Plant & Works Engineering
Keeping quality at the forefront
Published:  03 March, 2016

Paul Loader, national sales manager for Industria Bearings & Transmissions, looks at the key areas to consider when purchasing bearings and gives his advice on ensuring the right product is selected every time to meet exacting requirements.

There is much to consider when sourcing any bearing product which may be destined for use in a wide range of manufacturing applications. In view of the current economic climate, many budgets continue to be squeezed and some purchasing or production managers may be tempted to save a few pounds on lower quality bearings, but inevitably this will often prove to be a false economy in the long run.

In any plant and works situation, the bearing will usually be the most precise engineered component within a system. Some would say that bearings take on the importance of a highly engineered commodity with a myriad of requirements, needs and uses across the globe.

Today there are currently many sectors, especially in manufacturing, where the market continues to be challenging and production and operations managers and directors are increasingly under pressure to keep their spend to a minimum. It can be tempting to seek lower cost bearings, but this can come at a price and may cause premature failure during a vital process or operation with the obvious implications of plant shutdown, lost production and unscheduled maintenance costs.

So what should the specifier look for when selecting bearings? Potentially at the top of the list is the experience and knowledge of the supplier or distributor. Working with established companies who have an excellent reputation and proven track record with their customers and getting the right advice at the start of the selection process is something that cannot be underestimated for a successful outcome. As with most situations, good business relationships are usually built on trust in the quality of the product and service received.

It is important to work with a supplier that guarantees a high standard of product and has quality assurance systems in place to ensure standards are not compromised.

Close examination of the bearing specification and consideration of how it will perform to meet expectations, is vitally important at the outset.

Buyers should always go for the best quality their budget will allow and if working with distributors, ensure that they possess the right level of technical ability to support them and their product. High technical competence will also be invaluable throughout the selection process as under or over specification can cause a range of operational problems and may lead to inefficiency and even increased energy costs in some circumstances.

Choosing products from major brand manufacturers which carry ISO 9001 accreditation will demonstrate that they are committed to high quality as well as providing good value for money. This will pay dividends in the future and in line with this, it is also important to work with distributors who also carry the ISO 9001 standard. Again the same quality of products, knowledge and systems will run throughout the organisation to deliver a successful outcome.

Another important aspect of ensuring correct standards are held by the supplier is that of traceability. Most customers from a varied range of sectors these days will demand a bearing that has full traceability from where and when it was made, from the raw materials, right through to the component assembly of the final bearing. This should be a pre-requisite for many organisations when sourcing bearings.

Any apparent savings from lower cost, unbranded products will all too soon be eroded when any bearing failures have to be rectified. This will entail not only a replacement bearing and installation costs but will, as mentioned earlier, result in lost production and downtime. For those supplying manufacturing machinery, loss of reputation is also a potential outcome and is something that cannot easily be repaired and regained afterwards.

Regular maintenance and service is essential in the prevention of failure and resulting downtime, and planning for potential replacements and spares should be part of any specification process. Keeping critically important items as part of the spares kit is something to be encouraged. If this is not possible, working with the supplier to ensure they hold the right stock level, which will enable readily available replacements as and when required, will go a long way to ensuring any problems that may arise can be fixed swiftly and efficiently

Bearings that are thoroughly and adequately tested will ensure the customers’ confidence in what they are buying. For example, quality distributors will supply products from recognised manufacturers which have their own in-house metallurgy departments and research facilities where products are extensively tested, so that customers can have absolute confidence in the bearings they are purchasing.

Probably most important when selecting bearings is to carefully assess the application they are to be used for and this is where the bearing provider can make a big difference. Bearings can be used from something as small and simple as a skateboard to a highly complicated aerospace application and while the product principle will be the same, the actual demands of the application are worlds apart in their requirements Care needs to be taken to ‘design in’ a number of elements such as the overall size, speed and load it will need to handle as well as the direction of load.

The environment that a bearing has to run in will affect the selection significantly. Dirty and dusty applications will require adequate sealing, and applications in the food industry may require stainless steel bearings that cope better with aggressive wash down procedures. High temperatures create their own special challenges and these need to be factored into the selection process. These are just a few examples of many possible considerations that will need to be made.

When purchasing any type of bearing, confidence in the product, the manufacturer and distributor is key for complete peace of mind. If seeking a new bearing for a particular application, then working with those who have the experience and knowledge to help and advise in finding the best solution will be time and money well spent. When sourcing any bearing product, avoid the temptation to cut corners with lower cost products, as this could be an unwise move in the long run.

For further information please visit: