Bearing demand in the US (including plain bearings) is projected to expand 3.0 percent per year through 2013 to $10.6 billion. The primary factors supporting advances will be a rebound in motor vehicle production levels and continued, albeit moderating, growth in aerospace equipment and machinery shipments. In addition, as the wind energy market continues to grow, suppliers will benefit from sales of high-value, large diameter wind turbine bearings. Market gains will be dampened by a deceleration in overall durable goods output as US companies continue to move manufacturing operations to offshore areas where labor costs are lower. Significant increases in average bearing life, attributable to the use of improved product designs, betterquality materials and better lubricants, will also restrain growth in aftermarket sales. However, a shift in the product mix toward more expensive, better performing products will provide a counterbalance, supported in part by high energy prices that will make highly efficient bearings a more attractive investment.
Improved quality, performance to boost shipments
Shipments of bearings from US plants are expected to expand 2.8 percent annually through 2013 to $10.0 billion, approximating domestic demand increases. Industry output will be stimulated by growth in several key domestic bearing using industries and by rising demand in a number of export markets. Further investment in US bearing plants by foreign firms will contribute to production gains as well. US bearing manufacturers' ongoing efforts to improve the quality and performance of their products, and to increase the efficiency of their operations, will also help spur output growth, as will a trend from selling simple components to selling more advanced, higher value added systems that incorporate bearings and associated components. However, foreign suppliers are also improving the quality of their goods, and US-based bearing companies are expected to make additional investments in overseas manufacturing facilities, limiting advances in domestic industry production.
Roller bearings to post strongest market gains
The strongest market gains through 2013 will be posted by roller bearings, benefitting from renewed strength in US production of motor vehicles and from sales of advanced, high-value products for applications such as wind turbines and heavy machinery. Demand for mounted bearings and bearing parts will also outperform bearing demand overall. Sales of bearing parts will be driven by increases in the number of bearing containing products (aircraft, automobiles, industrial equipment, etc.) in use and by demand for the improved performance associated with more advanced parts. Mounted bearing demand increases will be spurred by original equipment manufacturers' (OEM) desire to simplify their production process and reduce future maintenance requirements.
OEM bearing applications, which currently account for 78 percent of all demand, will approximate the performance of maintenance/repair/operations (MRO) applications through 2013. Market conditions will be particularly strong in the automotive and engine, turbine and power transmission equipment manufacturing markets. MRO bearing demand will be bolstered by continued increases in government spending and by a rebound in residential construction expenditures.