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.
Due to its market reputation for quality, founded on over a century of engineering
excellence, NSK has become a target brand for counterfeiters. However, the company’s
Global Aftermarket department continues to protect the company’s brand image, working
closely with local authorities around the world. Fake bearings not only ‘dupe’ end users into
thinking they are purchasing quality products at reduced prices, they carry the risk of
premature and potentially dangerous failure.
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
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.
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