A WORLD WITH LESS FRICTION
Although lubricants do not keep the earth spinning on its axis, it is used on a global scale, reducing friction and allowing the machines of industry to continue producing. In 2019, a total of 36.8 million metric tons (Garside, 2020) were used worldwide. This equates to a swimming pool of 4.25 km by 4.25 km, with a depth of 2m. According to MarketsAndMarkets (Lubricants Market by Base Oil – Global Forecast to 2025, s.d.), the worldwide lubricants market size is valued at 157.6 billion USD in 2020. The market is increasing and should reach 182.6 billion by 2025. It is interesting to note that based on these numbers the average cost per liter of lubricant oil is approximately 5$.
Are there any counterfeits?
The short answer is YES. Lubricant counterfeiting is a real problem and can have catastrophic consequences such as malfunction of machinery, destruction of product etc. Similar to counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical field, the lubricant industry faces the problem of having lower quality product being sold under the guise of high-quality labels.
Refilling of original containers is one of the biggest problems lubricant brands are faced with today. Reusing original containers and bottles is fairly easy and depending on the market, access to used packaging is effortless and inexpensive. For a non-expert, it is extremely difficult to identify containers that were refilled. Take for instance bottles. For a counterfeiter it is straight forward to collected used bottles and purchase new bottle caps with a tamper evident band or security ring. The bottles are refilled and the new caps installed. For a non-expert user, the refilled bottles look like original products.
Slightly more sophisticated are counterfeiters producing packaging from scratch and purchasing original packaging components. There have been known cases of rouge printers printing for both legitimate companies and counterfeiters for the same product. The counterfeiters then stuck the labels on standard lubricant bottles purchased on the market. The result is a counterfeit lubricants bottle that is exceptionally difficult to tell apart from the original, yet with a potentially devastating product inside. The quality of content of counterfeited packaging is of course again often far away from the original.
Brand theft is less frequent in the lubricant industry, but nevertheless existent. Counterfeiters use brand logos, designs and colors and invent a new product, that never existed under the original brand. These kinds of counterfeits can of course easily be pinpointed. Despite this, some can slip into markets unnoticed. Due to the large number of locally adapted products available around the world, a customer may have a hard time researching whether theirs is counterfeit or not.
Counterfeit protection solutions
There are four basic approaches being used today to fight the counterfeiting problem in the lubricant field:
The different approaches target different user groups and serve also different purposes.
Hunting for the golden bullet
Securing lubricant products effectively requires a holistic, well-planned strategy. Too often we see brand owners implement expensive holograms on a label with the hope that it will solve all of their counterfeiting problems. We are aware of brand owners in China whose holograms were counterfeited just weeks after their new product has hit the market.
We therefore believe that an effective anti-counterfeiting approach should include at least the following:
Securing the supply chain:
Customers only purchase products from actors in a secured supply chain, including the organization and management of authorized dealers, importers, and distributors.
Tamper proof packaging:
Making the reusing of packaging and refilling more difficult..
Invisible authentication features for enforcement and control:
Counterfeiting is more challenging and brand owners and authorized agents may authenticate products and take corrective actions if necessary.
More sophisticated approaches are of course possible and, similar to the banknote industry, may increase the overall effectiveness. However, budgets constraints regularly hinder the execution of more sophisticated strategies.
Legislative requirements for track and trace along the supply chain are not yet existing and for the moment we are not aware that there is any legislation in the pipe line. This may change in the coming decade. We have seen an increasingly strong political lobby attempt to gain global control on national and international trade (of what?).
All solutions for the lubricant field proposed by AlpVision are covert, which means that they do not have any visual impact on the design of the product. Depending on the container type, our solutions are either printed – AlpVision Cryptoglyph® – when used on labels, pouches, and seals, or exploits the inherent characteristics of the product surface – AlpVision Fingerprint – when used on plastic bottles and caps.
Cryptoglyph® is a digital invisible marking that is applied to printed products by your current print suppliers with no visible design changes and without the use of special inks or other consumables. Product protection with a Cryptoglpyh® is done by adding distributed micro holes in the varnish layer or solid plain color layer, or by printing microdots on the other parts of the packaging. Cryptoglpyh® provides a high security and can be combined with traceability systems such as QR codes or bar codes.
AlpVision Fingerprint® technology leverages the intrinsic microscopic surface irregularities found on products and uses these unique characteristics as the means of authentication. Depending on the manufacturing process these irregularities may repeat between different products (for instance for molded products). On top of smartphone based authentication, AlpVision Fingerprint provides a very high security against counterfeiting and seamlessly integrates with common track and trace systems.
Both solutions use a smartphone with a dedicated application for product authentication. This requires little to no user training and the system gives a clear statement regarding the authenticity of the product under inspection. The smartphone application can further be linked to AlpVision’s Brand Monitoring System (BMS) for authentication and quality control logging. It also provides valuable insights into system use and counterfeiting activities.
years of innovation
Our digital invisible technologies for product authentication and counterfeit protection can be applied to a broad range of branded products across a multitude of industries, including: Household Appliances, Electromechanical parts (e.g. circuit breakers), Agrochemicals (e.g. pesticides), Cosmetics, Oil & Gas (e.g. lubricants), Consumer Goods, Food & Beverage and more.
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