Look-alikes aren’t alike when it comes to safety, downtime and reliability

Operators and businesses dependent on hydraulic tools are inviting safety and downtime risks when they are short-changed by look-alike products that don’t offer the same quality, traceability, performance and reliability as the branded alternative.

“Companies participating in this imitational market – sometimes unwittingly – are opening the door to safety and downtime risks when they are short-changed by counterfeit and look-alike products and service components that don’t offer the same quality, performance and reliability as the branded product,” says Denis Matulin, Enerpac Regional Manager Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

“We know imitation is supposed to be the highest form of flattery, but there are serious risks when companies are presented with cheap and inferior alternative products and service not conducted to world standards of safety and traceability,” says Mr Matulin.

Enerpac, which has been a respected leader in the high pressure (700 bar, 10,000 psi) hydraulics field for more than 50 years in Australasia, practices a global Goal Zero safety policy, through which it is committed to achieve its goal of zero harm to employees, customers and end-users of its technologies in Australia and worldwide.

Genuine Enerpac hydraulic tools comply with all relevant standards, are fully traceable, and are backed in the field by Enerpac’s comprehensive network of service and distribution centres.

“Substitute tools can look almost identical to Enerpac originals, but many have problems associated with poorer quality design, engineering and construction,” says Mr Matulin. “If you’re using these tools to lift, shift, position, service or maintain vital machinery or plant, why would you risk the significant downtime and costs associated with tool failure?”

“Compounding this problem, when the customer goes looking for service or accountability after a failure or accident, there may be no-one at home and no forwarding address.”

“It’s possible that not only entire tools, but even component parts such as valves, seals, hoses and oils can be counterfeited and buyers can unknowingly accept these as genuine. These anonymous components are easier to disguise as genuine, but they can come under the greatest stress in hydraulic circuits, for example, where you have the greatest risk to the safety of operators.

“Our own Enerpac organisation – which is Australasia’s largest supplier of high-force tools – has encountered warranty claims recently from people who believed it was our product which had let them down – only to discover it was non-genuine material which had failed.”

“These problems are always accentuated during leaner economic times, when intense price competition opens up the market to inexperienced operators who offer non-standard parts and consumables in an effort to win jobs at any cost.”

If something goes wrong during a 100-tonne lift or pressing operation, the consequences can be immediate and devastating in industries such as construction, civil and mechanical engineering, electrical utilities, manufacturing, mining and exploration, metal processing, oil and gas and transport maintenance.

Mr Matulin says no-one has any quibbles with companies trying to save money with healthy competition among companies with genuine branded products. “We all have to be competitive to survive these days. So our focus has been to bring products to the market that offer the best efficiency gains, the best ergonomics, the greatest safety and traceability and the best backing anywhere, whether it is in the infrastructure projects of New Zealand or the outback mines of Australia, or anywhere in between.”

“Our argument is not with fair competition. Our dispute is with imitation and substitution. Such as whole catalogues we have encountered of non-Enerpac products that look very much like our own at first glance. They may even use the same part numbers, but that’s where the similarities stop”

And frequently it’s not the customers buying the parts and services which are the big problem; in fact, a rule of thumb is that the bigger the company, the more concerned they are with quality, safety, traceability and on-site service of the type in which we and our dedicated Enerpac distributors pride ourselves.

“But in an opaque market, some companies might be totally unaware of the risks of knowingly saving a few dollars while unknowingly exposing themselves to risks of hundreds of thousands in workplace liability. It’s easy for the transient operator to slip lesser quality componentry into their quote.”

“Sometimes genuine and non-genuine componentry looks the same anyway – just as the genuine bolts holding on the tail of an aeroplane look very much like the fakes. It’s only when you’re falling from 30,000 feet that you spot the difference.”

“The consequences of using non-genuine components in high-pressure hydraulic systems mightn’t be quite as spectacular, but when you’re dealing with pressures up to 700 bar (10,000 pounds per square inch) and forces of hundreds of tons, they can be just as lethal.”

Ways in which buyers of industrial products and services can protect themselves include:

  • Nominate the use of only named, quality equipment when they specify and order – dealing with OEM products and authorised distributors with full service backing and the guarantees and traceability that companies such as Enerpac provide.
  • Build a relationship with a reliable supplier who is prepared to supply the names of established customers in similar industries to the one being quoted. Experience and input from customers – a true knowledge partnership – is fundamental to the design, development, production. supply and service of standard and custom-made hydraulic solutions for safe, precise control of movement and positioning of heavy loads, for example
  • If in any doubt, check with major distributors and OEMs such as Enerpac to ensure that the products being quoted are the products that they are represented to be.
  • Thoroughly familiarise staff with correct safety procedures through on-site training courses run by reputable suppliers (including Enerpac training run for mining, manufacturing and maintenance personnel)

“If at the end of the day you find you’ve been using non-genuine products, non-genuine oil or non-genuine hoses and seals that you didn’t know about, it may be you who wears the problems created.”

“Quite apart from the legal ramifications of an accident – the duty of care towards employees and equipment operators – it can be a hell of an embarrassment if a job worth multiple thousands, or even millions, fails because someone saved a few dollars on a part. Downtime can be hugely expensive in industries such as mining and energy, oil and gas, construction and infrastructure engineering.”

“It is tempting to cut a few bits out of a quote, but it’s a bit like buying a computer or any other item of specialist equipment: when you’re investing in the future of your business in that piece of equipment, are you going to go to a backyard operator, or to someone you know and trust?”

“Because that’s the difference with dealing with a global leader in its field.”

“You are not only buying a product, you are buying a demonstrated commitment to excellence, a commitment to accountability and traceability, a commitment to service, with hard-won knowledge of your industry and a guarantee to back people and products now and in the future.”

“You are buying peace of mind.”

POWERFUL SOLUTIONS. GLOBAL FORCE.