How to avoid hidden costs by using precision bearings

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. In this article, Allen Dowers, VP Sales & Applications Engineering at The Barden Corporation 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 bearing price.

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.

Low losses

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

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 long-life performance.

Precision bearings designed with high quality parts will deliver excellent reliability, contribute towards reducing potential bearing failure, require less maintenance and resulting downtime.

Simplified installation

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 bearing 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 to process and space in the warehouse.

However, modular designs from one supplier are possible. Bearing manufacturers that can incorporate the surrounding components in one final part simplifies customer installation significantly and reduces the parts count.

Adding value

The influence of an improved design in reducing TCO can be significant as designed-in savings are often sustainable and permanent. For example, a 5% price reduction from a bearing supplier held at that reduced price over five years is not likely to last beyond that point. However, a 5% reduction in assembly time/costs, or a 5% reduction in maintenance costs, breakdowns, stock levels etc over the same five-year period is much more desirable to the operator. Sustained reductions over the life of the system or equipment are worth far more to the operator in terms of savings rather than a reduction in the initial purchase price of the bearings.


The initial purchase cost of a bearing is very small considering the costs of its lifetime. While the initial purchase price of an advanced bearing solution will be higher than a standard bearing, the potential savings that can be achieved throughout its lifetime more than outweigh the initial higher cost. An improved bearing design can have value-added effects for end users, including improved logistics, improved reliability and operating life, reduced maintenance or assembly times. This ultimately results in a lower TCO.

Precision bearings from The Barden Corporation are highly reliable, therefore last longer and are more economical with overall lower cost. To minimise total cost of ownership, avoiding hidden costs is crucial. Contacting the component supplier at the start of the design process will make sure the bearing is properly selected and will provide a long, reliable life.


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