meet required design specifications.
Surveys and studies have been performed by various industries in an attempt to understand this problem. The reports identify the current problems and generally recommend that training programs be developed to allow procurement, engineering, operations, maintenance, and inspection personnel to identify substandard parts and materials. The reports recognize the removal of these parts and materials as only the first step in the process. A system of prevention, established when all organizations are fully aware of the issues, must be implemented from the top down. Line management must understand and endorse preventive measures. Only when the designer (who specifies and item), the buyer (who procures the item), the receiving inspector (who examines the item), the end user (who installs and operates the item), and the supplier (who supplies the item) work together to control this problem will we begin to see positive results. This requires all parties to communicate with each other to identify and resolve problems.