Roseburg Forest Products of Roseburg, Ore., is one of the largest privately held forest products companies in the United States. Established in 1936, today the company owns nearly 800,000 acres of forestlands and produces a diverse line of quality wood products, including lumber, engineered wood products, specialty panels, and plywood. Three of the company’s plywood plants produce over a billion square feet of plywood, industrial panels, and sheathing annually, and the manufacturing facility in Dillard, Ore., is the single-largest integrated wood product manufacturing facility in North America.

So it should come as no surprise that in facilities this large and complex, the team responsible for keeping production up and maintenance costs down is eager to find products that will not only perform and last but are also easy to install and maintain. Three years ago, this team’s search for a better bearing solution led them to two Dodge bearings that offered everything they were looking for.

Low Maintenance Seals the Deal
Chuck Drew, the lead millwright at the No. 2 mill in Dillard, explains that Roseburg wanted to find a spherical roller bearing that would require little maintenance but would also be tough enough to handle the hanging load and the high temperatures on their dryer application. Their goal was to dramatically reduce the amount of time it was taking them to maintain the split housing bearings they were currently running on their application.

“About every six months we would have to lift off the top cap to hand wash the bearings, check to make sure the spanners, washers and adapters were all in good shape, wipe out all the old grease, and then repack them,” says Drew. “We would no sooner get them all done on the maintenance schedule then we would have to turn around and start back in on them again.”

When the maintenance team saw the Dodge IMPERIAL bearing for the first time, Drew says the product’s advantages were obvious. “With these IMPERIALS, you don’t have to do anything but re-grease them, which is so quick and easy because of the sealing system that allows you to purge the old grease without fear of blowing out the seals,” says Drew. “Not only that, but these bearings can handle the application. The IMPERIAL bearings have been running for more than three years, and we haven’t lost one yet.”

Based on that success, there was no question about which bearings would be used when a new dryer was installed at a nearby facility in January 2006. Jay Osborne, lead millwright at the No. 1 mill in Dillard, says the only choice was IMPERIAL. “We like the bearings because they are easy to tighten up, we get a good solid grip, they are easy to maintain, and they are easy to change out,” says Osborne. “It’s just a good product.”

The Mills Get a GRIP
Based on their experience with the IMPERIAL bearing, both Drew and Osborne were eager to see the Dodge GRIP TIGHT adapter ball bearing when it was introduced a few years ago. They were intrigued by the concept of the pull/push adapter system, a fully concentric 360 degree inner ring, with a tapered fi t through the length of the bore.

About two years ago, they began experimenting with the bearings, putting them on a variety of applications to see how they would work. Both claim that it wasn’t long before it became clear how well the bearings would perform in their applications, especially compared to the set screw style bearings the mills had used in the past.

“It didn’t matter what brand of bearing we used, the set screw style would always come lose on our high speed applications,” explains Drew. “But once we saw the GRIP TIGHT and the way the adapter attaches itself to the shaft for full contact, we could clearly see that this bearing works great.”

But it wasn’t simply the GRIP TIGHT bearing’s performance that Drew and Osborne found impressive, it was also the ease with which the bearing could be installed and removed without causing any damage to the shaft.

“Set screw bearings cause fretting corrosion, and sometimes they seize on the shaft,” said Drew. “I’ve had to take a 12-pound sledge hammer – I’m not kidding – to beat on the bearing to get it off the shaft. But with GRIP TIGHT, we don’t have those problems.”

Osborn agrees that ease-of-use is a big plus. “The problem that we’ve had with the competitors’ bearings is that when they failed, the shaft was usually destroyed,” says Osborne. “We would have to pull the roll out, weld it up, and have it machined before going back in, causing a lot of downtime and increased maintenance costs.”

Good News Travels Fast
It didn’t take long before the news about the two bearings reached the company’s plywood mill in Riddle, Ore. While the lead millwright at this facility, Chuck Bickel, believed what he heard, he wanted to see for himself before making a total commitment to the products.

To test its performance firsthand, Bickel installed one GRIP TIGHT bearing on what he considers to be the toughest application in the mill, the number one unit of the pinch roller on the plywood sander. “I chose this spot because this is where the bearing is going to get hit the hardest by the panels of plywood that are coming through,” says Bickel. “It only took a month before we realized that this was the bearing that was going to work for us. It ended up being the right decision, because the bearing that we installed as a test almost two years ago is still there.”

Even on less demanding applications, when set screw bearings didn’t necessarily fail, Bickel came to realize that the ease of installation and removal inherent in the GRIP TIGHT bearings made them a superior solution, explaining that there are many applications in the mill where it’s necessary to take the bearings on and off so changes can be made on the equipment. For example, if the tip of a saw blade on the detail saw breaks, the bearings need to come off the shaft so the blades can be changed.

“In the past, we would have to fight to get the bearings off the shaft, causing a lot of damage,” says Bickel. “The time it took to make the change and repair the damage was adding up fast, but the GRIP TIGHT bearings are so easy to put on and take off – it’s really a no-brainer choosing this product.”

Impressed as he was by the GRIP TIGHT bearings’ performance, Bickel installed IMPERIAL bearings on the contact rolls in the same sander application where he tested the GRIP TIGHT product, replacing a competitor’s bearings, which were failing more often than they should. And like the GRIP TIGHT, the IMPERIAL bearings are performing up to standards, plus Bickel says they are easier to maintain.

“These bearings have a great sealing system, which is key to a bearing lasting longer” says Bickel. “We have wasted a lot of time and money on failed bearings in the past, but no more.”

The Savings Add Up
Drew takes pride in the fact that he was the first to discover the products that have helped save his company money. “I think our facilities were the first in the company to get started with these bearings, and now all the plants are following,” says Drew. “The other facilities have looked at us and have seen how well they work and now they are making the switch. We’ve been able to prove that we are saving money with these bearings because we have less maintenance and less downtime.”

As for Bickel at the mill in Riddle, he too has become a believer in the products, saying that as bearings fail throughout his plant, they are being replaced with GRIP TIGHT and IMPERIAL bearings. “These products last longer, are easier to maintain, and are easy to get on and off the shaft,” claims Bickel. “The bottom line is that they are saving us valuable time and helping us to keep the plant running smoothly.”

According to Bickel, making the switch to Dodge bearings on the sander application alone has generated tremendous savings for the mill over the past two years. “We’ve done the cost analysis ourselves, and I can tell you that we save money with the Dodge bearings, so why would we choose anything else?”