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Bearings Giant Expects Rapid Growth in Asia-Pacific Market

Time:30 Nov,2007
Bearings Giant Expects Rapid Growth in Asia-Pacific Market Swedish bearings manufacturer SKF expects its Asia-Pacific operations to be the second-largest manufacturer by next year, owing to rapid expansion in the region’s powerhouses of India and China, the company’s global CEO and president, Tom Johnstone, said at its centenary anniversary celebrations, held in Johannesburg, earlier this month. Currently, the Asia-Pacific operations net the third-highest sales of 18%, preceded by Western Europe with 50%, and North America with 20%. The company had a global turnover of 5 800-million euros in 2007. Johnstone told Engineering News that the company was not threatened by the rapid growth of economies and industries in Asia-Pacific countries, especially in China and India. “In fact, China is SKF’s fourth-largest market globally and there is huge development in that market. We are so confident in the growth of this booming market that we are investing in colleges as well as in the people of China,” said Johnstone.However, he added that the company was focusing on securing the supply of the right quality of steel in the Asia-Pacific market, specifically in China and India. ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN FOCUS The company has evolved to further advance its stance on energy efficiency.“Our internal focus is to improve energy efficiency and to externally increase the positive effects of energy savings for customers using our products,” said Johnstone. In the past year, SKF reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 12% despite the fact that production had increased.It was announced at the anniversary celebrations that the company’s deep-groove ball bearings and tapered rolling bearings would be in production by year-end, offering energy savings of up to 30%.While only a few sizes have been rolled into production, other sizes of these energy-efficient bearings will go into production next year. The company is focused on research and development and has spent about $1,6-billion over the past few years, to ensure that its products are more innovative, safer and energy efficient.“A combination of environmental care and business care makes good business sense,” affirmed Johnstone. BEARING THE CHALLENGE The bearings industry is facing a difficult period currently, Johnstone pointed out, given the “quite dramatic” growth in demand and the skills shortage. “We are investing significantly in constructing factories globally and, by 2010, we will double our capacity on large-size bearings,” he said.He added that different industries in which the company operates are faced with different challenges, and the company’s experience over the past 100 years has allowed it to use knowledge developed in one sector and apply it to other sectors. SKF is in the process of opening five colleges globally to combat the shortage of skills in the bearings industry. Johnstone said that knowledge was a critical component of the company’s survival for the last 100 years, and will be so for the next 100 years and SKF will continue to work closely with its customers as well as universities through its Reliability Maintenance Institute. SKF’s South African subsidiary is in the process of building a local training centre as a joint venture with an undisclosed partner.In addition, the company has invested R4,5-million in a local bearings remanufacturing facility based in Gauteng.The facility will be designed for the refurbishment of large bearings, using manufacturing and measuring equipment imported from Austria. Investment into the factory will be spread over about two and a half years, with commissioning expected in early 2008, SKF bearings remanu-facturing manager Giscard Lailvaux tells Engineering News and says that R2-million has already been spent on this facility. The remanufacturing facility extends the service life of a bearing and can save a customer up to 50% in costs. Processes in the factory include cleaning, detecting grime and grease, polishing, repairing and reassembling.The remanufacturing facility will be identical to SKF’s facility in Austria, and will include the equipment used in the many processes of remanufacturing.

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