Martin Ryan, Industrial Distribution Director - Schaeffler
Although the bearings sector is in a more precarious position than I and my industry colleagues would ideally like it to be, there is a positive outlook for the year ahead.
One thing is for sure – we will collectively rise to the challenges we are currently facing and embrace the significant opportunities around automation, robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0.
Moving Ahead From a Challenging Year
We expect 2021’s massive demand for Schaeffler’s products to continue, but I expect that we, like other companies in a similar position, will not always be able to keep up with this requirement in the timeframes we would like. While production capacity is certainly available, being able to access raw materials remains a problem.
During the early months of the 2020 lockdowns, many steel plants stopped production in fear that we were heading into a deep recession. But that reduction in demand didn’t last long, with iron ore and soon steel being ordered in significant volumes, resulting in prices rising to record levels. Even with forward planning the issue has persisted and this has now extended into other materials such as plastics. To compound this, the well-publicised issues around shipping, freight and logistics have contributed to a perfect storm of disruption.
These challenges will mean that working with our partners at Hayley Group will become even
more important, by communicating the current state of play to their end user customers. Having access to real time data from our MediasBusiness platform enables The Hayley Group to keep track of delivery and stock information for all bearings in the Schaeffler portfolio.
One of the most striking, and encouraging, aspects of the last year was the way in which product research and development continued unabated. We will see the benefits of this activity in 2022, with Schaeffler launching some exciting new products. The first is a range of SES plummer block housings suitable for rolling bearings of various diameters and widths, and for shafts from 20mm- 160mm. Made of high quality flake graphite cast iron, for particularly demanding applications such as mining, paper production, agriculture and cement production, they can also be supplied in spheroidal graphite cast iron.
With induction heating now considered the safest, quickest and most gentle method of heating rolling bearings to the ideal temperature for mounting, Schaeffler has developed two new devices HeaterBASIC and HeaterSMART. Suitable for all rolling bearing sizes from 20kg- 1600kg, HeaterBASIC is designed for devices that are used in the harshest environments, while HeaterSMART can be used with intelligent devices that have Delta-T control. Both variants offer solid construction for reliable, long-lasting use in industrial environments and are supplied ready for use with a comprehensive range of accessories.
On a no less important note, as the industry emerges from what can only be described as a tumultuous couple of years, I would like to see more being done to attract the next generation of engineers. Although engineering based companies generally have good staff retention rates, there’s no doubt that the average age of those working across the sector is rising. That said, when looking for new talent, companies also require more diverse skills sets than ever before.
2022 is already shaping up to be an exciting one for the bearings sector. Schaeffler and Hayley Group will work closely together to rollout the aforementioned new product launches effectively, whilst also ensuring that any replacement parts for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) activities are supplied as required. It’s where our relationship really comes into its own and we look forward to continuing to work with the Hayley Group team and its customers in the year ahead.