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Looking to cheat both the OEM and the user, those producing fake bearings will stop at little to deceive purchasers and boost the profitability of their illegal operations. However, premium bearings manufacturer NSK is fighting back with a range of measures that aims to nullify this corrupt practice.
To highlight the extent of the problem, around 23,000 counterfeit NSK packages and labels were recently discovered in Hebei Province, China, while a follow-up raid at another factory owned by the same offender revealed over 90,000 counterfeit bearing boxes and 10 imitation printing plates covering four major bearing companies, including NSK.
Upon examining the premises, the range of machinery and equipment in-situ indicated the level of capability many counterfeiters have at their disposal. Several machines for printing, laminating, die-cutting, creasing and cutting were discovered. Aside from the fake boxes, officials also found many stacks of uncut packages, most of which were NSK.
All products were confiscated and taken to the Market Supervisory Board (MSB), the local trademark infringement office.
The acquisition of counterfeit bearings is not cost effective. Although such products may come with a lower price tag, due to issues such as poor-quality machining and the use of lower grade raw materials, they will almost certainly fail prematurely. Early bearing failure impacts on product/system reliability, introducing unplanned maintenance and repair costs, which in turn increase TCO (total cost of ownership). There is also a major cost associated with the subsequent damage to company/brand reputation.
NSK says it wants to protect customers by excluding illegal players and products from the market which have the potential to fail prematurely, most significantly, presenting an inherent safety risk. The aim is to eliminate the counterfeit syndicates, suspend counterfeit manufacturing operations and distribution channels, and take legal action against the perpetrators.
A big part of this effort involves co-operation with authorities in China. Partnering with customs and border control for instance, serves to protect against the outflow of fake bearings. To complement these efforts, raid activities are also conducted by central and local government organisations.
Technology has a major role to play in the fight against replica bearings. A good example is the recently developed ‘NSK Verify’, a free app which allows customers to assess the authenticity of machine tool bearings by using their smartphones to scan a unique 2D barcode found on the box.
As the latest step in eliminating fake bearings, NSK has joined forces with the WBA (World Bearing Association) to create a new app that is applicable to multiple manufacturers, ‘WBA Bearing Authenticator: WBA Check’. The WBA works globally to enforce the law on counterfeiters and eliminate fake bearings – including through app development. This non-profit and unincorporated industrial association promotes the common, lawful interests of the world’s bearing industry, such as open economic engagement, sustainable development and the protection of legal rights. NSK is an active member.
Similar in function to NSK Verify, the WBA Check app assesses the bearing authenticity of WBA member companies by scanning a compatible 2D barcode, making it easier for customers who use bearings from multiple manufacturers. Furthermore, if an unregistered bearing is detected, the app automatically notifies NSK.
While apps are ideal for identifying fake bearings that have already arrived at the end user, a more preventative way of combatting the counterfeiters is to buy exclusively from authorised NSK distributors and dealers. Such outlets obtain original NSK products directly from the NSK group and add value through the provision of advice, aftersales service and warranties.
E Fox Engineers, of Baldonnell Business Park, is an authorised Irish NSK distributor. You can call them at: (01) 469 35 50, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or log-on to: www.efox.ie for more details.