Don’t Be Cheap on Bearings

Don’t Be Cheap on Bearings

My old boss, Al Markland, took pride in saving money. He bought his clothes on sale, carried his lunch to work, drove low priced cars until they had high mileage, used grocery store coupons. He even only went to low priced movies.

CheapskateMarkland wasn’t thrifty. He was cheap – and darn proud of it. He was always the first one to call himself a “cheapskate.”

Therefore, you can imagine my surprise the day he stormed red faced into my office holding six boxes of cheap bearings I’d ordered.

“Joe,” he fumed. “I thought I’d taught you better than this. We can’t afford to use these bearings. The cost of them will kill us.”

I was astonished, to say the least.

“Can’t afford them?” I stammered. “I couldn’t find any that cost less.”

“That’s exactly the point,” he replied, a bit calmer. “Bearings are one prime example of where we don’t want to buy cheap. Cheap costs too much.”

“How can ‘cheap’ cost too much,” I foolishly blurted out.

“Good lord, what did they teach you at that fancy engineering school?” Markland persisted. “The cost of the bearings themselves are almost immaterial to the cost of a bearing replacement.”

“When we change them out, we pay for the mechanics, we pay for the line shut down, we always have some spoiled goods from shut down and start up. With cheap bearings, you get what you pay for. They may use steel that’s not as strong as or as pure. The may scrimp a little on the heat treat. The tolerances might be less demanding. They might use lower costs lubricants. They may use fewer inspection steps. And they may have less technical support and back-up ‘know how’. They might not have much in the way of warranty support or product liability coverage.

In short, he continued, “If you pay less, you generally can expect to get less. If you buy bearings that are not as good, they probably won’t last as long as they ones that are made of the finest materials, machined to the closest tolerances and backed by large and well-financed corporations.

“If they don’t last as long, we change them more often – and that can be both painful and expensive.

So get that expensive cheap stuff out of here and go get the best stuff our distributor sells.”

I got on the telephone immediately, straightened out the problem, and began thinking about what Al had said.

There must be many places where the type of logic he had just explained would be helpful to plant maintenance.

So, I tried to apply what Al had taught me and what I learned in engineering school. Here’s what I figured out:

  • The cost of the parts may be a very small portion of a repair.
  • Measure the value of an investment over the useful life of the equipment involved.
  • People costs involved in a repair or maintenance are critical.
  • Down-time, outages, off-line time can be very expensive.
  • Don’t buy price, buy value.
  • Buying high quality and long life is a smart investment.
  • The product is only as good as the company behind it.
  • You rarely go wrong buying the finest.

If you look closely at your entire operation, the name of the game is “keep it running.” Shutting down production and replacing equipment or components costs money. You and your co-workers need to be constantly looking for technology to help cut operating costs.

Bearings are a good place to start:

Whether your plant produces paper, pharmaceuticals, beverages or food, the wet and corrosive environments caused by frequent washdowns, chemicals, acids and other liquids put conventional bearings at high risk of rapid corrosion, often leading to unsanitary conditions and premature failure.

One recent example of a newly engineered corrosion-resistant bearing, Torrington’s Fafnir Survivor TM line, has bearings which will stand up to these harsh conditions. They have significantly extended service life, combined with reduced maintenance problems and less downtime.

Bearing requirements can differ widely in terms of load capacity, speeds and the level. of contamination and corrosion-producing agents.

The Survivor PT was specifically designed to achieve optimum corrosion resistance for food processing and other demanding applications. Available in both setscrew and eccentric locking collar designs in a range of popular sizes from 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches and 20 to 40 mm, they combine an advanced polymer housing with Fafnir’s patented TDC tm coated bearing insert.

The housing polymer is more durable than nylon or coatings and won’t absorb water or lose its dimensional shape. Nylon designs may. It possesses integral corrosion-proof qualities that cannot scrape or flake off during operation, and resists caustic chemical washdowns, as well as steam and heat temperatures up to 250° (and brief exposure up to 320 °F).

The rings of the bearing insert are coated with Fafnir TDC TM, a proprietary thin, dense, chrome coating that will not crack or peel under known application conditions. In the self-locking collar series, the collar is manufactured of a 300 series stainless steel, the industry’s most corrosion-resistant type of stainless steel material. All remaining bearing components — in both the setscrew and collar series — are made of synthetic rubber or other polymeric or stainless steel materials to further enhance corrosion resistance and service life.

Torrington’s new ‘”No Rust” Survivor PS uses the same advanced polymer housing found in the PT units. It is offered with a special stainless steel bearing insert and stands up to a wide range of common corrosives and contaminants.

Specially designed for light loads and speeds in certain processing and packaging environments – where the operation doesn’t necessarily require precision-ground bearings – the Survivor PS resists acids, alkalis, solvents, detergents, oils and other chemicals. Filled bases eliminate any pockets where bacteria could collect, while an additive in the filler provides increased antibacterial properties. The special stainless steel bearing insert in the Survivor PS offers the ultimate in corrosion resistance, and the wide-inner-ring design provides excellent shaft support and setscrew locking. In addition, all materials, including the lubricant, comply with applicable FDA food processing requirements.

Torrington’s bearings are a good example of advanced technology and advanced materials that can cost a little more for the units, but are considerably more cost-efficient in the long run. They are well worth looking into, especially for applications where extensive corrosion resistance is required.

The cheapskate I used to work for would find this solution an ideal answer to how to fix something once, by using the right materials and making the proper investment in quality.

If the cheapskate you work for doesn’t like this solution, show him your calculations about the ultimate cost of cheap fixes, and the ultimate savings you will get by making a strategic investment in the good stuff, and solving a problem once.



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