Posted at 19-Aug-2020

Bearing the brunt of aggressive environments

Paul Skade
By Gareth Pollard
Product Manager, Bearings

I started work at ERIKS UK in March 2001 after being on a temporary contract at Ball Packaging Europe. 

My life at ERIKS began as a Junior Inside Sale...

Read full bio

The steel industry can be one of the most volatile and unpredictable industries, with machinery at the peril of ever-changing conditions and increasingly high demands. Therefore, selecting the right product for the right application is vitally important for ensuring unplanned downtime can be eliminated, and high efficiency levels maintained.


Continued production rests on the performance and reliability of your bearings. Particularly in aggressive environments. Keeping your bearings running is a task in itself, and a tough battle at that, particularly when operating in the face of unavoidable contamination, temperature extremes, differing shock loads, variable speeds and changing levels of vibration.


But in a bid to support the needs of aggressive industries such as steel manufacturing, NSK has developed a range of bearing solutions that keep operating at optimal levels, even in the most challenging conditions.

Steering off line

An annealing line – which facilitates the change of the crystal structure of steel sheeting through heat treatment to improve properties such as hardness, strength and elongation – is a vital application in the process of steel manufacturing, and costly if placed out of production. And it’s here that one major steelworks was really suffering.

Unplanned downtime rising to 17 hours a year was being endured on the steel strip annealing line. 17 hours out of 8760 doesn’t sound much. But when the process is intended to be continuous, the costs associated with lost production rise quickly.

Not only were lower production levels increasing losses, but heavy lifting tackle and additional maintenance support were required to resolve the issue, further adding to the costs by the minute. To put this into perspective, costs were hitting an eye-watering €21, 915 per hour. Got your attention now, right?

Adding true value

Introducing NSK’s Added Value Programme (AIP) - a suite of engineering services and solutions aims to improve efficiency and reliability, enhance technical knowledge and lower Total Cost of Ownership.


Generating more profit by saving money at every step of the process, the AIP was applied to the customers process, with detailed analysis performed by an expert NSK engineer on the failed bearings, with both bearing type and seal arrangement identified as inadequate for the application.

The report showed significant fatigue on the ball bearings, from excessive exposure to heat and contamination, while lubrication issues were also pinpointed.  

Keeping it moving

Taking into consideration the variable high and low speeds of the application, switching to NSK’s innovative multi-row sealed cylindrical roller bearings (CRB) for crane sheaves was recommended. Purpose-designed for quarries, ports and construction sites, the high-load capacity and advanced sealing of CRB’s also makes them ideal for operation in demanding areas such as steelmaking.


NSK’s full complement cylindrical roller bearings offer an advanced system of contact seals that minimise grease leakage and increase resistance to water ingress and other foreign particles. Their capacity to provide unrivalled reliability in arduous conditions is further enhanced by machined holes on the inner and outer rings, aiding the replenishment of lithium grease in situ. These relubrication holes support easier maintenance and grease replenishment, while the highly corrosion resistant phosphate coating offers additional protection from the harsh conditions.

Trial leads to success

Installing NSK’s cylindrical roller bearings on an initial trial, bearing condition analysis was performed at the mid-point to determine the effectiveness of the solution in such a harsh environment. The results were extremely positive, revealing no signs of fatigue.

Additional analysis was performed post-trial, and once again, no signs of bearing damage. In fact, the bearings have been in full operation for more than three years of service, completely eliminating the high annual costs, reaching in excess of €300,000.

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