$10.4 Billion Buys a Lot of Bearings


U.S. ball, roller and plain bearing demand will rise 3.1 percent per year through 2011 to $10.4 billion, according to a new Freedonia Group study.

Freedonia, a Cleveland-based market research firm, forecasts that the strongest market gains through 2011 will be posted by unmounted plain bearings because of a renewed strength in an acceleration in aerospace equipment output growth and an upturn in motor vehicle production driving demand.

Motor vehicle production and aerospace equipment output will fuel U.S. bearing demand, the studys author Ken Long told Lube Report.

The report also predicts that the strongest advances through 2011 will be made by original equipment manufacturing applications, which currently accounts for four-fifths of all demand. Maintenance/repair/operations applications are also expected to see growth as are bearing parts and unmounted roller bearings which are predicted to climb at above average rates.

An increase in investments in business capital such as equipment and software will help boost the demand for bearings used in OEM and MRO applications. Bearing part sales are expected to be driven by increases in U.S. output of finished bearings and the number of bearing-containing products in use. Roller bearing demand will be stimulated by higher production levels in industries such as motor vehicles and turbines.

However, the study also forecasts that growth in aftermarket sales will suffer as the average bearing life has increased due to better lubricants, improved product designs and more quality materials. Market gains will also be limited as U.S. companies continue to offshore production to countries where labor costs are significantly lower. Yet, a shift to a more expensive product that performs better could offset these challenges, according to the report.

In addition to the aerospace and automotive industries, which represent major plain bearing markets, the expected growth will likely impact the engine, turbine and power transmission equipment markets.
More than three million ball, roller and plain bearings are sold in the U.S. each year, according to Long. Bearings are used by OEMs as integral components of everything from automobiles to wind turbines. Bearings are also utilized throughout the economy as aftermarket parts to service and repair the equipment used by businesses and government agencies.

These and other trends are presented in Bearings, a 263-page study published in July 2007 from the Freedonia Group. Cost of the study is $4,500. For complete information, visit www.freedoniagroup.com.

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