Buyer’s Guide for Using Functional Equivalents to OEM Brands

5 Things to Know when Comparing Fastener Brands to Generic Alternatives

This year, we’ve discussed how the trademarked brand Keensert® is often available as a Mil-Spec or generic branded key-locking insert. We also reviewed how national brands of precision shoulder screws, such as Amatom, Concord, RAF and others are also offered by McMaster-Carr (tight tolerance series), MSC, Grainger and generically.

But how exactly do you determine which categories of fasteners cross to generic alternatives? This guide offers creative solutions including when to cross, and how to save money and reduce long lead times by using brand alternatives.

1.  What is a functional equivalent when it comes to fasteners and precision components?  

You can find hundreds of registered trademark-branded fasteners and components in the industrial marketplace. Much like brand-name pharmaceuticals such as Tylenol and Advil are available generically (as acetaminophen and ibuprofen), some brand name fasteners are also available as “generics,” “crosses,” “alternatives” or “functional equivalents.”

In the world of fasteners, a functional equivalent fastener is a part that is the same as the brand-name product in form, fit and function, including material and plating specifications.

2.  How can I determine if I must use the brand name or if I can cross to a generic part?

Before you shop, check the bill of materials to see if it specifically calls out a particular brand name along with the part number. If no specific manufacturer’s name is listed, then you can typically use a functional equivalent.

Use this handy 4 point checklist as your guide:

  • Does your bill of materials specifically call for the OEM brand-name fastener or component?
  • Can you live with the lead time or will having parts sooner improve delivery of the final product?
  • Will your supplier provide a certificate of conformance?
  • Will saving money help you be more competitive?

3.  What categories of fasteners are available as generic or functional equivalents?

Popular categories include adhesives and sealants, anchors, bits and nutsetters, cage nuts, flex type lock nuts, handles, Keenserts, knurled thumb screws, nylon insert stop nuts,  precision shoulder screws, retaining rings, rivets & blind threaded inserts, self-clinching, fasteners, spacers and standoffs, speed clips, spring nuts, weld nuts, weld studs, and woodworking screws.

4.  What brands of fasteners should I consider crossing to their generic or functional equivalent?

A sample list of brands that have generic alternatives: 


5.  What are the advantages of using functional equivalents?

Brand names are great, and when they are in stock, available and required by your customer, then you can buy them with confidence in their quality. However, one surefire way to save money and shorten delivery time is to cross the OEM brand part on your bill of materials to a functional equivalent.

Brands and Functional Equivalents at MF Supply

Supplying a full range of fastener products and services, MF Supply is an authorized distributor of Amatom/Carey, Captive (Pem equivalent), Chrislynn Inserts, Concord, EZ-Lok, Lok-mor, Lyn-tron, Microplastics, Shear-loc, S&M Retaining Rings, and Unicorp, as well as a distribution partner for many others. We have an expertise in dowel pins, inserts and Keenserts and domestic and Mil-Spec products.

We provide functional equivalents to expensive brand name fasteners and help our customers save money while reducing long lead times. Check out our recent case study where a functional equivalent was substituted for an OEM brand, reducing costs by 37% and shaving lead time. This time and money savings gave the manufacturer an advantage over their competition, which helped them win the job.

For more detailed information about brands we commonly cross, visit our website. And if you don’t see it listed, as always, ask us. “Finding the right screw for you” is our tag line after all!

MF Supply is a WBE/WOSB certified stocking distributor of precision fasteners and electronic components, specializing in precision hardware including precision shoulder screws. For more than 40 years, we have been supplying manufacturers in the electronics, industrial, commercial, aerospace and military markets with the full range of fastener products and services.

Case Study: Smart Manufacturers use Brand Equivalents to Save Time and Money

Volume 20
March 7, 2017

In our January blog we discussed how Keylocking Inserts are often referred to by their trademarked brand name Keensert®.  The Keensert® is not alone! Did you know that many brand name OEM fastening products and components can be crossed to a generic alternative equivalent product?

Before you shop, check to see if the bill of materials specifically calls out a particular brand name. If no specific manufacturer’s name is listed, then you can typically use a functional alternative or equivalent.   Using equivalents and alternatives to OEM brand names can be a smart way to reduce long lead times and/or cut expenses.

Check out this Case Study where an OEM brand was substituted with a functional equivalent, reducing costs by 37% and shaving lead time.  This time and money savings gave the manufacturer an advantage over their competition, which helped them win the job.

Little Known Ways to Save 37% and Shorten Delivery Times
Display Manufacturer is bidding on a job where the bill of materials calls for 15,000 pieces of an 8-32 x .312 brass insert by SPIROL®. SPIROL® has 265 local stock, 5000 due in 10 days, balance in 4-5 weeks. Based on this delivery schedule, the Display Manufacturer cannot meet their prospective client’s two week delivery requirement.

MF Supply gets a print of the part from SPIROL® and is able to cross it to an exact functional equivalent for an alternative brand we distribute and our factory has in stock. Samples of the alternative fasteners are delivered directly to the customer within 24 hours for inspection and testing.

The alternative sample fasteners are approved for production by the Display Manufacturer within 2 days. The prospective client approves the substitution and awards the manufacturer the business.  A Purchase Order for the inserts is issued to MF Supply. Within 48 hours, the complete 15,000 inserts are available from the factory and delivered to the Display Manufacturer.

-MF Supply functional equivalent fasteners shorten delivery time from 4-5 weeks to 2-3 days.

-SPIROL® Price = .11938 each. Total cost $1790.
-MF equivalent price = .075 each. Total cost $1125.

-Cost savings of $665 or 37%.
-Display Manufacturer wins bid and is awarded job.
-Work is completed on time.
-Job is more profitable due to cost savings realized on fasteners.
-Job has been a repeater and a money maker for Display manufacturer.

In summary, if your bill of materials calls for an OEM brand fastener or component, find out if you must have the brand name product.  In cases where a generic or equivalent alternative part will work, there might be an opportunity to save money and shorten delivery time.

For more information about MF Supply contact:

Robin Lieberman, President

Keensert® Buyer’s Guide

Keensert® Buyer’s Guide

5 Things You Need to Know

If you are a precision manufacturer working in high-torque and high-temperature situations, you might already be familiar with Keensert® key-locking inserts.  Common uses include thread repair applications or to provide thread durability in situations such as aerospace assemblies, electronic equipment and suspension units.

But, what exactly are they and what should you know before buying them? We’d like to help you out with this quick buyer’s guide.

  1. What is a Keensert®?

A Keensert® is a solid bushing style insert that is threaded on both the inside and the outside, and has wedges or “keys” attached at the top. They are generically called key-locking inserts, and are used to distribute loads and repair or strengthen threads against failures due to stripping, seizing or corrosion.

Although the name Keensert® is often used generically (like Band-Aid® or Kleenex®), Keensert®  is the registered trademark of Huck Patents (its close cousin, the Keysert® is a registered trademark of Alcoa Fastening Systems.).

Before you shop, check to see if the bill of materials specifically calls out Huck or Alcoa brand as the Keensert®  manufacturer. If no specific manufacturer’s name is listed, then you can typically use an alternative like Rock Solid brand, a generic equivalent or cross to a MIL-SPEC part.  This becomes important due to price and availability of the brand name parts.

  1. What materials and sizes are available?

Keenserts are available off the shelf in 303 stainless steel or carbon steel. Standard diameters are: American #6-32 to 1 ½” and Metric  M4 to M24. Other diameters (starting at 2-56 and M2) and materials (including 316 stainless steel, and alloys 4140 and A286) are available for special order and usually involve a lead time.

  1. What information do I need for ordering?

To order, you’ll need the manufacturer’s part number or the internal and external thread and material. Alternatively, key-locking inserts often show up under their MIL-SPEC numbers, which can often be crossed to commercial equivalents. Common MIL-SPEC numbers include: MS51830, MS51831, MS51832, NAS1394, NAS1395, NA0146, NA0147, NA0148, NA0149, NA150, and NA0151.

  1. Do I need to buy special installation tools?

When purchasing key-locking inserts, check with your production department to make sure you have the tools you need to properly install inserts. You can buy kits that include a tap, drill, and installation tool.

  1. What level of certification is required?

Generally, a Certificate of Conformance or a COC is sufficient. Full certification with material certs and test reports are often available for a fee.

In summary, in order to have the most efficient Keensert shopping/buying experience, be prepared with the following information before you shop:  Do you need the Alcoa or Huck brand product or can you use a generic or MIL-SPEC alternative?  Make sure to have the manufacturer’s part number, MIL-SPEC part number or the internal/external thread and material.  Do you need an installation tool? Finally, check to see if you require a standard COC or full certs.

For more information about MF Supply contact:

Robin Lieberman, President