William Moore
Senior Vice President,
Sales Development and Channel Management
SKF Service Division Kulpsville, Pa.

Distributors have access to a broad product range and can readily supply related items such as bearings, electric motors, belts, and gearboxes. This simple tactic of consolidating your supply source will immediately provide tangible benefits, including one-stop shopping, a single point of accountability, and the preferred services that often come from a close OEM/distributor business relationship.

Moreover, distributors can bring the expertise of their suppliers to your organization, including advanced engineering services, ranging from applications engineering, failure and design-life testing, CAD, and vibration/reliability specifications, as well as assembly and warranty information.

Case in point: A small OEM that builds rope sheaves used in paper-mill dryer sections had recently changed a bearing spec from two single-row, deep-groove ball bearings to a double-row, angular-contact ball bearing. The update looked great on paper, but end users were reporting a significantly shorter bearing service life.

The OEM's distributor brought in SKF to help solve the problem. SKF engineers reviewed the rope-sheave design with computer programs specifically made to analyze bearing operating temperature, loads, raceway positions, and failure modes. The resulting calculations led to changes in lubricant type and regreasing intervals, adjustments that solved the poor service-life problem.

In another instance, a grinder maker had switched from 300 to 400 Series stainless steel for a shaft and housing. The change dramatically affected the shaft and housing fits needed to properly support the bearing inner and outer rings. The grinder company's distributor asked an SKF application engineer to review the design change, who then analyzed the steel thermal-expansion properties, checked bearing operating clearances, and shaft and housing fits.

The benefits of sourcing from a reliable, local authorized distributor can extend well beyond basic operations and advanced-engineering services. Should your distributor serve the same end users as your OEM business, say the chemical-processing industry, it will be well positioned to give informal feedback on the performance of your products in the field — input that can be used to upgrade future designs.

From a logistics perspective, an authorized distributor will likely have stocking centers close to your plant, so it can quickly respond to your needs. In an emergency, your distributor can access from its multiple locations, store essential product for immediate delivery, even tap dedicated inventory. This is a critical service for equipment such as paper and steel-making machinery where downtime can cost in excess of $25,000/hr.

A final point: Keep in mind that a reliable distributor that owns the lion's share of your OEM account will be motivated to work with you at a frequency and personal level unmatched by a manufacturer's direct-sales organization. Look for your distributor to periodically meet with personnel in receiving, assembly, engineering, storage, purchasing, and other departments. This "personal-service" touch will empower your distributor to identify potential process improvements throughout your organization that might otherwise go unstated or unnoticed.

SKF is a maker of rolling bearing and related technologies. The SKF Service Div. sells bearings and related products and services through a worldwide network of 7,000 distributors and dealers.