Technologies for anti-counterfeit protection of machine parts

Longer version of this article has been published in Tech Magazine

Counterfeiting of industrial machines parts is a big issue for the entire manufacturing industry. It is often discussed and corporations spend huge resources on anti-counterfeit protection measures and campaigns. There are some results but no big improvement has been seen until now. Microholograms, an interesting technology deloped by OPTAGLIO from Lochovice, Czech Republic, may be the solution. It may enable manufacturers to create certainty of genuineness based on the part on its own rather than on a database entry or packaging.

Under „counterfeiting“ we understand a situation where a low-quality competitor (typically settled in a third world country) produces a part equipped with a logo or other signs of a premium producer. According to the World Customs Organisation, impact on automotive only is about 12 billion USD a year. One third of car parts circulating out of Europe and marked as originals are fakes.

Mark or follow

Counterfeiting has always existed. It is more interesting to find how relatively helpless the first-class producers are. A famous provider of car parts advises people to ask their repair shops to show original box. Can be anything proved through it? Is it sure that a part has ever been inside the box? The same company advises people to not buy too cheap parts. It is a de facto recognition that there is no reliable way of differentiating between genuine and counterfeited. BMW company is quite active against counterfeiting but it has only quite similar recommendations. Firstly. Purchase only in branded shops. Secondly. Examine parts and hope that a falsifier has made a mistake.

However, something still can be done. There are two basic strategies.

  • Following of lifecycle of a part.
  • Marking parts.

Under lifecycle following, each part is assigned a record about its history, especially about its „traveling“ between shops and distributors. It helps provided that records are true. However, it is useless for second-hand parts and helpless against replacements.

Under part marking, it is not necessary to follow a lifecycle of a part any more than users follow a lifecycle of a banknote. A client is simply having a look at a part and looking for a sign of its genuineness. Such solution would be great if the marks were not mostly only on boxes. Seals, holograms or security ink drawings can guarantee that a box is genuine. But what about its content?

Both imperfect ways can be applied together. A first-class part producer put a mark on its product, or at least on its packaging. At the same time, it builds a comprehensive information system to follow a way of the part through distribution channels – provided that all distributors and sales organizations are ready to cooperate. BlackFox Consulting recommends the following:

  • Mark your products. If it is not possible, mark their packaging. Hopefully, counterfeiters will focus on someone else.
  • Ask dealers to take part in your anti-counterfeit activities. Motivate them to detect faked parts in the market.
  • Motivate also your clients.
  • Pay big attention to communication. Make sure that people know technical details of your products. It will help them to identify fakes, at least the naughty ones.
  • And call the police, call the police, call the police. Security forces raids, stores seized, piles of confiscated products… The power is expected to be the main weapon against falsifiers.

The second part: The parts are not like banknotes. For the time being

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