Celebrating its 65th anniversary last year, Bearings International (BI) is on track for another year of significant growth. MD Bart Schoevaerts attributes the company’s upwards trajectory since the Covid-19 pandemic to maintaining close contact with its international partners and ensuring that stock levels remain intact despite the supply chain challenges.

BI has grown its network and now has 43 branches across South Africa, together with increased export business into Africa. On the human resources front, the company has also hired some specific skills and experience, together with an intake of interns and young graduates who continue to be promoted internally. “It has been wonderful to see all these people flourishing and thriving,” says Bart. 


Being part of the larger Hudaco Group has allowed BI to collaborate with its sister companies to deliver total solutions to key customers. For example, in 2020 BI became a channel partner for ABB electric motors and in 2022 was recognised as ABB’s best channel partner for the Middle East and Africa region.

The company’s 24/7 service offering has been instrumental in assisting customers with any breakdowns or after-hours requirements. “I think more and more partners are seeing BI not only as a reliable supplier of quality bearings but consider us as partner of choice for ancillary product lines like electric motors and drives, chain, belts and couplings,” states Bart.

Hybrid sales model

A major achievement for BI in 2022 was getting its online store up and running. “A new generation of engineers and buyers have arrived, while the pandemic has also significantly affected our day-to-day lives. Today’s B2B customers are very clear about what they want from suppliers: More channels, more convenience and a more personalised experience.”

This demands the correct mix of in-person interaction, remote contact via phone or video and e-commerce self-service across the purchasing journey. Adjusting to this new business dynamic has required B2B organisations to shift from ‘traditional’ and ‘internal’ sales to a ‘hybrid’ model to keep up with the times and be closer to customers.

African customers within reach

The South African market remains the biggest contributor to the business and exports are ramping up. While the pandemic brought with it a lot of travel restrictions that reduced opportunities to visit African customers, BI quickly adopted tools such as video conferencing and e-commerce. “This trend will not go away.” On the contrary, it has brought many African customers within BI’s reach.

Although the distribution of goods into Africa remains challenging, Bart is confident that new solutions will come about quickly and that new partnerships will be created as a result. “Our expansion into Africa continues apace, but we believe that South Africa still offers a lot of room for growth.” 

This is due to the advent of new technologies such as e-mobility, offering opportunities not only in the passenger vehicle segment, but equally in yellow metal machinery at mines and construction sites.

New products

Apart from the successful addition of ABB electric motors in 2022, BI continues to launch new products and brands into the local market, including Cross Ocean from Japan and Masta Bearings from India. Prior to Covid-19 saw the launch of IMAK gearboxes, which are now finally gaining traction.

“Apart from launching new products, we continuously bring new technologies to the market in conjunction with our partners,” Bart concludes. This includes the introduction of Schaeffler Lifetime Solutions in early 2023, a full suite of industrial maintenance products, services and solutions for the lifetime of a machine. 

Another new product on the cards is Saniline washdown ball bearing units from Cross Ocean, which BI is targeting at the food and beverage industry to provide the ultimate bearing solution for food safety.


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