Machine Design

Quality Leads to Customer Loyalty

Robert G. Leimkuhler, Jr.
Director, HVAC Business
SKF Industrial Div., North America
Kulpsville, Pa.

Despite rumblings that today’s products are designed to last one day beyond warranty — and no more — the fact is leading companies recognize the value in building reliable, long-life products. If you have any doubts, just look at the market leaders across almost every industry segment. Quality is a dominant characteristic.

Further, poor quality hurts the bottom line. Excessive warranty claims can damage an OEM’s reputation, destroy customer loyalty and, ultimately, drain away profits. The process of preventing claims often begins early in the design stage. By working with key suppliers, OEMs can design their products to perform reliably past their warranty periods and take effective measures to defend against spurious claims.

Companies specializing in rotating equipment can be particularly useful to OEMs. The technology leaders offer virtual testing, critical lubrication recommendations, and signature benchmarks that document equipment performance — to help ensure machinery performs reliably for predetermined periods.

For instance, basic product-simulation testing might evaluate bearing performance under specified loads, speeds, and temperatures. More-advanced dynamic simulations evaluate bearings, housings, seals, lubricants, shafts, gearboxes, and related components running in virtual applications. Such analyses help determine whether components will perform as expected and exceed warranted service life. And they often eliminate significant field testing, which helps OEMs speed products to market. After the sale, simulation and analysis of failed components might reveal vibration or lubrication issues, or conditions such as a bent shaft that can be corrected to prevent repeat failures.

Lubrication recommendations can extend far beyond initial types and quantities. Because faulty lubrication causes more than one-in-three bearing failures, OEMs can cultivate customer loyalty and reduce returns by facilitating proper lubrication for equipment in service. Advances in automatic lubrication technology make this possible. Precision metering and dispensing systems built into equipment can virtually eliminate faulty lubrication associated with human error, such as using too much or too little grease or oil.

Signature benchmarks come from conformance tests that measure parameters such as vibration, temperature, and critical dimensions — and ensure they meet customer specifications — prior to shipment. If warranty claims arise, OEMs can compare a machine’s current signature against its original benchmarks. The comparison often determines if failure arose from factors beyond the OEM’s responsibility, such as improper transport, installation, use, or maintenance. Some companies now equip field personnel with data loggers to check the signatures of malfunctioning equipment. This saves equipment transport costs and often facilitates immediate corrective action.

For high-value equipment, SKF recommends supplying printed signatures that meet both OEM and customer specifications along with the bill of lading. In this way, the customer acknowledges receipt of equipment that meets specs.

A final word: Component quality is a key reliability factor. It’s advisable to source through authorized channels, such as direct from the manufacturer, and to encourage customers to deal with authorized distributors. This greatly reduces the risk of obtaining obsolete, counterfeit, or otherwise inferior parts.

Edited by Kenneth Korane

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