Tracing the origins of materials, parts, and assemblies is essential for customer and industry trust.
The first mission of every project is to ensure the security of material inventory, production, and delivery. A vital piece of that mission is meticulous tracking of every step, delivering full traceability to customers.
Establishing a system of traceability — the capability of following material from creation to completion — is essential for every specialty manufacturer in The Partner Companies’ network as we supply precision parts, components, and assemblies to the defense, aerospace, and medical industries.
The benefits of material and product traceability include the following:
- Compliance — establishing a system of traceability enables manufacturers to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and AS9100 criteria.
- Quality Control — understanding where the material comes from and its fabrication is vital to delivering a precise, durable, and strong product
- Security — complete and transparent records are necessary to ensure materials come from trusted sources
- Safety — ensuring the quality of materials used in our manufacturing processes heightens the durability and accuracy of every solution delivered
For these reasons, The Partner Companies direct and support each operating company to develop and sustain traceability practices.
The F-35 Story
The F-35 fighter jet is one of the most sophisticated aircraft in the world. It boasts stealth technology, advanced avionics and sensors, vertical takeoff and landing, and is versatile enough for air-to-air combat, air-to-ground strikes, and reconnaissance missions.
The design and manufacture of the F-35 was a collaborative affair between the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Denmark, Norway, and Canada.
According to available news articles, the United States Marine Corps flew the fighter jet to strike Taliban targets in Afghanistan and for training and patrols since its deployment.
Yet, the entire F-35 program came to a screeching halt in the fall of 2022 when Lockheed Martin discovered that it had sourced metal alloys used in a component of the jet’s engine from China.
Decades of negotiations, planning, designing, engineering, and manufacturing were on hold because one part came from foreign soil.
In this instance, government and officials from Lockheed Martin determined that the component did not affect the flight operations of the F-35s already in service.
“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft, and there are no performance, quality, safety, or security risks associated with this issue, and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” said a spokesperson for the F-35 Joint Program Office.
The news cycle brought the concept of material and component traceability to the fore, especially for The Partners Companies’ production centers that serve defense contractors.
TPC & Traceability
The backbone of TPC is the specialty manufacturers that provide precise, durable, and accurate parts to many of the world’s most important industries, including renewable energy, aerospace, technology, and medical.
Many also serve defense and suppliers in the defense industry, which demands stringent traceability standards and adherence to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)regulations.
ITAR controls the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML). According to the U.S. government, all manufacturers, exporters, and brokers of defense articles, defense services, or related technical data must be ITAR-compliant without exception.
Lattice Materials, Optiforms, E-Fab, Elcon Precision, Fotofab, Microphoto, and PEI are the TPC production centers registered with ITAR.
Further, Pinnacle Precision, Elcon, Fotofab, L&T Precision, and PEI earned AS9100 certifications to work with the aerospace industry.
AS9100 guidelines are quality management standards for parts, components, and assemblies used in the aviation, space, and defense industries.
The Importance of Traceability
The TPC facilities deliver high-quality, precise, and accurate parts, components, and assemblies to every customer. Moreover, each facility adheres to the strictest standards and stands by its work.
Adding the vital material and fabrication traceability step is essential to establishing and maintaining customer trust.
“Our customers come to Fotofab because they know we are reliable, fast, and accurate. The parts we make are typically smaller and installed into complex devices,” says Fotofab President Charles Cohen. “The application ranges from being in an operating room to outer space. Due to the final use of the parts, traceability is critical. Our processes allow us to easily trace a part back to the operator, the machine, and the mill run of the metal.”
Every company that supplies defense contractors must be ITAR compliant, a complex process that includes implementing stringent security, inventory, production, and facility standards.
Specifically, each ITAR-certified TPC campus has met these standards:
- Registered with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls
- Implemented physical access controls to the facility and materials
- Established security controls to safeguard against access or theft
- Created a system for accurate and complete records of all transactions and materials
- Trained employees who have access to these systems
- Developed a sequence of activity for reporting threats or violations
- Conduct regular compliance audits and address any areas of non-compliance
“Renewing our ITAR registration each year is a no-brainer,” reports Microphoto, LLC President Michael Harden. “A large portion of Microphoto’s customer base is defense-related, which requires ITAR, so not having it would cause a substantial impact on our business. We tightly monitor documents and track the traceability of all metals going through the plant. We share a report including full traceability to the mill.”
Trusted Materials & Manufacturing
The Partner Companies’ mission is to supply the world’s most important industries with secure, precise, dependable parts, components, and assemblies. Our quest to simultaneously deliver on that promise while maintaining transparency and traceability is constant.
We invite your inquiries. Please contact a TPC production center that answers your project requirements or our business development team for assistance.