145 Jordan Road, Troy NY, 12180
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American Heritage - Pacamor Kubar Bearings
PACAMOR KUBAR BEARINGS (PKB) is an American maker of precision ball bearings for industrial and commercial applications. The company focuses on its strengths to compete in tight domestic and global markets.
PACAMOR KUBAR BEARINGS (PKB) is a unique manufacturer of some of the tiniest yet most critical components of machinery and equipment. The Troy, N.Y. company makes miniature precision and instrument bearings used in aerospace, medical, industrial, commercial and consumer applications. The company's stainless steel and stainless steel hybrid bearings (ceramic balls or TIC balls) are found in aircraft instruments, missile guidance systems, dental drills, oil rigs, computers, joy sticks, flow meters, and a limitless list of equipment and products. In a tough commodity market, the company has built a reputation among customers who care about quality and responsiveness as well as price.
"Bearing life is a critical factor in performance," says CEO Augustine Sperrazza. "Increasing the bearing life while maintaining a cost-competitive position coupled with prompt delivery creates a total product package that is highly advantageous to today's tool developers and users."
The company has found its niche as a supplier of affordable American bearings. Competitors include many large players including global public companies. But PKB focuses on miniature radial bearings (less than one inch OD) and nestles itself in a great position as a unique supplier of high-precision bearings with USA-made quality.
"I don't know of any other ball bearing company -- and no other American ball bearing company -- that focuses strategically just on this market," says Nancy Cogliandro, marketing director.
The company continues to find new applications for its bearings. For example, PKB expanded its dental ball bearing product line for dental, surgical, and laboratory handpieces. (As anyone who has had a tooth drilled knows, dental drills operate at upward of a half-million RPMs, requiring precision quality bearings.) PKB has also added rotary components such as drive rings and slow-speed bearings to its offerings for makers of dental equipment.
Distribution is almost as key to success in this high-pressure market as engineering. PKB has authorized two distributors for products in its dental line: Microtech, Santa Ana, Calif., and Dynamic Dental Company, Sunrise, Fla. The distributors were very carefully selected as value-added suppliers. The companies manufacture canisters and use the bearings in assemblies for OEMs including some Japanese device makers.
"Both of these organizations are global distributors," Sperrazza stresses. "This partnership will extend our product reach and accelerate market penetration of PKB dental products."
Distribution is particularly important in the ball bearing industry, where counterfeiting of quality products like PKB's occurs. "All bearing companies face that because bearings pretty much look alike," Cogliandro says. "You can't tell the quality of the product till you use it. That is why you must trust the supplier and that is why we are very strategic about our distributors."
PKB has come full circle by exporting its bearings to Japanese instrument makers. The company's unusual full name, Pacamor Kubar Bearings, stems from its origination as an importer of industrial products from Asia in the 1960s. At that time, company executives presciently took advantage of low overseas manufacturing costs. Pacamor "Pacific American Oriental" imported a variety of industrial parts and components from Asia and Europe to the Americas. Eventually the company saw the converse need for quality U.S. manufacturing and purchased Kubar Bearings.
Some people remember the company as an importer but today PKB outsources minimally to satisfy unique customer requirements which aren't in their manufacturing program. Manufacturing has been the focus for the past 20 years.
The company's Troy, N.Y. facility is ISO 9001:2008 and AS9100:2009 certified. PKB has made significant capital investments, upgrading and overhauling factory machinery. It has a state-of-the-art clean room with Class 100 benches and integrated wash systems. "The product comes out complete as a bearing for assembly and it comes out clean and prepared for shipment. That was a huge investment on our part," Cogliandro notes.
The upgrades enhance the company's robust operations. PKB has full grinding capability and a variety of rod stock sizes available to respond to customers' needs. Different retainer material types are available in various plastics, metals and shapes. Retainer designs and materials include Crown, Ribbon, heat and moisture-resistant Phenolic and Torlon (polyamide-imide).
PKB also specializes in various types of lubricants, greases, and oils; coatings include food-safe and moisture-resistant lubricants. (Think of aerospace, where bearings endure harsh gases and high temperatures near rocket boosters and parts require dry film lubricants.) Optional shields prevent contamination during operation while permitting maintenance. Plating is also designed to suit the application.
"A piece of equipment has many components but the thing that allows movement is the ball bearing," explains Cogliandro. "You can have superb components but if the bearing isn't manufactured with quality materials and geometrically accurate, you risk premature failure of the entire assembly."
PKB's care in production ensures the quality of its miniature and instrument bearings, precision and commercial bearings, metric bearings, and specialty bearings. All are made to the highest degree of quality and workmanship by this American-owned company. In addition to 440C stainless steel rings, miniature precision hybrid bearings are made with ceramic balls. Lighter ceramic balls reduce stress at high rotational speeds to withstand harsh operating environments and to prevent metal-to-metal welding and extend bearing life. (Ceramics are often used in applications from medical instruments to well drilling in salt water.) A variety of special bearing features include flanges, modified dimensions, and duplex designs.
The American Way
PKB's market positioning is as precise as the engineering of its miniature bearings.
"We populate our ring inventory with certain common sizes so that assembly with any of a myriad of specifications is extremely quick, allowing our quick delivery times," says Cogliandro. "We know what the popular bearings are for aircraft instruments, missile guidance, dental and surgical applications, small commercial applications and industrial products. There are specific sizes that are very popular so we make their respective rings readily available."
Cogliandro reports that she can often accept a purchase order and ship same day. Even new products don't take long to create for the nimble company of about 50 dedicated, long-term employees. PKB recently quoted production of a bearing in less than three months for which other companies quoted a year's production requirement.
"We position ourselves as someone who can respond to customers quickly. It's part of the value that we add that, unlike many companies who rely on long- term contracts, we position our product so we usually have about a month lead time for most cataloged products."
The niche focus has enabled the company to weather some harsh market environments with minimal wear. Price and lead times are growing more sensitive. Like most industries, it's challenging to compete with low-cost products flooding the American market. The quality is lower but not every customer is quality-minded.
"If someone just wants the cheapest bearing they can get and they are paying two dollars for it, it's hard to compete with that. We have the lowest priced American bearings which puts us between the higher-cost American bearings and the very low-cost imported bearings," Cogliandro says. "So where we add value is for the strategic buyer who's trying to save some money, who wants an American product, who cares about their lead time, and wants a reliable domestically manufactured product of high quality."