Counterfeiting - The hidden threat to safety

Devlon V-API valve seats

API Ring Joints

Supergraf compression packing
Behind each and every successful product lie thousands of hours and probably millions of pounds in research and development. Not surprising then that there is often a queue of unscrupulous businesses waiting to capitalise by producing cheap copies. Within any valve each component has been carefully designed and selected to work together to achieve the required performance. As a result, if any single component from the valve body casting to a seat or seal doesn’t meet its expected performance criteria, the valve, its functionality and the process it serves are compromised.

Counting the cost
The consequences may just be an unnoticed reduction in safety margins or a shortening of maintenance intervals. At the other end of the scale however, product loss, heavy fines for excessive emissions or - worst case scenario - a catastrophic failure are equally possible and there is no way of knowing which outcome you will see. The use of counterfeit and substandard products is a total gamble with valve performance, putting production processes, the environment and potentially even lives at risk.

False economy
Unfortunately, it is often very easy to make a component or material that has the same appearance as a quality high-performance version for a fraction of the cost by compromising on raw materials or cutting corners in the manufacturing process. Present this counterfeit product at a price that undercuts the genuine article and there is big money to be made from users seeking to reduce their replacement part and maintenance costs. These counterfeit products however will not have undergone rigorous testing and will offer a very different level of performance under operational conditions. Sadly, the end user will only find out when it is too late and the counterfeit component suffers unexpected failure.

Nobody is immune to counterfeiting
Look for a successful product and you will often find a victim of counterfeiting as sealing specialists James Walker have recently discovered within the valve industry with a number of their high-performance sealing products becoming victims. The company’s world-leading Supgraf® compression packing products, its Devlon® range of thermoplastics and API metallic ring type joints have all suffered at the hands of unscrupulous counterfeiters looking to cash-in on the reputation of James Walker and the success of its highperformance products.

This first came to light when the company received a number of calls to investigate catastrophic product failures. Thankfully James Walker was able to test the products concerned and prove that the failed components were not manufactured by any James Walker company and were able to quickly get the customers back up and running by supplying authentic product. During the investigations it also came to light that some companies supplying the counterfeit products and materials had even gone to the extent of falsifying original documentation to show the components were manufactured by James Walker. Whilst this was easy for the James Walker manufacturing businesses to disprove, the documents had been sufficiently convincing to persuade the customer into thinking they were purchasing authentic product. In these cases the damage to both the customer’s production process and the supplier’s reputation were minimised by prompt action, but it does leave the question – how many more ‘counterfeit bombs’ are ticking away out there and how much damage could they cause when they fail?

How to avoid counterfeit products
Notifying original manufacturers if you suspect you are being offered a counterfeit product will always help the legal fight to stamp out the problem but there are other ways to protect yourself and your business.

“If a deal looks too good to be true it probably is.”

If a deal looks too good to be true it probably is. By the very nature of the duties they are expected to perform, high-performance components for critical applications come at a price for a reason. Alarm bells should start ringing as soon as any supplier starts talking significant price reduction on critical components. At this point, demand a full ‘paper trail’. If this really is an authentic product then the supplier should have testing, certification and case study paperwork immediately to hand. Even when dealing with a factor or wholesaler, this sort of documentation will be readily available from the manufacturer, who should be more than willing to confirm the suitability of the product for your application.

James Walker
Tel: +44 (0)1900 823555

Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 24

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