MH&L's May cover story about phony parts in the consumer electronics supply chain reports on the end-customer's vulnerability. But counterfeits in an industrial supply chain plague consumers along its entire length, and these customers are as susceptible to bargain-basement pitches as an Average Joe looking for a steal of an iPad deal.
The industrial truck aftermarket is a good example. During the recession forklift fleet managers used idle equipment as a source of spare parts for the trucks they used most. They also kept many of those trucks in service longer than they should have, leading to aging fleets. But even now that the economy is better, many fleet managers still look for ways to cut costs—including the use of non-authorized replacement parts for their equipment. This is a big problem in over-the-road truck fleets.
Counterfeiting represents a $12 billion per year problem for the automotive industry, according to the American Trucking Association's Technology & Maintenance Council's (TMC) Counterfeit Parts Task Force. Jane Clark, vice president of member services for National Lease, a truck leasing organization, says phony parts are made to look the same as an OEM's or legitimately re-engineered aftermarket component, but they don't necessarily perform the same, she writes in a recent blog. "They are often constructed of substandard materials that easily succumb to shear and other weather and road related issues. According to the TMC, a single counterfeit brake valve can decrease the overall performance of a truck's brake system. In India, it is estimated that up to 20% of all road accidents are due to counterfeit parts. In Saudi Arabia, the estimate is that 50% of all traffic accident deaths are due to these fake parts."
Phonies can pose safety issues for forklift users too. That's why it's smart to do business with an authorized equipment distributor, whether you're shopping for a component or an entire system. This month and next month MH&L offers special coverage of Forklift Safety Day, taking place June 10th in Washington, D.C. We'll report the thought leadership of forklift dealers and OEMs on ways to improve the safety of one of the industry's most dangerous pieces of equipment. And if you're relying on more automation to take the human element out of material handling, that can lead to even more danger.
"Not following safe practices and procedures when using automated material handling equipment can result in injury," Bill Elliott tells me. He's engineered systems manager for CMH Services, a Crown and Nissan dealer serving South Carolina. "Maintenance lockout procedures and practices must be strictly followed. Operator training in safe work methods is necessary. The correct and safe work method may not be intuitive or obvious."
Bob Forgue, corporate safety manager for Associated Integrated Supply Chain Solutions, adds that automation can cause complacency and decrease an employee's incentive to learn safety methods. "One may see an increase in caught-in-between and pinch-point injuries with automated machinery," he says.
It's that desensitization to safety in procurement that leads to the phony parts problem. National Lease's Jane Clark offers the following checklist when shopping for aftermarket truck parts, and it's just as applicable for sourcing any material handling equipment:
Price – If prices seem to be relatively consistent across the industry and you find an amazing deal, you might be smart to just walk away.
Suppliers – Stick with the tried and true brand name parts made by full service aftermarket suppliers who stand behind their products.
Quality issues – Pay attention to details like country of origin, whether the product feels too light or too heavy, the color is off, or the company logo looks slightly different. Check the part numbers and RMA codes. If not sure, call the manufacturer directly.
Installation problems – The product looks right, but it doesn't fit the way it's supposed to. Again, call the manufacturer directly.
Material handling equipment dealers and OEMs are your best defense against phony parts and practices.Don't let counterfeiters sell you short on safety.