By SEW-Eurodrive Managing Director, Robert Merola
Australian drive solutions providers are stepping up the fight against counterfeit gear-unit and motor ‘copy cats’ in order to safeguard Australian industry from breakdowns, inefficiency and downtime.
In recent times, the off-shore manufacture and importation of counterfeit gear-units and motors has increased significantly. Advancements in reverse-engineering techniques have made the unlawful replication – partially, but invariably not completely – of some of the world’s leading drive technology brands more achievable than ever before. Here, overseas manufacturers – located in regions with an inherent disregard for international patent and copyright law and ‘relaxed’ labour laws – are pairing with unscrupulous local importers to introduce inferior drive technologies to the Australian market.
While industry is making some inroads in combating counterfeit drive technologies, increasingly suspect units are still being identified across Australian factory floors. Once installed, the damage has been done, with inevitable replacement costs placing further burden on the plant operator. Catching manufacturers, importers and on-sellers of gear-unit and motor copies prior to sale is critical to saving end-users from inevitable breakdowns in the future. Vigilance from the wider motor and drive solutions community is essential.
Gear-units and motors are particularly susceptible to replication, as both incorporate a relatively easily copied housing. However, while many gear-units and motors incorporate innovative housing designs, it is the materials used and quality of the internal components – such as bearings, gears, rotors and stators – that usually dictate the level of performance produced by the piece of equipment.
The counterfeit unit might look the same as the ‘real thing’, but it most certainly will not perform to the same level. Counterfeit drive technologies have the potential to dramatically impact the bottom line of end-users. While they may be relatively inexpensive, trouble looms if they are responsible for driving a process-essential production line or one with a high throughput rate. Given that the counterfeit unit will not be manufactured to the same high standards as original trusted motor and drive solutions, it stands to reason that it will be more prone to breakdown and require increased levels of maintenance. When the counterfeit gear-unit or motor does inevitably malfunction, causing the production line to go offline, the business can lose money at an alarming rate. Furthermore, the small capital cost saving associated with the purchase of a counterfeit unit is soon absorbed by regular inefficient operation, breakdowns and maintenance.
End-users are often unaware that they have purchased a counterfeit until they call us to inspect a fault-only to be told that the unit is not genuine, parts are not interchangeable and that we ultimately can’t help them without replacing the whole unit.
While optimised operational performance is paramount, environmental performance must also be considered. By law, all motors imported into Australia must be Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS)-compliant. Often, counterfeit three-phase induction motors are not MEPS-compliant, leading to ongoing operational inefficiency and increase in carbon footprint. More worrying perhaps, is if the counterfeits have been stamped MEPS-compliant – an additional deliberate act to deceive.
End-users can avoid the pitfalls associated with counterfeit drive technologies by buying direct from the manufacturer, authorised re-seller, or OEM. However, if the drive technology is being provided as part of a larger machine package, purchasers are urged to request serial numbers of the gear-units and motors prior to the sale.