EP Editorial Staff | December 19, 2013
Learn what the bearing industry is doing to help protect your operations from the scourge of conterfeit products.
By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor
Counterfeit bearings are an ever-increasing problem for end-users around the world. These counterfeits don’t simply reflect an illegal, unethical practice, they also pose a danger to industrial operations, finances and lives. The biggest problem with counterfeits is that, to the untrained eye, they can be difficult to identify. Moreover, not only do they not perform like authentic parts, they have no warranty—which leaves buyers with no recourse when problems occur.
According to bearing manufacturer NSK, counterfeits fall into two categories: black- and grey-market bearings:
- Black-market counterfeit bearings are fake bearings that may or may not appear to look identical to an authentic bearing, depending on the quality of the counterfeiting. They range from very poor replications to ones that can be extremely convincing. Whether or not a counterfeit bearing looks like an authentic product, it is still a fake that can fail unpredictably, cause machine damage and pose many safety issues.
- Grey-market counterfeit bearings are genuine bearings that are sold through unauthorized channels, either online or in-store. While a grey-market product might be “authentic,” its unauthorized distribution makes it exempt from the standard product warranties that come with genuine products.
Bearings that are 6” or less in diameter tend to be the most commonly counterfeited, as they are easiest to ship. Using these bearings can have devastating repercussions: Losses to your business can include equipment damage, downtime, excessive repair and replacement costs and, possibly, injuries or worse.
Bearing industry initiatives
The bearing industry takes counterfeiting very seriously—so much that the World Bearing Association launched a global, online anti-counterfeiting campaign (stopfakebearings.com) in 2010 to increase awareness and educate industry about the dangers posed by counterfeit product. Working in cooperation with global law enforcement and leading manufacturers and suppliers, the association has made progress in reducing the prevalence of counterfeit product, but there remains much to do.
As a World Bearing Association (WBA) board member and anti-counterfeit committee member of the American Bearing Manufacturers Association (ABMA), NSK has implemented a robust internal program to combat counterfeit bearings. Since its inception five years ago, the company’s anti-counterfeiting team has been working hard to monitor counterfeit and unauthorized product entry to the North American market.
“Our team has developed a highly effective working relationship with U.S. Border Control,” says Theresa Orr, Assistant General Counsel at NSK. “We provide the information they need to easily identify illegal shipments, such as who our authorized importers are, the ports they typically use, how our products are packaged, our trademarks and copyright registrations, and our authorized U.S. distributors.”
Working in partnership with the WBA/ABMA, NSK’s anti-counterfeiting team has successfully executed a number of raids in foreign countries, seizing thousands of unsafe, counterfeit bearings headed for the North American market. Once the counterfeits are seized, the company disassembles and thoroughly examines samples of the bearings, recording key details in a reference database. This allows trends to be identified so that U.S. Customs and Border Control can be alerted, thus making the importing of counterfeit bearings that much more difficult.
While the efforts of the WBA/ABMA, key industry players and U.S. Customs and Border Control personnel are help-ing make the North American bearing market more secure against counterfeiting, the Internet presents another signi-ficant challenge: As international goods are increasingly accessible online, so is an abundance of counterfeit goods—including bearings.
How you can join the fight
When purchasing bearings from an online distributor, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. “In some cases,” explains Theresa Orr, “the bearing shown on a Website isn’t the type or model that is delivered. In others, the product may be damaged due to inadequate protection through improper packaging, often the case when legitimate bearings are purchased through unauthorized distributors.” As Orr describes the situation, since these bearings are not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, your business is left exposed. “The bottom line,” she says, “is that if you are considering purchasing a bearing online, it is critical to verify with the manufacturer that the source is an authorized distributor.”
NSK’s anti-counterfeiting team, working with the ABMA and U.S. Customs and Border Control, is intercepting more counterfeits than ever. The continual fight requires vigilance, though. That means being proactive on multiple levels so that sales people, distributors and affiliates are well-informed about the counterfeiting issue and how to identify counterfeit products. To avoid purchasing counterfeit products and safeguard your equipment and processes:
- Always buy from a trusted source. By purchasing your bearings only from authorized distributors, you can be confident about the product’s performance. Authorized distributors can be found on manufacturers’ Websites.
- Educate yourself and your personnel about the growing counterfeit bearing problem and reiterate the importance of approved purchasing processes and channels.
- Recognize that an offer which looks too good to be true probably is. Saving money is tempting, but risks to your business far outweigh cost savings you hope to realize.
- If you suspect that you may have purchased counterfeit bearings, be sure to contact the brand manufacturer immediately.