Unauthorised repercussions

Published:  07 January, 2008

Unauthorised repercussions


The issue of counterfeit bearings cannot only have serious economic impacts but can have extremely serious consequences for the companies that purchase them. In many applications the use of failure prone counterfeits can risk catastrophic consequences. Aaron Blutstein spoke to Jeremy Salisbury, head of marketing at Brammer (UK) about this growing problem.


The bearing is the heart of any machine and its failure can have a significant impact. Recent discoveries in Europe have highlighted the growing nature of the counterfeiting problem with over 3500 industrial accidents per year due to poor quality fake products.

Bearings are safety-critical products which must pass stringent industry standard quality inspections before they can be introduced to the market. Counterfeit bearings are, by definition, pretending to be something they're not - they are unlikely to have been put through the rigorous testing of a quality manufacturing process – why would a counterfeit manufacturer take the same care? The danger is that as the quality is not as good as the authentic product, failure is much more likely. Together with product failure comes damage to the surrounding machinery and, potentially to the people using the machinery – none of this would meet product liability insurance claims, nor, of course, any claims for personal injury, which could be severe.

In addition to the cost of the potential damage to plant and equipment is the loss of production which may result, and the significant cost this may have to the business. All of which could have been avoided by purchasing a guaranteed quality, factory fresh bearing from an authorised distributor.

The impact of using such products does not end in production-line inconvenience and the related economic consequences. In many applications the use of failure prone counterfeit products can risk catastrophic consequences, as when a Norwegian aircraft crashed in 1989 killing all 55 passengers due to the use of counterfeit products.

Jeremy Salisbury, head of marketing at Brammer (UK) explains that the relentless drive to stay competitive influences some companies into decisions based on unit price rather than total cost and performance. The chance to get components cheaper and for the finished product, or the service on the machinery, to be at reduced price – although the resulting cost could be highly significant.

He highlights: "Manufacturers or customers may use them in order to either be competitive in the market place or to improve profit margins – the risk is high, however, as this can potentially compromise machine performance and service.”

Salisbury warns that the cheapest option is rarely the best: “Cheapest will often mean bearings from a 'non authorised" channel and can effect the quality of the bearings. It can also sometimes mean bearings which are counterfeit – the only certainty of product quality is to purchase ‘best in class’ bearings made by a quality producer and sourced through an authorised distributor. Purchasing from a trusted authorised source guarantees traceability and manufacturer’s warranty cover.”

Salisbury  adds: “It also depends how you determine the cost of a product. Do you focus solely on the piece purchase cost, or do you consider the potentially catastrophic effects of fitting a sub-standard product. This can affect companies in many ways from financial risk in terms of lost production output and increased maintenance costs, to reputation and most important of all health and safety.”

The trade in counterfeit products can only be stopped through customers becoming more aware and by manufacturers becoming more forceful and using additional security safeguards – authentification processes, for example.

Salisbury says it is difficult to be precise how big the scale of the problem is in the UK. However, the intelligence is that counterfeiters will make money wherever they see an opportunity. The best way to reduce their opportunity, and to be sure of purchasing an authentic product, is to buy from an authorised distributor.

Although some readers might be cynical and argue that Brammer being a distributor would promote buying products from companies such as itself, but when listing the potential repercussions of not buying from authorised dealers you would be foolish to continue to buy from unauthorised alternatives to prove otherwise.

Authorised distributors provide many benefits – latest technical specifications, factory fresh products, manufacturers warranty with full product traceability, and high quality product that will ensure the bearings complete their full life cycle. However, perhaps the most important benefit that an authorised distributor can provide is peace of mind.

The counterfeiting opportunity can also arise when a company is not 100% vigilant in the control of its MRO spend. If purchasing within a company is not controlled, and directed through the authorised distributor route, then this can potentially ‘let in’ counterfeit product and place the business at risk ‘through the back door.’

Fake packaging is also a significant issue with old and out of date bearings being repackaged that are not to current specification.
Non-approved bearings often packaged to look like the genuine article from leading manufacturers have found their way into the marketplace. The difference in the performance in failure of non-approved products can be an expensive and dangerous liability.

This can result in premature failure, expensive downtime with possible machine damage and product contamination. When bearings from dubious sources fail, it may be impossible to trace the origin of products or claim compensation. 

In addition to the economic and safety implications for businesses it mustn’t be overlooked that counterfeiting is illegal and businesses that turn a blind eye are perpetuating the problem, and potentially committing a crime.


Taking action

If it is clear that a product is counterfeit then the manufacturer can take legal action which could lead to product seizure and destruction. This has already happened in Europe with several recent seizures of counterfeit products being reported - highlighted by the recent discovery of 40 tons of counterfeit bearings with a nominal value of €8million.The counterfeit products with the brand imprints of INA, FAG and SKF were discovered at an independent bearing dealer in Germany. However international legislation is not particularly strong in practice with regards to stopping counterfeiting, and it’s no longer just fake luxury and consumer goods that are flooding European markets but also safety relevant industrial products such as bearings.

The advantage of purchasing genuine product from an authorised source is essential to  guarantee optimum performance for customers. Unauthorised suppliers may sell old, outdated, reconditioned bearings or even re-box stock that can be contaminated or faulty.

An unauthorised supplier cannot offer the range or speed of delivery guaranteed from an authorised source. Time constraints could result in inappropriate or unbranded products being supplied - possibly jeopardising a customer’s operation.

Product from an unauthorised source is often incorrectly stored, may be outdated stock, offers unreliable availability and delivery times, with part numbers that are rarely consistent and provide no manufacturers technical support.

This can result in cash becoming being tied up in inventory to match mounting parts failure, in addition to unnecessary downtime and lost production output, as well as the potential risks to health and safety. Can you afford to take the unauthorised route?



For further information please visit: www.brammer.co.uk

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