To maximize reliability, choose your distributors wisely

Bill Moore
Tags: maintenance and reliability

When it comes to choosing the distributor that can best help you ensure equipment reliability and lowest total cost of operation, the selection process should be all about depth.

How deep are your potential distributor’s engineering resources? Its product range and availability? Its competency to deliver best-of-class products when and where you need them, especially under emergency conditions?

Above all, how deep is your distributor’s capacity to work with you as a business partner and not just a routine vendor?

Today, a host of distribution sources exist, ranging from full-service authorized distributors to small-scale telesales and Internet marketers who may simply field your order and wait for you to call back. 

Authorized distributors – that is, distributors who have earned accreditation from a large manufacturer – have the deepest resources of any distributor option. Often, they have completed training and qualification programs lasting up to 10 months in order to attain the authorized distributor distinction. They may also have earned certifications in areas such as gearbox, pump and motor repair, and acquired basic condition monitoring skills that can be put to use on a scheduled program in your plant. Their training, and their access to the manufacturer’s engineering resources, product inventories and accumulated knowledge, equip authorized distributors to serve as full partners in your overall maintenance strategy.

Total capability vs. product costing
Authorized distributors can provide outstanding support and guidance to plant management seeking to reduce their overall costs of operation. However, they must be able to profitably operate in this environment. Too often, distributors are selected based on product costing rather than on total capability. When choosing your supply source, it is productive to keep the big picture in mind. Select your distributor based on how well it can provide lasting benefits to your business, and not on an elementary initial product cost basis.

Non-authorized distributors will sometimes offer attractive pricing for selected products. However, they will not have access to the manufacturer’s full product line, including its newest market offerings or new technologies that can prolong the life of your application. The assurance of product availability, along with valuable business services that range from preferred delivery to inventory management, warehousing and shipment consolidation are most likely to come from an authorized distributor.

The team player advantage
As part of your maintenance team, an authorized distributor can deliver value-added services such as tracking product consumption patterns and failure frequencies, metrics that can help identify areas for improved reliability and ultimately lower your plant’s total operation costs. They can also bring into play a manufacturer’s technical resources, such as root cause failure analysis (RCFA). While your existing condition monitoring program may be excellent for predicting machine instability or deterioration, chances are that it does not address the cause for such conditions. RCFA performed by experts can trace the source of a problem and facilitate a solution to prevent it from happening again.

A case in point concerns a gearbox manufacturer whose products exhibited a sharp increase in bearing failure and product returns. Under laboratory examination, engineers at SKF identified equally spaced axial dents on the bearing’s outer raceway that were telltale signs of improper bearing installation. A bearing installation training program was put into place at the gearbox assembly plant and the problem was solved.

A final note
An authorized distributor should be able to produce a document or literature or signage that proves it has indeed been authorized by a manufacturer. The authorization ensures that you are dealing with a reliable and continuous supply source of the manufacturer’s products and services.

About the author:
Bill Moore is the senior vice president of sales development and channel management for SKF Service Division. The SKF Group is a leading global supplier of products, solutions and services in the area comprising rolling bearings, seals, mechatronics, services and lubrication systems. The group’s service offering also includes technical support, maintenance services, condition monitoring and training. To learn more, e-mail or visit

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