Counterfeit parts and poor quality servicing have always been a major problem, and is of particular concern to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). These parts can not only have a significant detrimental effect on the running of equipment, but in some cases can cause catastrophic failure and may be a risk to life.
It is difficult to know the exact cost to the marine industry, as not all the costs of consequences of counterfeit parts and poor servicing can be easily identified. However, in this new series of articles called The Imitation Game, DryDock identifies just what the cost implications and the risk to your equipment and business might be.
There is an old tongue-in-cheek saying that, over time, everyone gets the face they deserve, but the unfortunate reality is that marine equipment reputations can easily be worn out when pirate parts and uncertified service engineers get to work, explains Henric Collvin from Vestdavit who provides a davit supplier’s perspective.
At Vestdavit, our conviction that customers should always choose Vestdavit spare parts and use our certified service engineers is reinforced by the fact that the davits we supply must be dependable and safe no matter what the circumstances: lives depend on it. What we also know – based on experience – is that OEM parts reduce our clients’ total cost of ownership.
To put Vestdavit in context: we supply boat handling systems for launch and recovery in difficult conditions at sea, for navies, coastguards, seismic survey operators, pilot authorities and offshore operators who need to operate small boats safely from larger vessels. Some of our customers will need to lift and/or lower boats 20-30 times a day; all of them expect equipment to be available for as many of the 365 days per year as weather permits.
We are also a supplier of premium performance equipment and our davits include hydraulic shock absorbers, wave compensation systems, remote operation and other high-quality technology. Investing in a product developed for its high-quality performance and safety, and then maintaining it using untested substitute parts or using uncertified engineers is not only illogical; it puts those working at sea at risk.
In one example, a customer trying to save money on cylinder maintenance used non-certified services, and paid the price in an accident whose cause was traced to substandard welding.
Using pirate parts can also be more expensive in the long run; even though our davits are among the more expensive in the market, we have evidence demonstrating that they pay off over time if supported correctly, through lower maintenance costs.
We also believe that regular service by the OEM should be part of the customer’s routine budgeting. Our technicians care for Vestdavit equipment as a matter of professional pride, and they also know what to look for. Our boat handling equipment has been developed for specific duties and capabilities, which is why we run our own training for service engineers: just because an engineer has worked on davits does not mean he is an engineer who is qualified to work on davits from Vestdavit.
We sometimes respond to requests for assistance from clients, only to find that parts have been approved during class inspection when they are really beyond the point where change-out is required. Often, the culprit can be corrosion which, if not identified early, can lead to break down. On other occasions, an experienced Vestdavit engineer sees immediately that a setting has been changed in a way that means the davit does not work as intended.
In short, our own maintenance services have been developed so that equipment is fit for use, not simply so that the maintenance process is fit for invoicing.
Recently, the Norwegian Coastguard offered some real figures showing how using OEM parts from Vestdavit and service from our certified engineers had minimised the total cost of ownership. Five davits delivered to the Coastguard in 2009, and heavily used since, experienced an average annual integrated logistics cost equivalent to only 3% of the purchase cost over the period to take care of routine wear and tear. Spares needing replacement were largely limited to wires, wire pullers, wheels and cartridge valves, with the equipment performing as well today as it did at the point of commissioning.
But we are aware that customers can be attracted to support from uncertified engineers, or even pirate parts, because the real thing is not available. This is one reason Vestdavit offers same day order processing of many of its own parts, via warehouses in Norway and the US, and has reviewed its entire support partner network over recent months. Some inactive certified partners have been let go and others appointed. Part of the process brought eight technicians – from Brazil, Ghana, Russia and the UK (Scotland) – to Vestdavit’s Bergen headquarters for three days of intensive classroom-based and hands-on training, the latter using our shoreside training davit.