The recent discovery of a large number of counterfeit NSK bearings in Johannesburg, South Africa, highlights the need to remain vigilant in the face of criminals who look to put the safety and integrity of industrial machinery and humans at risk. Towards the end of April 2022, a Police search and seizure operation (initiated by NSK) led to the confiscation of thousands of replica bearings (98% industrial types) worth an estimated R5 million. Criminal and civil proceedings are now underway against the perpetrators, who will shortly receive a court summons.
In the current inflationary climate, budgetary pressures are driving many bearing users to shop around for irresistible bargains, but these often come at a far higher price. Low-quality counterfeit bearings will fail long before their expected service life, sometimes catastrophically, compromising the safety of expensive capital assets and humans. In almost all cases, using fake bearings leads to higher lifecycle costs, not to mention the costs associated with subsequent damage to company/brand reputation. Steel quality is often the differentiating factor, where a disparity in operating life of up to 20 times (between genuine and counterfeit) is not uncommon.
Some bearing users also increase their vulnerability to counterfeits by employing subcontractors for equipment repairs on assets such as electric motors, pumps, gearboxes and fans. Unless subcontractors are vetted to check they understand the risks and have appropriate controls in place, they may inadvertently purchase and install counterfeit bearings during maintenance or refurbishment.
In the interest of self-protection against the dangers of fake industrial bearings, the advice is to always buy from authorised NSK distributors. NSK only works with distributors who have the knowledge and experience needed to meet the expected standards, and act in accordance with NSK ethical and compliance policies. In short, only by purchasing from authorised distributors can customers get the expected premium quality of NSK products and services.
There are of course some tell-tale signs that can help customers to identify a fake bearing. Aside from a price that looks too good to be true, look out for packaging that features the incorrect logo, markings, branding, stickers, holograms, bar coding or manufacturer codes/dates. Also, check whether the bearing carries the correct part number etching. Poor machining quality is another giveaway of bogus bearings.
As a further protective measure, why not download the free WBA (World Bearings Association) app from www.stopfakebearings.com. NSK is a proud member of the WBA and helped to develop the app in conjunction with other global bearing manufacturers. Simply scan the barcode on the packaging to confirm the authenticity of the bearings. If an NSK bearing does not carry a code (not all products have one yet), but there is a suspicion of counterfeiting, please contact NSK immediately.
Although counterfeit bearings are rare in the market, NSK’s advice is clear: only buy from authorised distributors to ensure the receipt of factory-fresh, genuine, premium NSK bearings that provide optimum performance levels and negate the need for bearing checks.