Conducted by a free-lance journalist, the multi-part interview provides significant facts and information on bearing protection through the eyes of its inventor. It goes on to address the evolution of the bearing isolator and the growth of Inpro/Seal, the largest producer of bearing isolators in the world.
In his quest to find a permanent means to protect bearings while enhancing and extending the service life of rotating equipment, Orlowski developed the world’s first bearing isolator. Patented in 1977 (#4,022,479), the same year he founded Inpro/Seal, about 4 million Inpro/Seal branded bearing isolators are in operation in process plants around the world.
A non-contacting labyrinth seal, the bearing isolator, for the first time, gave process plants the choice of permanent bearing protection and eliminated the need for continual maintenance. Comprised of a unitized rotor and stator that do not contact each other, it does not consume energy, never wears out, and can be used for many years. Protected bearings have proven to run 150,000 hours (17 years) or more, eliminating the need for costly maintenance and repair.
When inpro-seal.com was first operational in 1997, the Internet was in its early stages with less than 1 million Web sites, making it among industry’s earliest sites. In 2005, CNN reported that number had risen to over 100 million registered domain names. Today, the number of Web sites is estimated at over 177 million. The site remains the only site hosted and maintained by a manufacturer whose only product is bearing isolators.
Inpro/Seal conducted an extensive two-year research project that was completed in 2005. This research indicated that market-by-market, application-by-application, people wanted to know more about bearing protection and bearing isolation technology. Whether they used bearing isolators or not, whether or not they knew about Inpro/Seal products, almost 70% of the respondents stated they wanted to know more about bearing protection.
With this as a background, the company invested heavily into an “educate and inform” marketing approach. At the same time, the company decided to tightly control all Web content and bring all related activities in-house. They hired Jason Putnam, an experienced Webmaster who immediately went to work to redesign www.inpro-seal.com, which was re-launched in 2006.
When asked about Internet usage, Putnam replied, “It used to be that when information was needed, the end user would read a trade magazine, circle a bingo card number and wait for manufacturers’ literature to show up. Now, they use the Internet where they have instant access to information. This is especially true when needs are time sensitive. We realized this “need for speed” and made it part of the foundation of our 2006 redesign.”
Putnam continued, “To the average reader, www.inpro-seal.com appears to be a complete Web site. In fact, it is a work-in-progress, as our goal is to maintain a Web site with information so useful and content so valuable that the reader will keep coming back on a regular basis. Part of the way we met this goal was through a very readable design, with fresh graphics and quick, easy-to-access navigation menus.
“Another way we met this goal was through the addition of a regular feature called DCO’s Corner in 2007. Authored by Orlowski, who is well known throughout the process industries for his knowledge of bearings, bearing protection, and tribology, DCO’s Corner shares his insights and knowledge in this area. The “father” of bearing isolation technology, he has spent the last 41+ years working on ways to enhance and extend the service life of rotating equipment. Much of this is detailed in his column.”
In November 2008, Orlowski sat down with a journalist for a one-on-one interview where he covered many aspects of bearing isolators and Inpro/Seal, the organization he built around his invention. Starting in April 2009, segments of this interview will appear every month as part of DCO’s Corner and will continue through the rest of the year. One of the things that make this interview unique is that it is worded in an easy-to-understand manner, not limited by engineering terms.
The first segment will cover: the early years of his company; first products; how the bearing isolator was invented; evolution of the product; how a pump distributor invented the bearing isolator; how the Sears Tower in downtown Chicago contributed heavily to Orlowski’s success; and even how he named his company. Other segments will include: unique attributes; early customers that remain after 30 years; the importance of relationship marketing; how the technology continues to evolve; why lip seals are obsolete; an end user with pump installed bearing isolators that are still operating after 30+ years; bearing protection-an evolving technology; latest designs and how an option proved so successful it became a standard design; how process plants can attain levels of bearing protection previously unattainable; how the company overcame early objections; competitive products that work and don’t work; how a $2 sealing method can cost thousands more; unnecessary bearing failure; how to reduce power consumption; obsolete sealing methods; the changing end user; non-contacting technology, a method that has come into its own; and much more.
For more information on bearing protection and/or Inpro/Seal bearing isolators, visit www.inpro-seal.com.