What the bearing industry can learn from German beer

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Elgeti Engineering GmbH’s Managing Director, Hagen Elgeti, explains what the bearing industry can learn from German beer.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are in the period of the ear, during which everyone is typically rushing and hurrying to get a lot of things done before the end of the year and before we take some time off, coming together with friends and family and recharge our batteries for next year. The 2020, however, has been different in many ways.

This year, we will celebrate Christmas differently. Instead of sharing excellent food and drink with lots of guests, some of us, some us might have to stay at home and perhaps will have a lonely drink. this can be quite depressing and possibly even unhealthy, unless you can take the chance and find some inspiration in it. In this context, when looking at your bottle of German beer, you will find some interesting notes telling you that according to the German purity law from 1516, it is brewed with only the following ingredients: grain, hops, yeast and water.

Such old law seems to be an anachronism – which other product is made according to rules that are more than 500 years old? In other countries, brewers are more flexible and in all food industry, a lot of highly questionable practices are very common. Nevertheless, despite the international competition, many breweries successfully keep this tradition.

How can this be possible? And furthermore, how can anyone afford not being open to a variety of ingredients to achieve plenty of fascinating new products? The first answer comes from the food industry itself. typically, a lot of the ingredients, especially the ones you wouldn’t find in your own kitchen, are not there to make the products better. the main motivation is simply the reduction of cost. Artificial flavours do not lead to a better customer experience, it basically compensates not using tasty but expensive high-quality ingredients.

Additionally, sometimes, the result can even be weird. I remember some time ago, being at a restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana, where we have our US branch, the menu listed lots of beers with fancy names, none of them sounded familiar. So, I asked the waitress for her recommendation and she suggested one that tasted like coffee. Yet, she could not answer my question of why she assumes that if I was in the mood for having a coffee, I would ask for a beer.

Secondly, the restriction of having only these four ingredients still allows for an enormous variety of products. We have Pilsner, Kölsch, Alt, Helles, Bock, white beer, dark beer, black beer and many others. There are lots of fantastic products and none of them need any chemical additives. This is possible because of four other core elements: high-quality raw material, well-controlled processes, proper equipment and skilled people.

Hence, sticking to this old law of purity is not only a matter of tradition; it is first of all a matter of attitude. This attitude can be applied to almost any industries, but especially to the bearing manufacturing industry.

What hops and grain are for brewers, steel is for bearing manufacturers. Both need to be of the highest quality for achieving a high-quality product. Yet, some people try to use second-best quality and spice it up with artificial flavour, the same way as others use low-quality raw material for making bearings. Both can save a lot of money but the product will never be the same. The best brewer will not be able to compensate such flaws and the best grinding process cannot compensate for material defects.

What the well-controlled processes are in the brewery, is the design of the bearings. It is the knowledge of how to do things that can’t be replaced. What would be the point of having the best manufacturing equipment if the design of the bearing does not consider proper raceway crowning? And vice versa: what would be the point of having the most sophisticated design when not having the machines to make it? And finally, neither perfect raw material, the perfect design nor the latest state of the art machines will help you if your team does not have the skills to properly handle these machines.

Hence why, the essence of any product audit on bearings always is the question of whether it is made like a good German beer. A counter indication is for example applying black oxide coating before grinding, just in order to make bearings look like being hardened in a salt bath as it is common in large scale mass production. It has no functional value but reveals the attitude of using artificial flavour.

What do we learn from this? First of all, while any innovation comes from leaving old paths and trying something new, old-fashioned attitude is not a contradiction to innovation. On the contrary, the attitude is where the strength comes from that is required to go down that new path. Secondly, despite any commercial ambition, we shall not forget that doing things right, means that we have to do every single step right. We need high-quality raw materials, a proper design, state of the art machinery and skilled people. None of them is more important than any of the other three items, each of them has to be excellent.

Thirdly: studying mechanical engineering without studying German beer at the same time just does not make any sense.

Therefore, I would like to encourage you that whenever the current social distancing makes you have a lonely drink, leave your social media distraction away and focus on the inspiration that can come from it. We are going through challenging times that require us to find new ways of doing things and inspiration inspiration can be helpful.

With these thoughts, I wish everyone and all of your families Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May you be healthy and have a good mood today and tomorrow and enjoy any precious moment that come!

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