When comparing the cost of belts bearing the name of a major European brand against unbranded imported belting, some may believe that this is simply an example of ‘paying for the name’. But is this really the case? Conveyor belt specialist Leslie David explains how the gulf in pricing is actually being achieved.
Although fashionable brand names in the form of ‘designer labels’ may come and go, building a brand image in the industrial world that is automatically associated with trust and quality takes many years. In the case of conveyor belt manufacturers, to build a reputable brand name that withstands the test of time can only be achieved by consistently producing belts with much higher quality standards and lowest ‘whole life cost’ compared to those at the middle and bottom end of the market.
Big brand companies should be applauded for being prepared to be held accountable for their products. They are brave enough to have their names on them whereas cheap import goods with no name have little or no accountability at all. When unbranded products fail or simply disappoint, there is nowhere to seek recompense. Where there is no name, there is no shame.
In reality, there are numerous reasons why some suppliers are able to dramatically undercut their competitors. However, before explaining those reasons it is important to first deal with one of the most common misconceptions of all, which is that products imported from Asia are of a similar quality but simply cost less because labour costs are much lower. The fact is that, certainly in the case of conveyor belts, the very high level of automation nowadays means that labour costs do not make a significant difference to the ultimate selling price. As a rule, the labour element represents around 5% of the total cost whereas the materials used to make a conveyor belt constitute some 75% of the ultimate cost.
It is of course impossible to tell by visual inspection what a conveyor belt contains and how well it is likely to perform. Based on the principle of ‘what the eye cannot see’, the following are just some of the favourite methods, tricks and deceptions that many conveyor belt manufacturers use in order to undercut the competition.
What goes in must come out
Only a limited number of genuine conveyor belt companies actually manufacture belts in Europe. Apart from one exception, Netherlands based Dunlop Conveyor Belting, virtually all European manufacturers import belting from outside of Europe in order to supplement their own production. The vast majority of such imports are from South East Asia, primarily China. The significance of this is best explained by understanding the difference in the standard of the raw materials that are used.
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