RBC Bearings Incorporated
RBC Bearings Incorporated, together with its subsidiaries, is an international manufacturer and marketer of highly engineered precision bearings, components and essential systems for the industrial, defense and aerospace industries. Our precision solutions are integral to the manufacture and operation of most machines and mechanical systems, to reduce wear to moving parts, facilitate proper power transmission, reduce damage and energy loss caused by friction, and control pressure and flow. The terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “RBC” and the “Company” mean RBC Bearings Incorporated and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates another meaning. While we manufacture products in all major categories, we focus primarily on the higher end of the bearing, gearing and engineered component markets where we believe our value-added engineering and manufacturing capabilities, and application expertise enable us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and enhance profitability. We believe our expertise has enabled us to garner leading positions in many of the product markets in which we primarily compete. With 52 facilities in 10 countries, of which 37 are manufacturing facilities, we have been able to significantly broaden our end markets, products, customer base and geographic reach.
The Bearing, Gearing and Engineered Components Industry
The bearing, gearing and engineered component industry is a fragmented multi-billion-dollar market. Purchasers of bearings, gearings and engineered components include producers of commercial and military aircraft, submarine and vehicle equipment, energy equipment, machinery manufacturers, industrial equipment and machinery manufacturers, construction machinery manufacturers, rail and train equipment manufacturers, packaging and canning machinery manufacturers, agriculture and mining equipment manufacturers, and specialized equipment manufacturers, as well as distributors who service the aftermarket for these products.
Demand for bearings, gearing and precision components in the diversified industrial market is influenced by growth factors in industrial machinery and equipment shipments, and construction, mining, energy, food and beverage, packaging and canning, semiconductor, and general industrial activity. In addition, usage of existing machinery will impact aftermarket demand for replacement products. In the aerospace market, new aircraft build rates along with carrier traffic volume worldwide determines demand for our solutions. Activity in the defense market is influenced by modernization programs necessitating spending on new equipment, as well as continued utilization of deployed equipment supporting aftermarket demand for replacement bearings, gearing and engineered components.
Customers and Markets
We serve a broad range of end markets where we can add value with our specialty precision bearings, essential systems and engineered components. We classify our customers into two principal categories: industrial and aerospace/defense. These principal end markets utilize a large number of both commercial and specialized bearings, gearings and engineered components. Although we provide a relatively small percentage of total bearings, gearings and engineered components supplied to each of our principal markets, we believe we have leading market positions in many of the specialized product markets in which we primarily compete. Financial information regarding geographic areas is set forth in Part II, Item 8, Note 20 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Industrial Market (71% of net sales for the fiscal year ended April 1, 2023)
We manufacture bearings, gearing and engineered components for a wide range of diversified industrial markets, including construction and mining, oil and natural resource extraction, heavy truck, aggregates, rail and train, food and beverage, packaging and canning, material handling semiconductor machinery, wind, and the general industrial markets. Our products target market applications in which our engineering and manufacturing capabilities provide us with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Our largest industrial customers include Caterpillar, Komatsu and Kurt Manufacturing and various aftermarket distributors including Motion Industries, Applied Industrial, McMaster-Carr, BDI, Kaman and Purvis Industries. We believe that the diversification of our sales among the various segments of the industrial markets and channels reduces our exposure to downturns in any individual segment. We believe opportunities exist for growth and margin improvement in this market as a result of the introduction of new products, the expansion of aftermarket sales, and continued manufacturing process improvements.
Aerospace/Defense Market (29% of net sales for the fiscal year ended April 1, 2023)
We supply bearings and engineered components for use in commercial, private and military aircraft and aircraft engines, guided weaponry, space and satellites and vision and optical systems, and military marine and ground applications.
We supply precision products for many of the commercial aircraft currently operating worldwide and are the primary bearing supplier for many of the aircraft OEMs’ product lines. Commercial aerospace customers generally require precision products, often of special materials, made to unique designs and specifications. Many of our aerospace bearings and engineered component products are designed and certified during the original development of the aircraft being served, which often makes us the primary bearing supplier for the life of that aircraft.
We manufacture bearings and engineered components used by the U.S. Department of Defense (the “DOD”) and certain foreign governments for use in fighter jets, troop transports, naval vessels, helicopters, gas turbine engines, armored vehicles, guided weaponry, spaceflight and satellites. We manufacture an extensive line of standard products that conform to many domestic military application requirements, as well as customized products designed for unique applications. Our bearings and engineered components are manufactured to conform to U.S. military specifications and are typically custom-designed during the original product design phase, which often makes us the sole or primary supplier for the life of that product. Product approval for use on military equipment is often a lengthy process ranging from six months to six years.
Our largest aerospace and defense customers include the U.S. Department of Defense, Boeing, Airbus, Newport News Shipbuilding, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and various aftermarket distributors including National Precision Bearing, Jamaica Bearings, Wencor, and Wesco Aircraft. We believe our strong relationships with OEMs help drive our aftermarket sales since a portion of OEM sales are ultimately intended for use as replacement parts. We believe that growth and margin expansion in this market will be driven primarily by expanding our international presence, new commercial aircraft introductions, new products, share gains, and the refurbishment and maintenance of existing commercial and military aircraft.
In fiscal 2023, approximately 2% of our net sales were made directly, and we estimate that approximately an additional 8% of our net sales were made indirectly, to the U.S. government. The contracts or subcontracts for these sales may be subject to renegotiation of profit or termination at the election of the U.S. government. Based on experience, we believe that no material renegotiations or refunds will be required. See Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors – Future reductions or changes in U.S. government spending could negatively affect our business” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our two reportable business segments are aligned with the end-markets for our products. Operating results for the segments are evaluated regularly by our chief operating decision maker in determining resource allocation and assessing performance. The following table provides a summary of our two reportable business segments:
Bearings, gearing and engineered components are employed to perform several functions including reduction of friction, transfer of motion, carriage of loads, and control of pressure and flows. We design, manufacture and market a broad portfolio of bearings, gearing and engineered components.
Plain Bearings. Plain bearings are primarily used to rectify inevitable misalignments in various mechanical components, such as aircraft controls, helicopter rotors, or heavy mining and construction equipment. Such misalignments are either due to machining inaccuracies or result when components change position relative to each other. Plain bearings are produced with either self-lubricating or metal-to-metal designs and consist of several sub-classes, including rod end bearings, spherical plain bearings and journal bearings.
Roller Bearings. Roller bearings are anti-friction products that utilize cylindrical rolling elements. We produce three main designs: tapered roller bearings, needle roller bearings and needle bearing track rollers, and cam followers. We offer several needle roller bearing designs that are used in both industrial applications and certain U.S. military aircraft platforms where there are high loads and the design is constrained by space considerations. A significant portion of our sales of needle roller bearings is to the aftermarket rather than to OEMs. Needle bearing track rollers and cam followers have wide and diversified use in the industrial market and are often prescribed as a primary component in articulated aircraft wings.
Ball Bearings. Ball bearings are devices that utilize high precision ball elements to reduce friction in high-speed applications. We specialize in four main types of ball bearings: high precision aerospace, airframe control, thin section, and industrial ball bearings. High precision aerospace bearings are primarily sold to customers in the defense industry that require more technically sophisticated bearing products providing a high degree of fault tolerance given the criticality of the applications in which they are used. Airframe control ball bearings are precision ball bearings that are plated to resist corrosion and are qualified under a military specification. Thin section ball bearings are specialized bearings that use extremely thin cross sections and give specialized machinery manufacturers many advantages. We produce a general line of industrial ball bearings sold primarily to the aftermarket.
Mounted Bearings. Mounted bearings are fully assembled bearings with a wide range of shaft attachment methods, rolling elements, housing materials and configurations offering a variety of sealing solutions. Mounted bearing products include mounted ball bearings, mounted roller bearings and mounted plain bearings, and are used in light to heavy loads, and in clean, corrosive or harsh environments. Mounted roller bearings are pre-machined to allow field installation of the Dodge bearing sensor, adding remote monitoring capability in difficult to access applications and unsafe environments. Applications include unit and bulk material handling, industrial air handling, large rotor fans, food processing, roll-out tables, and forest pulp and paper processing equipment.
Enclosed Gearing. We provide a broad range of enclosed gearing product lines including Quantis Gearmotor (helical style gearing with modular configurations and a variety of mounting methods), Torque Arm (shaft-mount gearing with helical style gearing and v-belt input for first stage reduction), Tigear (single reduction, right angle gear reducers with worm style gearing), MagnaGear & Maxum (parallel reducers with helical and planetary style gearing) and Controlled Start Transmission (planetary style gearing with hydraulic clutch package used for soft starting large conveyors). Applications include unit and bulk handling, food processing, roll-out tables, and forest pulp and paper processing equipment.
Motion Control Components. Power transmission components are of three types: mechanical drive components (offering V belt sheaves, synchronous sprockets, bushings and belts) used to change rotational speed between two pieces of equipment; couplings used to transmit torque between two rotating pieces of equipment, such as a motor and a gearbox; and conveyor components, which transfer torque from the mechanical drive equipment to the conveyor belt in bulk material handling applications. Applications include unit and bulk material handling, industrial air handling, large rotor fans, food processing, roll-out tables, and forest pulp and paper processing equipment.
Engineered Components. Engineered components include highly engineered hydraulics and valves, fasteners, precision mechanical components and machine tool collets. Engineered hydraulics and valves are used in aircraft and submarine applications and aerospace and defense aftermarket services. Precision mechanical components are used in all general industrial applications where some form of movement is required. Machine tool collets are cone-shaped metal sleeves used for holding circular or rodlike pieces in a lathe or other machine that provide effective part holding and accurate part location during machining operations.
Product Design and Development
We produce specialized bearings and engineered components that are often tailored to the specifications of a customer or application. Our sales professionals are highly experienced engineers who collaborate with our customers to develop bearing and engineered component solutions. The product development cycle can follow many paths, which are dependent on the end market or sales channel. The process normally takes between three and six years from concept to sale depending upon the application and the market. A typical process for a major OEM project begins when our design engineers meet with the customer at the machine design conceptualization stage and work with them through the conclusion of the product development.
Often, at the early stage, a bearing or engineered component design is produced that addresses the expected demands of the application including load, stress, heat, thermal gradients, vibration, lubricant supply, pressure and flows, and corrosion resistance, with one or two of these environmental constraints being predominant in the design consideration. A bearing or engineered component design must perform reliably for the period of time required by the customer’s product objectives.
Once a bearing or engineered component is designed, a mathematical simulation is created to replicate the expected application environment and thereby allow optimization with respect to these design variables. Upon conclusion of the design and simulation phase, samples are produced and laboratory testing commences at one of our test laboratories. The purpose of this testing phase is not only to verify the design and the simulation model but also to allow further design improvement where needed. The last phase is field testing by the customer, after which the product is ready for sale.
For many of our Aerospace/Defense products, the culmination of this lengthy process is the receipt of a product approval or certification, generally obtained from either the OEM, the DOD or the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), which allows us to supply the product to the OEM customer and to the aftermarket. We currently have a significant number of such approvals, which often gives us a competitive advantage, and in many of these instances we are the only approved supplier of a given bearing or engineered component.
Manufacturing and Operations
Our manufacturing strategies are focused on product reliability, quality, safety and service. Custom and standard products are produced according to manufacturing schedules that ensure maximum availability of popular items for immediate sale while carefully considering the economies of lot production and special products. Capital programs and manufacturing methods development are focused on quality improvement, production costs, safety and service. A monthly review of product line production performance assures an environment of continuous attainment of profitability and quality goals.
Capacity. Our plants currently run on a full first shift with second and third shifts at select locations to meet the demands of our customers. We believe that current capacity levels and future annual estimated capital expenditures on equipment up to approximately 3.0% to 3.5% of net sales should permit us to effectively meet demand levels for the foreseeable future.
Inventory Management. We operate an inventory management program designed to balance customer delivery requirements with economically optimal inventory levels. In this program, each product is categorized based on characteristics including order frequency, number of customers and sales volume. Using this classification system, our primary goal is to maintain a sufficient supply of standard items while minimizing costs. In addition, production cost savings are achieved by optimizing plant scheduling around inventory levels and customer delivery requirements. This leads to more efficient utilization of manufacturing facilities and minimizes plant production changes while maintaining sufficient inventories to service customer needs.
Sales, Marketing and Distribution
Our marketing strategy is aimed at increasing sales within our two primary markets, targeting specific applications in which we can exploit our competitive strengths. To affect this strategy, we seek to expand into geographic areas not previously served by us and we continue to capitalize on new markets and industries for existing and new products. We employ a technically proficient sales force and utilize marketing managers, product managers, customer service representatives and product application engineers in our selling efforts.
We have developed our sales force through the hiring of sales personnel with prior industry experience, complemented by an in-house training program. We intend to continue to hire and develop expert sales professionals and strategically locate them to implement our expansion strategy. Today, our direct sales force is located to service North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America and is responsible for selling all of our products. This selling model leverages our relationship with key customers and provides opportunities to market multiple product lines to both established and potential customers. We also sell our products through a well-established, global network of industrial and aerospace distributors. This channel primarily provides our products to smaller OEM customers, aftermarket customers and the end users of bearings and engineered components that require local inventory and service. We intend to continue to focus on building distributor sales volume.
The Company has a joint venture in North America focused on joint logistics and e-business services. This joint venture, CoLinx, LLC (“CoLinx”), includes five equity members: Timken, SKF Group, Schaeffler Group, RBC Bearings Incorporated and Gates Industrial Corp. The e-business service focuses on information and business services for authorized distributors in the Industrial segment.
The Company also utilizes the RBC e-shop e-commerce platform to sell precision products and high quality mechanical components to customers.
The sale of our products is supported by a well-trained and experienced customer service organization, which provides customers with instant access to key information regarding their purchases. We also provide customers with updated information through our website, and we have developed on-line integration with specific customers, enabling more efficient ordering and timely order fulfillment for those customers.
We store product inventory in warehouses located in the Midwest, Southwest and on the East and West coasts of the U.S. as well as in Australia, Canada, France, India, Mexico, the People’s Republic of China and Switzerland. The inventory is located in these locations based on analysis of customer demand to provide superior service and product availability.
Our principal competitors include SKF, New Hampshire Ball Bearings, Regal Rexnord, Precision Castparts and Timken, although we compete with different companies for each of our product lines. We believe that for the majority of our products, the principal competitive factors affecting our business are product qualifications, product line breadth, service, quality and price. Although some of our current and potential competitors may have greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources than us, we believe that we are well-positioned to compete with regard to each of these factors in each of the markets in which we operate.
Product Qualifications. Many of the products we produce are qualified for the application by the OEM, the DOD, the FAA, the user or a combination of these. These credentials have been achieved for thousands of distinct items after years of design, testing and improvement. Applicable Dodge products are compliant as required with related communications, safety, and Ex certifications for use in North America, Mexico, the EU, as well as other select international locations. This includes, but is not limited to, ATEX, IECEx, NYCE NOM, and C/US declarations of conformity. Several of our products are protected by patents, and we believe that in many cases we have strong brand identity or we are the sole source for products for a particular application.
Product Line Breadth. Our products encompass a broad range of designs which often create a critical mass of complementary bearings, essential systems and engineered components for our markets. This position provides many of our industrial and aerospace customers with a single manufacturer to provide the engineering service and product breadth needed to achieve a series of OEM design objectives and/or aftermarket requirements. This enhances our value to the OEM considerably while strengthening our overall market position.
Service. Product design, performance, reliability, availability, quality, and technical and administrative support are elements that define the service standard for this business. Our customers are sophisticated and demanding, as our products are fundamental and enabling components to the manufacturing or operation of their machinery. We maintain inventory levels of our most popular items for immediate sale and service. Our customers have high expectations regarding product availability and quality, and the primary emphasis of our service efforts is to provide the widest possible range of available products delivered on a timely basis.
Price. We believe our products are priced competitively in the markets we serve and we continually evaluate our manufacturing and other operations to maximize efficiencies in order to maintain competitive prices while maximizing our profit margins. We invest considerable effort to develop our price-to-value algorithms and we price to market levels where required by competitive pressures.
Investments in affiliated companies accounted for under the equity method at April 1, 2023 and April 2, 2022 were $0.6 and $0.7, respectively, and were reported within other noncurrent assets on the consolidated balance sheets.
Suppliers and Raw Materials
We obtain raw materials, component parts and supplies from a variety of sources and generally from more than one supplier. Our principal raw materials are steel and cast iron. Our suppliers and sources of raw materials are based in the U.S., Europe and Asia. We purchase steel at market prices, which fluctuate as a result of supply and demand driven by economic conditions in the marketplace. For further discussion of the possible effects of changes in the cost of raw materials on our business, see Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
As of April 1, 2023, we had order backlog of $663.8 compared to a backlog of $603.1 as of April 2, 2022. Orders included in our backlog are subject to cancellation, delay or modifications by our customers prior to fulfillment. We sell many of our products pursuant to contractual agreements, single-source relationships or long-term purchase orders, each of which may permit early termination by the customer. However, we believe that the unique nature of many of our products prevents other suppliers from being able to satisfy customer orders on a timely or cost-effective basis, thereby making it impracticable for our customers to shift their purchase of these products to other suppliers.
RBC employs 3,670 people at our 34 U.S. facilities, approximately 3% of whom are exempt and 97% are non-exempt. In addition, we employ 1,422 people at our 18 facilities located in Canada, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, India, Australia and China. The majority of our personnel are RBC employees rather than independent contractors, temporaries or third-party labor provider personnel.
Our human capital objective is to attract and retain high-performing people who can work in a culture that fosters innovation and continuous improvement. To achieve that objective, we maintain an aggressive talent recruitment program, a fair and competitive compensation program, an on-going training and development program, and an ethical and safe work environment.
Talent Recruitment. Critical to our success is that we have a deep and talented pool of engineers who oversee the production of our current products to the highest standards, work directly with customers on applications, and direct the research and development for new products. To maintain that talent pool, we actively recruit engineers from over 40 colleges and universities around the U.S. In addition, we have developed deep collaborative relationships with a select group of schools, including internship and trainee programs with several of these schools.
Compensation. We offer fair and competitive compensation to our employees. Our employee benefits package includes medical, dental and vision coverage, life insurance, supplemental disability coverage, and 401(k) and supplemental employee retirement plans. In addition, participation in our long-term equity incentive plan goes very deep in our organization, providing employees with equity compensation/awards that they might not receive if they worked for one of our competitors.
Training. An important part of achieving our human capital objective is our in-house training programs – RBC University, Materials University, Mechanical Engineering Training and the Dodge Customer, Application, Product Training (CAPT) Program. These programs provide our employees with a uniform foundation regarding how we do business, expand their subject matter expertise, and develop the various leadership positions across our organization, including plant management and general management. We also offer a tuition reimbursement program for many employees wishing to further their classroom education in their chosen field.
Ethics. We expect our personnel to conduct the business of RBC in a legal and ethical manner. To ensure that they do that, our people are required to comply at all times with our corporate Code of Conduct, which among other things requires them to:
- deal fairly with their coworkers and RBC’s customers, suppliers and competitors,
- comply with all applicable laws,
- protect RBC’s proprietary information and other assets, and
- avoid conflicts of interest with RBC.
Workplace Safety. Safety is of paramount importance to RBC and so we go to great lengths in striving for a zero-incident workplace that is consistent with our mandate to produce the highest quality, highly engineered components for our customers. Our general managers and operations managers are charged with creating and maintaining the highest standards of safety for employees, visitors and the local community through the use of industry best practices at their facilities. Monthly, each of our facilities reports to senior leadership on key safety metrics and we maintain a proactive approach in assessing and mitigating risk through root cause analysis, communication, training and teamwork.
We own U.S. and foreign patents and trademark registrations and U.S. copyright registrations and have U.S. trademark and patent applications pending. We file patent applications and maintain patents to protect certain technology, inventions and improvements that are important to the development of our business, and we file trademark applications and maintain trademark registrations to protect product names that have achieved brand-name recognition among our customers. We also rely upon trade secrets, know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. Many of our brands are well recognized by our customers and are considered valuable assets of our business. We do not believe, however, that any individual item of intellectual property is material to our business.
Product Approvals. Essential to servicing the aerospace and defense markets is the ability to obtain product approvals. We have a substantial number of product approvals in the form of OEM approvals or Parts Manufacturer Approvals, or “PMAs,” from the FAA. We also have a number of active PMA applications in process. These approvals enable us to provide products used in virtually all domestic aircraft platforms presently in production or operation.
We are subject to various other federal laws, regulations and standards. New laws, regulations or standards or changes to existing laws, regulations or standards could subject us to significant additional costs of compliance or liabilities, and could result in material reductions to our results of operations, cash flow or revenues.
We are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations, including those governing discharges of pollutants into the air and water, the storage, handling and disposal of wastes and the health and safety of employees. We also may be liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or similar state laws for the costs of investigation and clean-up of contamination at facilities currently or formerly owned or operated by us, or at other facilities at which we have disposed of hazardous substances. In connection with such contamination, we may also be liable for natural resource damages, U.S. government penalties and claims by third parties for personal injury and property damage. Agencies responsible for enforcing these laws have authority to impose significant civil or criminal penalties for non-compliance. We believe we are currently in material compliance with all applicable requirements of environmental laws. We do not anticipate material capital expenditures for environmental compliance in fiscal year 2024.
We file our annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements, and other documents with the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The public may read and copy any materials filed with the SEC at the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at 100F Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20549. The public may obtain information on the operation of the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy by calling the SEC at 1–800–SEC–0330. Also, the SEC maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The public can obtain any documents that are filed by us at http://www.sec.gov.
In addition, this Annual Report on Form 10-K, as well as our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, any amendments to any of the foregoing reports, and our governance documents, are made available free of charge on our website (http://www.rbcbearings.com) as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. Copies of the above reports and documents will also be provided free of charge upon written request to us.