By on February 10, 2014
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TTAC reader Dean Trombetta is back, giving an insider’s look at a widely reported but mis-understood story involving automotive plastics.

Last week, Aston Martin announced the recall of more than 17,000 vehicles for defective throttle pedals. The term “counterfeit plastic”, was frequently mentioned in the story, and for those not in the plastics business, the term may seem confusing. We usually associate the term “counterfeit” with consumer goods, specifically luxury items like watches, handbags and women’s accessories. Despite being in the plastics industry, I wasn’t sure what initial reports were referencing. But further research has shed some more light on the matter, and there seem to be two possible scenarios at play here.

Typically, when a new plastic part is designed, the engineers pick a type of plastic for the part. They do not typically specify a specific grade, just a type such as “nylon 6/6″ or “ABS”. The blueprints are drawn for the part and a material specification is put on the print to call out what material is to be used.

The engineers at the OEMs have dozens and sometimes hundreds of material specifications that have been written over the years that provide detailed requirements for a plastic material such as UV resistance, tensile strength etc. When the tooling is complete, sample parts are molded with a material that meets the specification, and these initial parts are submitted to the OEM in what is referred to as a Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) package.

This package includes the parts and supporting documentation proving that the materials used are able to meet the specification on the print, and that the part has the correct dimensions. Once the package is approved by the OEM and production begins, the supplier is not allowed to change anything without submitting a new PPAP. This means that the supplier is not allowed to just willy-nilly switch the material to a cheaper grade without getting approval first.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have “approved source lists” attached to each material specification that actually call out specific grades of plastic that can be used. Upon getting the print, the supplier looks up the specification in a database and it tells them to use DuPont grade 123 or Dow grade 456. Strangely, GM Ford and Chrysler are really the only ones that do this. Virtually every other automaker does it differently. Only appearance parts and parts deemed critical have approved sources and all other parts have a specification only and the supplier is responsible for making sure the material they choose meets the specification. Suppliers to these other companies are still not allowed to switch materials without submitting a new PPAP after production begins.

However, for some suppliers, the temptation to use cheaper materials is too difficult to resist. They might switch to a cheaper grade and make sure that the new material still meets the specification or they might just hope that it meets. If a supplier gets caught using a “non-approved” material, they could get in some trouble and if this is discovered during a recall situation, things can really get ugly. This scenario is not that uncommon and is what I thought may have happened to Aston.

However, after hearing that representatives from DuPont were involved in the Aston Martin, I think something else might have happened.

There are currently over 60,000 grades of plastic available commercially. These materials all have different properties. There are a relative few chemical companies that actually convert petroleum distillate to plastic but most plastic parts are not made of this stuff. The raw material is sent to a compounder that melts the plastic down and adds all sorts of ingredients such as color, heat stabilizers, impact modifiers, UV stabilizers, reinforcements such as fiberglass and numerous other additives.

There are thousands of these compounders all over the world that take basic “virgin” plastic and convert it into the materials that are used to make automotive parts. Some of these compounders are very small companies. Often these compounders will get a sample of another manufacturers material and reverse engineer it. They can often find out what the properties are and make an “equivalent” grade. This is not illegal assuming that they are not violating any patents, and patents on plastic materials are exceedingly rare.

The line gets crossed when someone makes a material and then labels it using someone else’s trade name and grade number. To be fair, sometimes this happens innocently. Some grades of plastic such as DuPont Zytel 70G33 are so ubiquitous, that the grade has become synonymous with that type of material, in the way that brand names like Kleenex, Xerox and Coke are synonymous with the generic product. I run into many people that refer to all acetal material as “Delrin” which is actually another DuPont trade name. I personally believe that many compounders will refer to their own product with a brand name out of laziness, rather than any intent to deceive other parties.

Sometimes, the intentions are not so innocent. There was a big case in the 90’s that involved a company selling generic acetal resin and labeling it Celcon M90 which was and still is a trademark of a large manufacturer called Ticona. This company was even making counterfeit bags and boxes and providing fake test reports for the material. The owner of this company ended up serving 5 years in prison.

In the Aston Martin example, we can see how the idea of a “counterfeit” plastic part came to fruition. A Chinese compounder likely wanted to make an equivalent to the aforementioned Zytel 70G33, a common plastic for automotive applications. Ironically, the raw nylon to make this plastic has to be purchased from DuPont or BASF. Other additives like glass fiber, black pigment and copper based heat stabilizer can be purchased elsewhere.

While any given outfit can theoretically make this blend, doing it cheaper than DuPont is next to impossible. DuPont’s size enables them buy all of the ingredients at a much lower cost. In order to entice the supplier to buy the “generic equivalent” from your own small outfit, you have to cut a few corners to make up the cost difference. That means less heat stabilizer,  a cheaper coupling agent and even usng scrap nylon parts that are recycled into the mix.

All of a sudden, the material that might cost $3.50/lb from DuPont can be sold for 50 cents on the dollar. Just put the material in fake DuPont bags and provide some DuPont paper work that you made with a pirated version of Microsoft Word and you’re in business and pray that you don’t get discovered. This time, they ended up in a product that they had no business being in – a high-dollar exotic car.

 

 

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65 Comments on “Ur-Turn: The World Of Counterfeit Plastics...”


  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Good explanation, Dean! As a plastics guy, I am amazed at how few people understand anything at all about these amazingly useful materials. The supply chain management aspects of this issue are the most challenging. Looks like Aston Martin has some catching up to do.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      No small part of the reason so few people understand plastics is the plastics industry itself. It is like there is some magician’s code preventing disclosure of material properties, test data, or any straightforward means of comparison.

      I get that a lot of plastics are proprietary. But when I have worked on plastic product design, it is almost impossible to get answers about strength, UV resistance, flammability, and other basic properties. Unless one is an automotive OEM, the answer often seems to come down to doing one’s own testing. And forget about trying to get a breakdown of material properties relative to cost.

      I get that plastics are complicated. I like complicated things. But at some point, “we can do that, but we won’t tell you how” is not a useful answer when trying to engineer parts. A number of times, the companies I have worked for have defaulted to metal parts because we know they will work, despite our suspicion that the right plastic would be better for the application. We could just not get straight answers out of the plastic vendors.

    • 0 avatar
      Dean Trombetta

      Besides requiring all of the suppliers to purchase expensive IR scanners to assure that the material is the real deal (and this would not be fool proof) it is a good idea to make sure that the suppliers buy these materials from authorized distributors.

  • avatar
    skor

    I’m not surprised. A couple years ago the squirrel cage on my Cadillac’s HVAC blower literally exploded. When pulled the blower motor, I discovered that the plastic used for the squirrel cage was as crunchy as peanut brittle. Was GM trying to save a nickle? Mistake? Was the supplier feeling squeezed and used an inferior grade of plastic? I can’t answer any of those questions, but I’m certain that the wrong grade of plastic was used for that blower motor fan.

    • 0 avatar
      salguod

      Plastics degrade over time and exposure to the elements. Being buried in the dash, it’s unlikely that the common threat to plastic parts, UV exposure, was to blame. I suspect the plastic is just what Caddy spec’d and it simply reached the end of its life. You don’t mention how old it was, but it is also quite likely that Caddy didn’t think it needed to last as long as you would have liked.

      It can be surprising how some things can dramatically change the properties of plastics. I worked on a design for an injection molded bulk food bin, the kind full of candies at your grocery store. The bin was completely polycarbonate, a very tough plastic. You could drive over the scoop with your car and it would deform, but not break. Six months in coffee beans or peanuts and the oil would embrittle the plastic to the point where dropping it on the grocery store floor would shatter it. We switched to a co-polyester, with great expense in tooling changes to accomodate it.

    • 0 avatar
      B

      First of all that can happen as plastic age from hot and cold cycles. As to this specific application, it could have been a supplier using a lower grade or just poor processing during molding or GM trying to save a nickle by making something that would last just long enough. Hard to say without seeing the part.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        In 35 years of driving, that’s first time I’ve seen something like that happen…..and I’ve driven some cars that were well past their “best by” date. I’m sure the failure was not caused by anything else. I thoroughly vacuumed out the the heating and cooling ducts into a clean shop vac. I could found nothing except bits of the disintegrated squirrel cage. There was nothing loose inside the duct that could have come into contact with that cage. The central part of the cage was still firmly attached to the motor shaft. The shaft still turned smoothly and had very little play. BTW, the car was 15 years old, and well kept with only 72K miles, but as I’ve already stated, I’ve driven cars that were much older, and in much worse shape, and I’ve never seen anything like this.

    • 0 avatar
      motormouth

      Planned obsolescence. See you at the dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      It even happens to the fans used in video cards in PCs! I bought a fairly high end card back about 2 PCs ago, and when I built that PC, I put a multi function fan controller in it and it had a couple of temp sensors in it. About 6 months after I started using it, suddenly the temp went to like 190F instead of the normal 110F it ran when playing a game that stressed it. I looked at the fans with a flashlight, and they were spinning away. Then I saw what looked like the onions from a McDonald’s hamburger laying on the bottom of the case. All but a couple of the fan blades on both the fans had broken off. A call to the card manufacturer was like, “Hello, I have one of your cards and the fans have lost their blades!”, “Oh, give me your name and address and I will send you a new card and a return label!”. I took the card out and put my old one into it, and the fan hubs were both cracked in several places and as brittle as glass. The new card had fans that were a different plastic and color. That card is still working fine, I use that PC to play DVDs and BluRays on my TV with.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Thank you again, for explaining an arcane subject in a way that the 99% of us can understand.

    I’m an EE and work for a company that makes vehicle electronic assemblies. Counterfeiting of components is also widespread here.

    The times we have had problems (and recalls) has been related to scheduling pressures: The automotive company sees that a certain model proves to be more successful than expected. Then it issues a demand pull on its tier-1 suppliers, which, to please the automaker, 99.99% of the time acknowledge the order.

    Things start to become interesting at this point. The tier-1 has dozens of tier-2 suppliers, which in turn, have dozens of tier-3 suppliers. That single automotive component branches out in hundreds of individual components, sub-assemblies and materials, coming form all over the world.

    The laws of probabilities indicate that at least one of those individual components is single sourced and has a long lead time. It doesn’t matter if all the other 739 components that make the autopart are available, if you are missing that one component, you don’t have an autopart. Which means that the automotive company will become REALLY upset and may even apply severe fines.

    Teleconferences at weird times are scheduled, everyone barks, tempers flare up, and you get threatening calls (I don’t care if your wife is going into labor) from the VP of sales every 15 minutes.

    Finally, using that great democratizing tool called the internet, you finally find some available components with a far east broker. Your instincts may tell you that something does not smell right, but you are tired of 16-hour workdays and being yelled at. So you purchase the component.
    Everyone is now happy and relaxes, at least until the next fire drill.

    A couple of months later, the first field failure appears. The failure analysis indicates a counterfeit component. Meetings are again held. This time the Quality organization has their feet on the fire. Wishful thinking of an “isolated” incident are hoped for. But a couple of days later, another failure, and then a couple more.

    By now, you know in your heart that these are the initial stages of an extremely painful and expensive process, so painful, that people whisper and look down when they mention it: THE RECALL.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thank you for this informative article .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Fantastic, fantastic article, that was easy to understand for those of us without chemistry or chemical engineering degrees.

    An article or two such as this explaining technical things to the layperson each week would make TTAC even more valuable a destination for readers.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    Pharma guy here. Same story for us.

    And we are all now looking at the raw materials coming in from India and China as well, which is causing us issues, mostly due to cheating.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      You are not kidding. I had patients suffer pulmonary emboli and DVTs when they were getting Baxter heparin before that scandal broke.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOlds

        That’s a perfect example of what I am talking about. Dog food, baby formula, medicines- none are suitable for manufacture where they lack the appropriate controls and culture of compliance.

        In pharmaceuticals, the API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) is the actual drug you take, as opposed to all the other stuff (flavorings, binders to make the pill, diluents, etc), and more and more are being manufactured in China and India. It’s a race to the bottom.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    This is an unintended consequence of globalization.

    I remember when i was reading Thomas Friedman’s book “The World Is Flat”, that I felt that it was overly optimistic.

    True, globalization has expanded markets. But at the same time it has made us extremely vulnerable to Thailand floods, Japanese earthquakes, European volcano eruptions.

    And those are only the natural events. Man-made events, like riots, religious strife or civil war in the world’s remotest corners, can further disrupt the supply chain.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      A friend of mine builds engines for friends and himself (mostly Chevy LS at this point) and he has had some parts that were obviously fakes come through legit suppliers. Most aren’t critical, but he’s seen some bad looking bolt sets and water pumps. The pumps are rough looking, and easily spotted, as are most of the bolts, until recently. If it wasn’t for the odd looking packaging, he wouldn’t have been suspicious about them at all. Now he’s paranoid about it, and uses ARP stuff, which seems to be 100% legit so far.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    So is this more a problem for parts made in certain regions/countries or is this problem rampant throughout N.A. mfg operations as well? I ask because it sounds like Detroit standardized on “approved source lists” while other mfgs follow “other” procedures. I imagine if you’re a vendor who gets vetted and makes it onto an approved list, the minute you’re found to be slipping in inferior grade material you are blackballed and its game over in the supplier business. If other OEMs do not follow a similar system you could be free to ding them again and again.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      Every OEM has their own QC solutions. Every car has Chinese parts in it nowadays, even most American-made car has 25% parts coming from somewhere else and there’s always risk that rogue/stupid worker/supplier has replaced material, even at “approved source” co.

      http://www.thestreet.com/story/11968700/1/10-most-american-made-cars-of-2013.html

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/automobiles/safety-agency-says-22-million-vehicles-recalled-in-2013.html?_r=0&referrer=

      ■ Toyota, 15 recalls, 5.3 million vehicles

      ■ Chrysler, 36 recalls, 4.7 million vehicles

      ■ Honda, 15 recalls, 2.8 million vehicles

      ■ Hyundai, 9 recalls, 2.2 million vehicles

      ■ Ford, 16 recalls, 1.2 million vehicles

      ■ Kia, 3 recalls, 1.1 million vehicles

      ■ Nissan, 17 recalls, 958,148 vehicles

      ■ BMW, 14 recalls, 934,047 vehicles

      ■ General Motors, 23 recalls, 757,677 vehicles

      ■ Suzuki, 4 recalls, 405,605 vehicles

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      This type of thing happens in North America as well but I think that the odds of getting in trouble for it are greater than in China. China has become kind of infamous for lack of trademark and patent regulation.

      As I mentioned in the article, there was a big case in the 90’s in the US where a supplier was selling counterfeit Celcon acetal plastic.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Don’t forget the cases of rat poison in drywall or lead paint in toys. My company won’t buy steel from China because when we did before, the material certs had been forged/made up. We also have a problem with theft of technical information.

        I will not say that China has a culture of counterfeiting, but it does seem the combination of driving forces (possibly a form of ‘You must do business at any cost, and BTW, it must be the lowest price’) and (lack of) severity of consequences that results in the counterfeiting.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I purchased what was supposed to be a genuine IBM AC Adaptor/charger for a ThinkPad T42 laptop two years ago from an ebay Hong Kong seller.

          To the untrained eye it looked the part with decals, markings, etc., but it would heat to an absurd level within minutes of being in use, and then snap, pop & fizz (literally), it literally melted within a week of use.

          I could absolutely believe it had the potential to cause a fire given the right set of circumstances.

          And that’s what one sometimes gets for avoiding what was then IBM’s (they long since sold their PC business) seemingly high $44 charge for that simple part and opting for a $8.60 forged subsitute,instead.

  • avatar
    Swedish

    The manufacturer should periodically pull samples of inventory and stress test those samples. Especially functional linkages.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Aye, but in the interest of cost reduction at the auto manufacturer’s final assembly operations, they outsource that responsibility to the supplier themselves! The parts come off the supplier’s truck and go straight to the assembly line. “Just in time”!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      They probably do. However, remember that these counterfeiters are reverse engineering materials/parts to meet the properties they can measure. Parts probably start out with the same strength but more quickly degrade. If testing requires measuring fatigue, you may have installed several batches by the time you know something is wrong.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    I have never believed in the aftermarket axiom “parts is parts” and this excellent article reinforces that beautifully.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Universal parts universally never fit anything. – Old Hot Rodder’s axiom.

      Good enough are dangerous words to utter and obviously there are lots of cases of suppliers or manufacturers thinking the counterfeit was “good enough.”

      • 0 avatar
        jbltg

        This is very true! I was referring mainly to “generic (not OEM)exact replacement” parts from Auto Zone and the like that may or may not be any good at all. It’s kind of a crapshoot, and for a failed OEM part, maybe I don’t want another one of those thank you unless it has since been improved. How I would know is another question entirely. This is one area where brand names such as Bosch are helpful.

        Unfortunately we live in time where five cents will be shaved of an item, which ruins it, and creates a ton of customer bad will for the sake of a pittance-no matter how much that adds up in “savings”, it usually more than backfires on the manufacturer.

  • avatar

    As a computer guy, this reminds me of the “counterfeit capacitor” issue of about 12 years ago. Basically, a Chinese company got their hands on a stolen recipe for making the electrolytic solution in capacitors, but didn’t realize it was a few ingredients. The result was a bunch of capacitors on system boards in major PC manufacturer’s PC’s that would swell/leak/explode.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      That one reads like a John le Carre thriller of international intrigue.

      It essentially was a Taiwanese engineer who stole the formula (incomplete formula, that is) from a Japanese company. He then proceeded to sell the flawed formula to Taiwanese vendors who had operations in the Chinese mainland thru -apparently- corporations registered in another country.

      The capacitors were then sold mostly to Dell Computer, which is based in the US, but had the boards assembled in Malaysia.
      I may have some details mixed up because the issue was extremely complex.

      The fiasco ended costing Dell anywhere from US$ 300 to 400 million.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        I have one of those Dells – Precision 670 – several years old so I’m pretty sure my motherboard isn’t infested. Use it as a license server only at this point, just in case.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I work at a university, our library bought a ton of Dells with those caps. Dell ended up replacing all the motherboards. I also buy lots of Dells, but managed to dodge that bullet.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Madanthony, it was known as the “Capacitor Plague”.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague

  • avatar

    I used to work for an EPC company that worked with many large oil companies. Some of which accepted materials from China. Some of which did not. Some have very strict requirements on country of origin (Exxon). Some don’t (BP). I remember what a pain in the ass it was sometimes to find things as simple as heavy equipment bolts that were not made in China.

    One vendor claimed to be US made, they had it all over their documentation until the materials arrived and the only part made in the US was the ABS plastic can. The steel parts of the bolt assembly were all manufactured in China so we had to send them back.

    It’s all up to the manufacturer and their risk assessment during evaluations. As low volume as Aston is, one part recall isn’t that many cars. Ford, GM or Chrysler on the other hand with as much standardization as takes place now a days could be on the hook for recalling hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    An important variable here is labor cost. Contrary to popular opinion, most products requiring assembly are built by humans with tools and fixtures, and not by robots.

    If production volumes are low – as they are with Aston Martin – saving a nickel on plastics won’t matter. An accelerator pedal is not comprised of a simple molded part, but its bill of material may be several layers deep, containing a dozen or more part numbers.

    This means that real savings in Asian sourcing is found in the tooling cost (which is really labor), and assembly/test time. Mfrs should insist on ‘real’ plastic since the raw material cost can often be a very small fraction of the total delivered cost to the customer. However, the downside costs of fixing a bad part that failed due to counterfeit plastics are extremely high.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Precisely, which is why for a low volume high price exotic like AM, cost of plastics should not even be a consideration just go with the higher price options.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        If the molder owns the molds and selects the raw material supplier, then you need someone on site frequently busting their cohones. Like, for example, Herr Schmitt.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          One way of going about it.

        • 0 avatar
          BigOlds

          That’s one of my many jobs. I will call up a few days before a production run and tell them I am popping in for a visit. Too late to hide anything, I get to see what’s really going on. Make sure that right is in the contract, and the money spent on travel will be very well invested.

          Also why I can tell you that they myth of German manufacturing is just that. They are top-notch producers, but no better or worse than any other industrialized nation. I have seen the same stupid mistakes made in the US, Canada, 6+ EU countries.

          Now, when I deal with Brazil, China, etc. I get to see a whole extra set of stupid mistakes, combined with the cheating I don’t see in the fully industrialized places.

          I have never had the opportunity to work with Japan, though. I would really like to see that.

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            I’ve dealt with equipment from Japan. It’s not infallible. The language barrier seems more difficult to get past, for some reason.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    This issue is not limited to plastics – my big beef is with offshore rubber manfacturers as well (going back for over 20 years now). I’ve lost track of the number of parts that I have bought with defective rubber:

    1) Transmission cooler that came with its own hoses. Hoses were installed, and were badly cracked within a year and had to be replaced.

    2) PCV valve grommet that was not oil-resistant. It turned into black, sticky Jello in about 6 months.

    3) And what’s up with Chinese-made tires cracking prematurely? I’ve seen numerous ones with the rubber so faded and cracked in only a couple of years that you would think they were 20 years old. My hunch is that they have no ozone and UV-resistant materials added to them as they should.

    These material problems are really troubling because it is impossible as the consumer or end-user to determine if the part is good or not.

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      Don’t forget the tire stems from a few years ago. A Chinese company started making them and to save money skimped on the chemicals that sustain UV resistance! Owners would go to check their tire pressure and upon attempting to loosen the valve cap the whole stem would break off at the base!

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I had some Specialized (respected name in the bicycle world) tires about ten years ago whose sidewalls disintegrated after a couple years. Never had that happen before or since.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I am reminded of the natural rubber hoses in the engine compartment of my 1966 Rover 2000 – apparently the Brits had lots of money in rubber plantations. The hoses all failed within a period of several months when the car was 2 or 3 years old. And not just radiator and heater hoses – the Rover motor had several little hoses to pipe coolant from one part of the motor to another. One of these was about 3 inches long, molded with a right angle in it. Of course this wasn’t available from the dealer, so I took a length of heater hose and bent it around so it made a loop. It looked funny but it worked.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I installed a water outlet on a Sunfire GT’s 2.4L engine a few years ago. Within a year, it was leaking. I took it off and found that the plastic o-ring had become a hard flat ring. Fortunately a Fel-Pro o-ring was readily available for the application.

      I’ve seen the same thing with an o-ring in an almost-new Rock Shox suspension fork. Why do they go to such extremes to save a penny?

      Cheap is one thing, but anybody knowingly involved in counterfeiting materials and/or forging their documents should be executed.

  • avatar

    Dean,

    Kudos on an incredible article!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    “God is in heaven and the Emperor far away. By the time they find out I’ll be gone with your money and you’ll be dead.” – Chinese saying

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Thank you very much for this article; it confirms what I suspected when the term “counterfeit plastics” came up.

    A similar malady afflicts the booming memory card business, and you will occasionally read about counterfeit memory cards shipping from the same factories which produce the top tier memory products.

    It’s all too common; a friend or relative of the factory owner or supervisor will gain access to facilities, and run a few late night production cycles without any rigorous controls in place. This is what happened 2-3 years ago when a massive wave of counterfeit 32G Micro SDHC cards landed on US shores.

    I can already envision a similar situation occurring in a plastics plant.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Supply chain mgmt is critical and a massive headache. What is going to have to happen is either China gets a cultural change (unlikely) or sourcing is going to get even more complex. Fewer sources, only trusted suppliers and certified manufacturers, with rigorous standards, compliance fines and ouster from the chain if non compliant. But that comes with a heavy cost. If the economy doesn’t pick up soon, it might end up cheaper to source local/buy local and shut out China.
    There’s certainly an opportunity for another country/culture to step into this morass and establish one hell of a business model. India? Some African country? Middle East? South America?

  • avatar
    drewtam

    Good article.

  • avatar
    Hillman

    People wonder why I always try to buy American made products. There is no way I would take medicine from certain countries.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    I read about the problem at Aston Martin last week and the first thing that popped in my head was design fade, where the first prototypes are great, as are the parts delivered over the next six months or so. After that, cost cutting, etc., starts to degrade parts to the point where they look the same but are not fit for purpose. It’s a fairly common problem in China and has caused M-B and Audi some headaches in the past.

    You’d think that testing would catch such issues, but a few years ago I interviewed the director of production at Porsche (Zuffenhausen) and he mentioned about having axles kitted by a supplier a few kilometers away. I asked about testing and, to paraphrase, he stated that by the time the truck had arrived at the plant with a set of four JIT and JIS axle sets, the time for testing was over. Long story short, if the Chinese plant isn’t testing or isn’t doing it correctly, Aston has little choice but to take what they receive.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of a customer of my employer, a very large Automotive supplier. asked us to shorten some SAE 4037 bolts they had manufactured in a China facility, and were not correct to the blueprint. There was no time to remanufacture them, they were close to a plant shutdown over the problem.

    About 1 in every 25 bolts would split in half when we went to cut them down – it was obvious they were not the correct material… not even close.

    Safe travels, everyone!

  • avatar
    dahammer

    Here’s a link to a blog posting and an article that recently appeared in Plastics Today, am industry trade magazine.

    http://www.plasticstoday.com/blogs/week-203-0207-chinese-counterfeit-material-causes-massive-recall-and-top-10-articles?cid=nl.plas08

    http://www.plasticstoday.com/blogs/counterfeit-plastic-material-heart-another-vehicle-recall

    The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweet taste of low cost is forgotten. This part was molded by a Tier III supplier.


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