The Past and Present of SKF Bearings

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The Past and Present of SKF Bearings

As far as bearing companies go, SKF Bearings is one of the top brands in the world, making up to 27% of the world’s automotive and industrial bearings. That is a huge market share and makes SKF Bearings one of the biggest companies in the globe, not even counting that they dominate the bearings industry. Having been around for over a hundred years, SKF has come a long way. We’ll be looking at how this brand has developed over the decades, as well as how they can continue to transform for the future.

Beginning of SKF Bearings

All the way back in 1907, a man named Sven Wingquist founded the company. The full name of the business was Aktiebolaget Svenska Kullagerfabriken. Wingquist was already the inventor of the double row self-aligning ball bearing, so he decided to start a new company with a business partner, Axel Carlander. Wingquist was the first managing director of SKF, and the first factory was built in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden.

To help protect their business, the two men made sure to file patents for their products. They were recognized in ten countries, which meant that SKF could expand relatively quickly without having to wait for approval in each new market.

Because the new ball bearing was so useful, the company grew incredibly fast. Within three years, SKF had over three hundred employees and offices in multiple countries, including Great Britain, Germany, and the US. In another three years, the business would have even more offices in other nations, and by 1913 SKF had created over 1.3 million bearings. At this point, the brand now employed over 3,200 people, and business continued to expand.

In 1915, the company introduced a brand new ball bearing to the market, the “Volvo bearing.” It was a single-row unit with a filling slot, and it quickly became another best seller. Prior to this new invention, SKF had become a dominant force in the industry solely based on Wingquist’s original patent.

The other incredible thing about the brand’s rise to dominance was the fact that it continued to expand and create new offices even when World War 1 was at its peak. In fact, in 1918 SKF had a nationalized factory in Moscow, despite the economic collapse of Russia due to the war.

SKF Bearings in the 20th Century

After the end of World War 1, SKF continued to expand and start new offices and factories in various countries. The business moved to areas like Latin America, the Middle East, and even places like Japan.

By 1924, the company produced over 6.5 million bearings, and production didn’t seem to slow down at all during this time. In fact, despite turmoil in Europe in the early 30s and the Great Depression before that, SKF only seemed to be successful, rather than experiencing any significant setbacks.

World War 2 seemed to boost the company’s international profile, as the need for bearings only increased as nations were gearing up for war. Post-war was even more profitable, with the only significant problems coming out of Germany in the late 40s due to the country’s struggle to recover from the war.

In 1950, SKF introduced yet another bearing, the spherical roller bearing. It was dubbed the “C Bearing,” and it was just as successful as the other products that were being rolled out at the same time. By 1953, the man who started it all, Sven Wingquist, died. He was succeeded by a man named Harald Hamberg as the chairman of the board.

Success continued all the way through the sixties, with another major milestone coming in 1970. At that time, SKF Bearings had created over 68 factories around the world, with over 67,000 employees running them. Interestingly enough, although the brand was founded in Sweden, 78% of the workforce at this time was employed outside of the country.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, SKF continued to prosper, although certain locations had to be shut down for various reasons. The business merged or acquired new assets to make everything much more efficient and profitable.

SKF Bearings in the New Millennium

After the year 2000, SKF continued to merge and acquire new companies, grow on the internet with their industrial website designs and their critical mergers happening within the early 2000’s. These included Development Engineering International, a maintenance engineering consulting company based in Scotland, and Machine Support BV, a Netherlands-based company that specialized in precise geometric alignment.

Another significant milestone happened within the first decade of the new millennium, and that was the one-hundredth anniversary of the company in 2007. That same year, the company opened new factories in China and Korea. Asian markets continued to expand, which meant that SKF would continue to move forward in progress and success.

Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, SKF continued its dominance in the industry. While it began as a straightforward bearing manufacturer, now the company does a lot of R&D to discover and implement new bearing designs, as well as make sure that the business is operating responsibly There is also a heavy investment in quality inspection of their materials they used such as portable hardness testers, ultrasonic testing, and other material testing equipment that ensures the highest quality inspection in the world.

SKF Bearings Today

These days, the company that started in Sweden now operates in 130 countries, owns and operates over 150 companies, and employs over 63,000 people. Thankfully, this global conglomerate has a conscience and strives to make a positive impact on the globe while still being able to be one of the top bearing producers in the world. The mission statement of the company is simple: to be the undisputed leader in the bearing business. One could argue that they have achieved that goal, even though the brand has some fierce competition to that claim.

In addition to bearings, the business also produces the following items:

  • Mechatronics
  • Lubrication systems
  • Services
  • Seals

As you can see, diversification has never been an issue for SKG, and the brand continues to innovate and go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis. At this point, the brand is separated into three distinct parts, which are the Industrial Market, Automotive Market, and Specialty Business. In each category, SKF strives to be the best in the business, focusing on customer satisfaction and corporate responsibility.

The tenets of the SKF mantra are simplicity, quality, and innovation, and it’s apparent in every product that they make. If the brand was not synonymous with top-notch bearings, then there is no way it could have made it this far.

The Company’s Impact on the World

When you look at how SKF values its place in the industry, you can see that the company strives to be the best it can be in all aspects of business, not just producing a high-quality product. The brand’s code of conduct is simple: apply all four core values (ethics, empowerment, openness, and teamwork) to every aspect of the company, from the customers to the shareholders.

That level of commitment is apparent in every product made by the company, meaning that SKF is dedicated to improving the world as much as possible. This not only manifests itself with how they treat their workers and customers, but how they treat the environment as well. It’s no secret that manufacturing has a tremendous impact on the natural world around us, and SKF is committed to making sure that its effects are not as far-reaching as they have been in the past.

According to the company, they promise to:

  • Give top priority to health and safety
  • Proactively assess risks to health, safety, and the environment
  • Utilize best practices in all aspects of business
  • Improve customer experience
  • Adhere to all stringent Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) standards

What’s more, the company not only has these promises outlined for themselves and their workers, but anyone who conducts business with SKF Bearings must abide by these rules as well, meaning that they know the importance of the impact of creating a culture of quality and responsibility as it pertains to making a positive influence on the industry and the world at large.

As the world continues to move into the 21st century, it seems like SKF is poised to maintain its dominance over the bearing and industrial components markets. Sustainability is a cornerstone of the company’s mantra, meaning that it will make sure to adapt to the changing needs of our brave new world.