Globally, product counterfeiting is increasing. Not only in consumer goods but also in industrial, safety-critical products such as bearings and seals, says Martin Ryan.
According to a study published by the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), the annual economic and social costs resulting from this amounts to US$ 1.7 billion worldwide. The Internet has opened up more opportunities (and risks) for purchasers.
Although prices for such bearings may look attractive, there are potential hidden costs in terms of product liability and credibility. These could, for example, be critical bearings on high value machinery in a manufacturing plant. The buyer therefore needs to take into account the cost of any production downtime if the bearing fails early.
In addition to lost sales and significant loss of image through inferior-quality goods that may affect future business, there have been enormous costs arising from the investigation, seizure and professional disposal of counterfeit bearings. The disposal requires tight security, as only fully destroying the counterfeits will eliminate the danger for the consumer.
In 2013 Schaeffler destroyed 26 tonnes of counterfeit bearings with a value of more than €1 million
In 2013, Schaeffler destroyed 26 tonnes of counterfeit bearings with a value of more than €1 million.
It also works increasingly with customs authorities to fight product piracy. Officials typically review incoming shipments to ensure they fulfill legal requirements and review whether any trademark infringements have occurred.
In 2016, a total of 182 seizures worldwide were made due to trademark violations suffered by the Schaeffler Group. 5,675,812 counterfeit parts were confiscated during these raids.
In March last year, an importer in Turkey was imprisoned and counterfeit rolling bearings with a nominal value of 250,000 euros were destroyed after customs officials suspected FAG-branded bearings might not be genuine and sent photographs to Schaeffler’s Brand Protection Team, who then took.
Schaeffler’s OriginCheck app provides end customers, distributors and authorities with an easy method of clarification. If checks lead the user to suspect that a product may be counterfeit, he or she can use the app to take additional.
Checks are carried out based on the traceable data matrix codes (DMC) on Schaeffler packaging. These two-dimensional codes contain various types of information in a machine readable form and allow the relevant product to be identified worldwide. 90 per cent of products that are supplied by Schaeffler today already feature a DMC on the packaging.
The user scans this DMC with the OriginCheck app and immediately receives notification of whether the code is in the Schaeffler database. If one of these Schaeffler codes is authentic but has already been scanned multiple times, the user then receives a warning based on a defined set of criteria. If this is the case or if the code’s authenticity is clearly not confirmed, the app can be used to create suitable photographic documentation of the product being checked.
Photos of the product, its packaging and markings play a decisive role. The OriginCheck app gives the user a step-by-step explanation of which photographs are relevant, illustrated using examples. The finished photographic documentation can be e-mailed directly from the app to the central department responsible for combating product and brand piracy at Schaeffler.
To remain as safe as possible from counterfeit rolling bearings, Schaeffler recommends only purchasing goods from its own network of certified distributors. These certified distributors have direct access to original INA and FAG products and also offer expert advice and the full range of relevant services.
Martin Ryan is industrial distribution director, Schaeffler UK.