Counterfeit spare parts for cranes originating in Asia are spreading into regions including the Middle East, said Thibaut Le Besnerais, global product director of tower cranes for Manitowoc Cranes.
His comments came on the sideline of the tower crane safety panel discussion at the Big 5 exhibition in Dubai, where Le Besnerais was a participant.
Most counterfeit parts are produced in China, he told PMV Middle East, and that is where the largest market is.
However parts are spreading to other markets such as the Middle East and Inda, whereas counterfeit parts are largely not a problem in Europe due to customer awareness.
“[In Europe] the consequences of a mistake are bigger, so operators are more careful. Here [in the Middle East] you have to educate the market.”
In China, complete crane copies have been found. Le Besnerais said that customers buying a copy crane would in most instances be aware that they are not receiving a genuine product.
However this may not be the case with spare parts. Counterfeit crane parts can include structural parts such as mast sections, mechanical parts, and anchors. Detecting fake crane parts cannot always be done with just a visual inspection, he said.
“When you buy a part, you may not be aware that it is a fake. When you compare two parts, sometimes you can’t see the difference, sometimes it is done very well on the outside.
“It is when you start to analyse the deepness and the quality of the welding, the quality and the grade of steel, that you detect the inferior quality.”
Sometimes counterfeit parts have been discovered only after a crane accident, explained Le Besnerais, while a number of times Manitowoc has been contacted directly by Chinese suppliers offering to sell them fake parts.
Manitowoc has bought fake tower crane masts and took them to its testing centre in France where it carried out fatigue tests with worrying results.
Counterfeit parts can also come from former suppliers, who have information on old Potain parts, but do not have the upgraded designs, and can elect to use lower quality steel to save money.
“Once this supplier is no longer our supplier, all the control stages are no longer existing. If he wants to make money he can downgrade the quality of the steel, for example.”
And while some buyers may believe that they are saving money on a counterfeit part, when the risk of crane failure is dramatically increased by the use of a fake part, any savings are non-existent said Le Besnerais.
Customers should avoid counterfeit parts by sourcing all crane components through official supply channels, he said.
Author; Stian Overdahl