Star Wars Saga (cont'd): How Bogus Parts Nearly Cost the Rebel Alliance

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Flight_ControlsWith part suppliers spread across the galaxy, the risk of bogus or counterfeit components making their way into the manufacturing mix has increased at a disturbing rate.

The Rebel Alliance discovered the dangerous impact of bad parts the hard way. In the weeks before the battle of Yavin, X-wing fighter pilots realized their onboard targeting computers were not generating an accurate digital projection of the battlefield.

"The Incom T-65 X-wing’s perfect balance of speed, maneuverability and defensive shielding make it the fighter of choice for Rogue Squadron,” said Rebel Alliance General and Manufacturing Operations Manager Carlist Rieekan. “However, without our targeting computers, we’d be as clumsy as Jabba the Hutt twerking,” said Rieekan. “And the chance of shooting two photon torpedoes down an exhaust shaft two meters wide was as likely as a Wookie winning a swim suit competition.”

The Rebel Alliance’s entire mission was nearly compromised because faulty components had made their way into the computer systems due to a lack of supply chain visibility.

Here’s how the problem happened.

The Rebel Alliance contracted with several top tier contract manufacturers, giving them absolute ownership of the design of their respective piece of the X-wing product line and responsibility for managing their own subcontractors. Unbeknownst to the Rebel Alliance, one of those second-tier part suppliers for the tracking computers IP happened to be…Jawas.

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“Let me explain something about Jawas,” said Rieekan. “They are relentless scavengers who comb the deserts of Tatooine in search of any scrap metal, droid or mechanical part left behind from the millennia of star travel. And guess what? Those old junk parts were what our primary contacts ended up buying from the Jawas and using in our X-wing fighter tracking systems. So frustrating.”

To reduce the occurrence of bogus parts, the Rebel Alliance turned to Arena Exchange, a supply chain solution that allowed the Rebel Alliance’s manufacturing division to forward, filter and share build packages across their entire extended supply chain. Arena Exchange enabled more robust team collaboration and greater visibility into second-tier supply chain suppliers.

“While the Rebel Alliance wants efficient supply chain approval processes, we don’t always want to give our primary supply chain contacts’ second and third teams access to our innermost PLM system, especially if those providers are sneaky hoodie wearing Jawas,” said Rieekan.

The need for greater supply chain wide visibility impacts manufacturers from industries ranging from medical devices to high technology and organizations that include everyone from evil empires to rebellious factions. It’s a galactic fact that even stellar suppliers oftentimes unintentionally employ unscrupulous employees who could vacuum up your IP and jet off to a new gig. And it’s also a universal truth that bogus parts often rear their ugly heads during times of desperation when suppliers are hurried to service their OEM customers.

“When you’re trying to get an assembly built quickly, or your demand has suddenly increased—think Death Star super laser or an X-wing tracking computer—you’re going to occasionally find that you are short of components and your contract manufacturer and other distributors and suppliers will work very hard to get you parts—and that’s classically when you end up with counterfeit parts,” admits Rieekan. “Unfortunately, you won’t know that they’re bogus until you re-spin the board and get into system tests. So, with Arena Exchange, we’re able to see where our distributors and suppliers are actually getting parts early on before it’s too late.”

By using Arena Exchange, the Rebel Alliance gained a clear competitive advantage over the Galactic Empire by eliminating the counterfeit parts that might result in unforeseen scrap, rework and shipping delays. “My college fraternity bro Grand Moff Tarkin went to work for the Galactic Empire, and we made a bet that I could blow up his Death Star before he could finish building a laser to destroy our rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin,” snickered Rieeken with an impish smile. “But he didn’t have a way to guard against bogus parts. That caused production delays of his laser, giving us time to steal a Death Star blueprint and discover an exhaust portal vulnerability. Because of Arena Exchange, I prevailed. I wish he were still here so I could open up a cold brew and say nothing. Just take a few pensive sips and gloat.”

To this day, Star Wars historians debate whether Luke Skywalker actually used the Force or an eleventh generation tracking computer to destroy the Death Star. “When I first heard a Yavin Base controller yell, ‘Luke, you switched off your tracking computer! What's wrong?’ I said to myself. ‘Oh, no! Another counterfeit part has caused product failure at the worst possible time!’” explained Rieekan. “But then Luke responded, ‘Nothing. The tracking computer works fine. I was just listening to my favorite audio book, ‘The Bridges of Madison County.’ Some people claim we were victorious because of ‘the Force’, but I believe it was actually Arena Exchange.”

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About the Author

John Papageorge
John Papageorge has worked at some of the biggest names in the high tech industry, launching products and programs for companies, such as Oracle, HP, Cisco, and Microsoft. John's passion ... Read More 

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