The automotive & aircraft spare parts counterfeiting. Often a matter of life or death

19 Feb, 2021

Aircrafts are generally designed for a life cycle of many years. For instance, the B-52, went into service in 1955 and its retirement date has been scheduled for 2040. (1) Therefore, to perform a regular maintenance of aerospace and defense products throughout their lifecycle it might be necessary to use parts that are no longer produced by the original equipment manufacturer. When materials and microcircuits are acquired through other channels other than the authorized ones, there is the risk to receive parts that do not meet the original specifications. That’s where the Suspected Unapproved Parts – shortened with SUPs – come into play. (2) And if the aviation industry has developed an acronym for this it means that the problem is frequent and considerably serious. Unlike other industries in fact, in the aerospace sector, fake and unapproved spares may have life or death consequences. For this reason, the US Federal Aviation Administration established a special SUPs office to coordinate the agency efforts to identify, investigate and ultimately seize or remove any such parts. (3)

The same problem affects the automotive industry. According to World Trademark Review, the estimated global economic cost of counterfeiting could reach $2.3 trillion by 2022, and fake auto parts represent a substantial share of it. (4) The European Office of Intellectual Property (EUIPO) estimated that €2.2 billion is lost every year by legitimate producers exclusively due to counterfeit tyre sales and €180 million per year because to fake batteries. (5) Plus, these are not the only automotive parts that are frequently counterfeited in huge volumes. There are also, airbags, brake pads and many electrical components. In this scenario, consumers and even professional mechanics could find it difficult to distinguish a fake from an original part by simply looking at its packaging or appearance.

To solve this issue manufacturing companies should be able to assure the authenticity of each part they sell to their clients. Today this is possible through the end-to-end visibility technology framework developed by the Swiss company Authena, which combines the security of the blockchain technology together with the safety of multiple IoT devices and physical-digital product seals. The adoption of blockchain ensures data transparency and immutability and solves longstanding problems such as the still excessive use of paper documents, too bulky and subject to potential loss and deterioration. On the other side, single product physical-digital seals allow instant authentication with a tap of a smartphone and grant access to product integrity, warrantee information, traceability, product specification and assembly instructions Finally, to avoid product diversion and to boost demand forecast, manufacturers would have access to a powerful tool to monitor where their products stand along the supply chain and whether they have been removed from their original packaging.

Alessandro Tacconelli