Schaeffler takes on product pirates, destroys 10 tons of counterfeit roller bearings
After the first step of the destruction process, further use of destroyed fake bearings is impossible. The compressed scrap is melted down in a steelworks, with the steel fed into the recycling loop.
Global automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler, which takes regular and consistent action against counterfeit products, has recently destroyed around 30,000 counterfeits, with a total weight of 10 tons, in Schweinfurt, Germany.
At the company premises of Riwald Recycling Franken GmbH in Schweinfurt-Sennfeld, the products were so heavily damaged in the first step of the destruction process that their further use is impossible. The scrap will now be compressed and subsequently melted down in a steelworks – in this way, the resource steel is returned to the recycling loop.
“Counterfeit products are a major safety risk for man and machine,” says Dr. Edgar Duschl, Senior Vice President Intellectual Property at Schaeffler. Rolling bearings and similar products play a decisive, safety-relevant role in a large number of applications – almost everywhere where there is motion of any kind. Safe and smooth-running passenger transport with trains and cars depends just as much on reliable products from Schaeffler as the operation of various industrial facilities.
Dr Duschl explains: “A defective bearing can lead to requirements for premature maintenance, machine downtimes, and thus enormous costs for the operator – or even result in a sudden total failure or even worse, an accident with personal injuries.”
For Schaeffler, safety aspects are the most important motivation for combating counterfeit products. “Our customers should always be able to rely on the highest quality standards, which Schaeffler has always stood for – today and in the future,” says Dr. Edgar Duschl. It is therefore important to follow up any suspicions.
Every case of counterfeiting is always pursued by the Schaeffler Global Brand Protection Team. “Firstly, there is the threat of civil claims for cease and desist, damages, and the release of the counterfeits for destruction. Secondly, there is also the threat of criminal prosecution, which can lead to a fine or custodial sentence,” says Dr Duschl.
OriginCheck app put to work
Counterfeit bearings come from all over the world. If a distributor or customer is offered a suspect product, for example from the brands INA, LuK or FAG, the initial suspicion can be checked directly with the Schaeffler ‘OriginCheck’ app. In this way, the product code can be scanned using a smartphone and compared with the corresponding Schaeffler product identification numbers. Photos of the suspect products can also be simply sent to the Brand Protection Team.
In addition, Schaeffler maintains an international network of authorised distributors. These are listed on the Schaeffler website and customers can be sure to always purchase original products there. “In our view, it is important to raise awareness of this issue among all participants along the entire value-added chain, including distributors, repair shops, and end customers,” says Martin Rugemer from the Schaeffler Global Brand Protection Team. He travels around the world to advise distributors and hold training courses.
After being discovered, the counterfeit rolling bearings are seized on site. They are kept as evidence until completion of the ongoing proceedings. In many cases, the counterfeit products are subsequently destroyed locally. The counterfeits that have now been destroyed in Schweinfurt mainly originated from investigations in Europe over the past two-and-a-half years.
The damage to German companies caused by product piracy is estimated by the VDMA (German Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers Association) at around 6.4 billion euros annually.
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