Bearing Suppliers Seeks Better RecognitionMon, 09/01/2014 - 16:07
Over 100,000 patents have been poured into the creation of the modern car, across countless instances that have revolutionized the automotive industry and the very concept of manufacturing. While innovations like Henry Ford’s assembly line have been celebrated down the decades, one component has not received the acclaim it deserves: the bearing. In vehicles of all types, bearings are necessary so that connected wheel hubs may rotate unimpeded on the end of a stationary axle. Swedish bearing company SKF has held onto its roots by supplying the industry with bearings, seals, lubrication systems, and maintenance products for over a century. Jorge Fernández Avalos, Automotive Sales Director of SKF de México notes that this commitment has brought unique product offerings to the Mexican market. “SKF was the first to develop the unitized hub, a product for which we remain market leaders.” In the past, bearings and wheel hubs had to be assembled piece by piece. However, such processes required highly skilled workers and specialized equipment to achieve proper operation. Even the repair or replacement of these parts needed precise positioning and adjustment since the slight mistake could damage them. SKF’s unitized bearing removes these hindrances and lessens maintenance difficulties.
The historic presence of bearings in the industry has seen an increasing number of functions being incorporated into their production by companies like SKF. Most recently, the company has developed wheel hub units with fitted sensors that feed data to braking and traction control systems to monitor vehicle speed. “SKF has developed intelligent products containing chips that can supply information about the state of a component. We have also developed monitors that allow customers to control the precise state of certain auto parts,” adds Fernández Avalos. This means that customers can find out when a component needs to be replaced, which avoids vehicles having to make unnecessary stops. While SKF is known as a leading Tier 1 supplier to OEMs, Fernández Avalos says this does not stop the company from applying its knowledge to specific products sold in the Mexican aftermarket. “We want to greatly expand our product range and increase brand awareness for the OE and aftermarket sectors, as well as retailers, repair shops, and new assembly lines coming to Mexico,” Fernández Avalos explains.
The road towards achieving leadership in the OE and aftermarket sectors starts with SKF’s components being transformed as new standards are put in place, such as ISO 492 standards. This new standard incorporates Geometrical Product Specifications (GPS), which enables rolling bearings and the ISO GPS system to be installed on the same platform, improving the integration of machinery during production and repair. SKF’s close involvement in the drafting of new standards with organizations like ISO has had benefits on a number of fronts. These standards help OEMs to more rapidly incorporate new products and processes during the assembly stage while also improving vehicle performance and efficiency for end users. Fernández Avalos emphasizes that the company has been making changes to deal with the increasing complexity of the automotive sector, such as overhauling its teams of specialists to cater to specific market needs. One persistent trend that SKF is dealing with is the urge among OEMs to constantly reduce CO2 emissions and to develop more efficient vehicles. To help this, SKF has thrown its weight behind the stop/start function, where an engine stops in traffic jams or at traffic lights and restarts instantly. SKF contributed to this technology with its Rotor Positioning Bearing, a magnetic field from the bearing which provides the engine control system with the exact position of the rotor, allowing the engine to restart faster and more efficiently. As a result, Fernández Avalos says that CO2 emissions are reduced by 30% in heavy city traffic while fuel consumption is drastically cut. SKF has also launched a new lubrication solution for hub bearing units that reduces friction by 9.5%.
Scotseals have become the company’s most popular product in the local market, given that most trucks are constantly in operation this particular innovation is useful since it wears down without damaging the truck’s shaft, this means it can be replaced without having to substitute the part or repair the shafts. This success has largely anchored SKF’s expansion plans in Mexico. “We are confident that we can double our sales in Mexico by 2015, mostly thanks to our bearing hubs and scotseals for heavy trucks,” states Fernández Avalos. “We have also increased the service life of our products, and our sets of bearings and seals can now last 500,000km,” he adds. “We are seen in Mexico only as a producer of bearings and seals, but we want to become known as reliable part suppliers for the automotive sector. We already have a 20-25% market share for our products in OE and aftermarket, we feel we can quickly rise to 40%.”