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How to avoid hidden costs
As industrial companies are looking to save costs across their system and plants, one of the
most important actions a manufacturer can take is to consider the total cost of ownership
(TCO) of its components. Allen Dowers explains how this calculation ensures engineers can
avoid hidden costs and operate as economically as possible
TCO IS a well-established
calculation that, in today’s
economic climate, is more
significant than ever
before. This accounting
method assesses the whole value of a
component or solution, weighing up its
initial purchase cost versus its overall
running and lifecycle cost.
A lower value component may seem
more attractive initially, but it can give a
false sense of economy as it may
require more frequent maintenance,
and these associated costs can quickly
add up. On the other hand, higher
value components are likely to be of
higher quality, more reliable and
therefore have lower running costs,
resulting in a lower overall TCO.
TCO can be heavily influenced by the
design of the component of sub-assembly,
even if that component
represents only a small fraction of the
total cost of a machine or system. One
component that can have a significant
positive impact on TCO is bearings.
Today’s high technology bearings offer
many improved features that enable
reductions in TCO to be achieved,
providing benefits to both OEMs and
end users – despite an overall higher
The whole life cost is made up from
initial purchase price, installation costs,
energy costs, operation costs,
maintenance costs (routine and
planned), downtime costs,
environmental costs and disposal costs.
Considering each of these in turn goes
a long way to reducing TCO.
Engaging with the supplier
Arguably the most important factor for
minimising TCO is involving suppliers
from the outset of a project. When
specifying components, such as
bearings, it is vital to engage with the
component manufacturer at the
beginning of design process to ensure
the part is fit for purpose and will
operate with minimal losses and
provide a low total cost of ownership
without hidden costs.
Friction torque and frictional losses are a
major contributor to system efficiency.
Bearings that exhibit wear, excess noise
and vibration, will be inefficient and
consume more energy to run.
One way to use power efficiently and
reduce energy costs is to consider low-wear
and low-friction bearings. These
bearings can be designed to reduce
friction by up to 80%, with low friction
greases seals and special cages.
There are also some advanced features
which add further value over the life of
a bearing system. For example, super-finished
raceways improve bearing
lubrication film generation, and anti-rotation
features prevent bearing
rotation in applications with rapid
changes in speed and direction.
Including bearing systems that require
less power to drive, will be more
energy efficient and save operators
significant running costs. Furthermore,
bearings that exhibit higher friction
and wear will risk premature failure,
and associated downtime.
Reduce maintenance and
Downtime – both from planned and
unplanned maintenance – can be
extremely costly, and can quickly
escalate, especially if the bearing is in a
manufacturing process that runs 24/7.
However, this can be avoided by
selecting more reliable bearings
capable of delivering high
performance over a longer-life time.
A bearing system comprises many
elements including balls, rings and
cages and to improve reliability each
part needs to be carefully reviewed. In
particular, lubrication, materials, and
coatings need to be considered so
bearings can be best configured for
the application to provide excellent
Precision bearings designed with high
quality parts will deliver excellent
reliability, contribute towards reducing
potential bearing failure, require less
maintenance and resulting downtime.
Additional costs can be incurred when
purchasing from and dealing with
multiple suppliers. These costs in the
supply chain can be streamlined and
reduced by specifying and integrating
components from a single source.
For example, for components such as
bearings, spacers and precision
ground springs, designers would
typically liaise with a couple of
suppliers, and have multiple sets of
paper work and stock, taking up time
TCO can be
the design of