The Case of the Copycat Killers

Issue 11 and Volume 107.

Secrets of the Spurious Spares and The Case of the Copycat Killers aren’t murder mysteries solved by an eccentric detective using unorthodox deductive skills. But they could be fictitious books depicting the real-world fact that knock-off products plague many businesses, including the power industry. And counterfeit engine components — including filters — can be far more economically damaging than bootlegged DVDs or bogus designer handbags.

Shown is a pirated filter in which the filter’s cap was affixed to the filtering media by a substance similar to wood glue. Such manufacturing compromises can end up costing operators far more than what they saved from buying inferior parts. Photo courtesy of Vokes Ltd.
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Buying inferior spares represents murder for engines, warns Paul Sennett, marketing director of Vokes Ltd., maker of liquid and air engine filters and filtration systems. He is referring specifically to the dangers of using pirate filter cartridges. “If buyers in the power generation industry were fully aware of the damage pirate parts can cause — and the inherent risk they run of damaging their engines by using them — they would gladly pay a little more for recommended goods,” he says.

Sennett acknowledges that power generation operators can gain small savings on items for diesel engines that require regular replacement, such as injector nozzles, piston rings, piston crowns, cylinder liners, seals and filter cartridges. But he has heard countless horror stories from operators who found out the hard way that small savings up front can lead to big losses in engine damage and failure.

Vokes urges operators to beware of copycat manufacturers. “The maker of spurious spares may often use inferior materials to keep manufacturing costs down — thus enabling them to market their products at lower prices,” he says. But their lack of technical expertise often leads to fundamental errors in the design and manufacture of the component that they are trying to pirate.

“At Vokes, we have seen how costly the purchase of copycat spares can be, specifically in relation to filter cartridges,” says Sennett. “Copy cartridges may fit original vessels and look the same. In many cases, they even have similar technical features, but on closer inspection these similarities start to fade. We have the technical know-how to spot the vital differences of what an operator should look for when considering dropping the original supplier in favor of an alternative.”