BY ABBIGAIL KRIEBS
Bearing in Mind
How distributors can add analysis as a service to improve bearing lifespan.
Substitutions are often necessary on plant floors. Swapping out a
hex nut for a square nut in a pinch is usually no big deal, but the
same cannot be said of swapping out bearings. Bearings demand
attention and accuracy. Luckily, the more technologically advanced
the industry becomes, the better the solutions are and the more
accurate manufacturers – and distributors – can be.
What’s Your Specialty?
In almost every industrial segment today, companies are consolidating and streamlining their product offerings and operations in
the pursuit of efficiency and cost savings. The bearings segment is
“Major manufacturers and distributors
have consolidated to take advantage of
economies of scale,” says Tom Koetje, a
Marketing & Business Development officer at National Precision Bearing. “
However, many end users and customers are
specializing, innovating, requiring smaller
runs of specialty parts, and expecting customized service.” This contrast is creating
unique opportunities for distributors to
become a very valuable partner in the
supply chain, either in carrying special
product lines or by offering customizable
services to the end user.
Reid Jajko, General Manager of NSK Americas Aftermarket
Business Unit, stresses that the bearings segment is no longer just
about quality. “Most Tier 1 bearing companies share very high
quality standards, so when a distributor is looking for a product
line, it all comes down to the support and engineering analysis
available to them, and their ability to identify the true root cause
of the problem,” he says. “The good manufacturers help reduce
consumption and help the end-user improve up time.” In working
with these manufacturers, distributors can harness that knowledge and analysis capabilities for their customers as well.
These service offerings can include lubrication services or predic-
tive maintenance analysis for customers. “Bearing manufacturers
are often unable to take product back for relubrication, or are
unwilling to put a special grease or oil in a small number of parts,”
says Koetje. “Bearing distributors like National Precision Bearing
can create a solution for customers with special application needs,
and create an opportunity to add value.”
“Maintenance is a big value-added opportunity for distribu-
tors,” notes Jeff Diaz, Industrial Product Manager at QA1. Offer-
ing analysis and creating customized maintenance schedules for
customers is one way for a distributor to differentiate themselves
in the changing marketplace, regardless of the part or product,
but especially in a category as integral as bearings.
The Human Element
In a marketplace that is becoming more and more automated,
distributors need to remember to bring the human element to
all that they do. That is the key to providing excellent service and
gaining, and keeping, long-term customers.
NSK’s Jajko notes that one of their strongest value propositions
is their resident experts. These experts
work across segments and with a myriad
of companies and are exposed to a vari-
ety of different issues that can arise on
the plant floor. Because of this, resident
experts can properly identify issues that
the end-user may not be aware of. “We
are able to take the experience and
knowledge base that we have and apply
it across many different applications,”
Jajko says. This allows them to offer a
holistic, value-added approach to solving
problems for the end-user — it is more
than just offering a bearing in a box.
“Providing a whole solution. That is the human element,” says
Jajko. “Completing an analysis and working directly with the
distributor to develop proactive solutions not only affords the
manufacturer the ability to increase their uptime, but also opti-
mize inventory management — having the right inventory at the
right time. This allows for better planning and better operation of
the whole supply chain.”
The better the supply chain functions, the more everyone
involved benefits. The better distributors can help their customers
forecast and plan bearing usage, the more effectively they can
forecast their own needs and carrying costs. With overall reliability
programs in place, distributors can better serve the customer, and
can better prepare for emergency situations.
Working with manufacturers that provide shorter lead times
is another factor when choosing a product line to carry, notes
“The best product in the world is no good if it isn’t in stock,”
emphasizes QA1’s Diaz.