How bearing manufacturers can differentiate themselves in terms of quality & cost and remain focused on finished bearings and their applications
Technology to manufacture bearing components like balls, rollers, cages and seals is completely different than process used to produce bearing rings and to assemble them with other parts into finished bearing. This implies that, to produce in competitive way high quality components, a different business and process approach is required.
Historically it is proven that any (large) bearing company who produced components for its own usage – without competing on the free market, both targeting customers other than internal ones and “fighting” with other producers – failed to be competitive in terms of quality or under economical point of view or in both fields. This has resulted in loss of focus and value for the bearings company.
On the other side, to choose the optimal supplier of a bearing component is not simple exercise and requires detailed knowledge and expertise in the sector. At a first glance, for example, any producer of steel balls looks similar to the others: but this is absolutely false!
If it is true that the basic method to press, flash, heat treat, grind and lap chrome steel balls for bearings is always the same, on the other side there are many “small” details that make the difference in terms of consistency of products and reliability of process. We are here referring to parameters like the type of coolants, its flow and temperature, the specifications and dimensions of wheels, process parameters like speed and pressure in stock removal operations, the design of tools and the methods to use and to maintain the tool itself. And this without mentioning the rules to manage the production flow in a logic of pull system, avoiding expensive and dangerous situations of inventory excess, long manufacturing through-put times and confused planning that will affect negatively the cost and the service level to customers.
Similar considerations can be done for each other type of bearing components, proving that a specific know-how is requested to guarantee the best optimization of product quality, service and pricing in function of the final needs of bearings manufacturer.
It’s enough to think that any components manufacturer deals with many billions of parts per year (think of balls and rollers companies, for example), much more than the number of bearings that most of bearing companies deal with, and the key point is not to be able to make some few million of these components in conformance … but to make ALL of them in conformance. The understanding of this simple concept contains in itself the difference between standard and excellent component manufacturer!
ICT was founded in 2012 in Italy by a group of professionals with long technical and marketing experience in bearings industry, developed within large multinational companies in Europe, Asia and USA. The vision of founders was to create a pool of experts and partner companies, each one specialized in specific bearing components, with aim to become the preferred one-single-point contact for bearings organizations in procurement of direct parts for their assembly operations.
ICT network enriched in these years with more than 12 long terms manufacturing partners with operational sites distributed between Europe, Asia and USA, each one specialized in a well defined range of products and materials, in order to offer the optimal products to customers.
ICT offer includes steel and ceramic balls (both silicon nitride, zirconia oxide and allumina), rollers of any type (cylindrical, taper, spherical, needles) with pratically all the possible OD profiles, cages in steel and brass, seals and shields.
Rollers are 100% eddy current tested, MPI tested for larger sizes and with face radius and OD profile as for customer needs. Different raw materials (SAE 52100, SUJ2, 100 CrMnSi6-4, silicon nitride) and heat treatments are possible, while all the key parameters can be certified. Diameter and length can be sorted in classes of 1 micron. All this results in advantages for bearings manufacturers in terms of low bearing noise, reduced friction, high load carrying capacity and higher reliability even in the most demanding applications like railways bearings, for example.
Products are always offered with DDP services, i.e. ICT will take care of all logistic aspects, including any customs clearance process (if required). Only in some few cases DDU incoterms are applied. Furthermore, in case of repetitive supply, there is possibility to offer consignment stock services in location close to the customer plant, with option to set daily or weekly call-off and to define min and max stock levels for control of inventory and for guidance of the consumptions in line with the agreed volumes.
The aim of ICT is to offer a 360° service to the customers, allowing them to be focused on the bearings and simply relying on ICT professionals for the choise of the best technical, strategical and commercial solution for their own needs. In that respect, ICT can provide technical and systems audit of the supplying plant on behalf of the customer, completing also the homologation process and PPAP documents.
Another advantage for bearings manufacturers in getting services from ICT is the possibility to deal with supply of relatively small batches, the same that most of the well known components companies would refuse because considered anti-economical. The rich partner networks, instead, allows ICT to cover most of the potential demand, making synergies in terms of tooling and finished goods stock and so minimizing the costs also for small volumes and/or for very special demands (very strict tolerances and/or special materials, for example).