With the elimination of borders as well as trade barriers, and the growth of online sales, the pressure to be lean, mean, and cost effective has resulted in an increase of imitation products. Even though the appearance of copycat hoses have dramatically improved over the years, their quality, in most cases, have not. Poor-quality of a casting or composite can lead to serious damage and failure.
By Kerry Millen, Society of Piping Engineers and Designers (SPED)
Q: What are counterfeit parts?
A: A counterfeit hose, or part, can be any application that is not made in accordance with recognized standards. The failure to abide by these standards can lead to premature failure and/or safety concerns. These products are typically packaged and designed to intentionally mislead you, often duplicating known monograms exactly or ever so slightly, in hopes the consumer will not notice the slight differences.
Q: What are the risks of installing counterfeit parts?
A: The primary risk associated with using a counterfeit hose is that the service life of a knock off is significantly shorter. Although small savings may be made from buying a replica hose, those savings can be lost by subsequently having to repair, or redesign due to failure. Anyone dealing with imitation products makes themselves liable.
Q: Why should I care?
A: Phony hoses, and hose applications, cast a shadow on reputable manufactures reputation. Imitations typically do not last as long making it necessary to replace them more frequently.
Q: Why would someone else care?
A: Aside from the direct harm counterfeits can cause to companies and their employees, counterfeit goods also:
- Introduce dangerous products into the market,
- Weaken environmental, health, and safety regulations,
- Diminish tax revenues,
- Support organized crime, and
- Promote child labor.
Q: Is it illegal to buy counterfeit goods?
A: The US, federal law protecting trademarks makes it illegal to knowingly traffic counterfeit goods, which includes the production, sale and transport of such goods. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has stated that federal law does not prohibit an individual from buying a counterfeit product for personal use, even if they do so knowingly.
The maximum penalty for first-time offenders trafficking in counterfeit goods is 10 years in prison and a USD $2 million fine. For second-time offenders, the penalty is 20 years and a USD $5 million fine. In addition, if a corporation traffics in counterfeit goods, it can be subject to a fine of USD $15 million.
Q: How can you identify and report counterfeit goods?
A: Often a significant sign of a counterfeit good is the unreasonably low price. Counterfeit goods can also be identified by the quality of their hose. It is typically best is to apply additional NDE and request a letter of conformity as well as material test reports. Other steps one can take to avoid counterfeit goods include:
Researching the business’ reputation
The best way to avoid being taken advantage of is to purchase goods through reputable businesses. One way to find out if a company is trustworthy is by checking with an industry’s professional association, ask for their project list, and do not be shy to phone and check.
Look for red flags
It is cliché, but true: If a price seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. It is very likely that you will get what you pay for. In Dutch we have a saying, ‘goed koop is duur koop’; buy cheap and it ends up being expensive.
Q: What else can we do to protect against counterfeit goods?
A: Consistent testing, in conjunction with audits, may be necessary to keep up with an industry in constant motion. Audits are useful for comparing products to industry standards and benchmarks. Some of the driving forces behind auditing or retesting your product include:
Material changes—Suppliers often make changes to their materials, from what is used to construct hoses and machines, to the fluid running through them.
Manufacturing-process changes—New crimping processes, along with extrusion, can affect hose performance.
Application changes—These include any environmental changes that may affect the product, such as changes in fluid used, pressure changes, and temperature changes.
Construction and design flaws—Examples of these flaws include unsuitable crimping practices and bending hose to a smaller-than-recommended bend radius.
Improper assembly—Hoses and connectors may not have been specified for the service use. This could also imply that the required fittings and clamps are not being used.
Incompatible environment—Pinching or rubbing during operation can cause a hose to fail from erosive wear.
Q: Are there additional test for critical applications?
A: Yes. A list of additional test are listed below.
Dimensional checks—Each hose needs to conform to the dimensions specified for its respective hose type. This is considered a quality check for post-production validation.
Proof/leakage tests—These tests apply pressure up to two times the maximum allowable working pressure (MAWP) to verify that the product will not rupture and that assemblies will not leak.
Change in length—When a hose is pressurized to the MAWP, it cannot exceed the percentage change listed for that type of hose.
Burst test—This test features a constant increase in pressure inside a hose assembly until failure occurs. It determines the safety factor ratio of the product—a minimum of four times the MAWP is required to pass.
Cold bend—The cold-bend test soaks the hose assembly in a low-temperature fluid, after which the hose is flexed to the minimum bend radius. The hose cannot leak or fail at the leakage pressure stipulated in the standard.
Impulse test—Impulse testing produces high- and low-pressure pulses on assemblies to simulate common machine usage and on/off cycles.
Oil resistance—Studies are performed to confirm that the hose and the materials the hose is made from can withstand prolonged exposure to the hydraulic fluid being used.
Electrical conductivity—Hoses and assemblies are checked for electrical resistivity and conductivity, which is a safety concern in many applications.
Vacuum—There should be no evidence of hose blistering or collapse after five minutes at the absolute pressure as specified.
Q: Are there specific evaluations that can be done to test a hoses integrity?
A: Yes. In addition to the listed hoses and assembly tests, further evaluations can be conducted to optimize hose assemblies before they are installed into machines. Among these evaluations are:
Abrasion—This test measures durability and life of the product when rubbing occurs while in use. Changes in material can widely affect abrasion results.
High temperature to accelerate aging—Elevated temperatures can speed up the aging process, which can approximate the amount of time it will take for a hose to fail. This testing can be tricky, however, because higher temperatures cause varying reactions. Materials may undergo transitions over accelerated temperature range, and exceeding high-temperature recommendations can alter results.
Temperature cycling—This evaluates the behavior of components when exposed to varying temperature extremes. Cycling limits and frequency can be developed to closely mimic service conditions.
Vibration testing—Mechanical vibration is used to simulate how a component is affected when it undergoes constant fatigue or when shaken.
Auditing, whether internal or external, is crucial for companies that supply industrial hose assemblies. Developing an internal auditing program requires investment and commitment. Minimizing failures is worth the effort of creating an internal program, but external testing from a laboratory can be more efficient. In closing, avoid counterfeit products whenever possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kerry Millen has been working in the engineering contracting industry for 32 years, with experience in the materials and management engineering field for projects in the oil & gas, petrochemical and mining sectors. She has worked in United Kingdom, France, Malaysia, South Africa, Angola, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, Middle East and the United States.