SKF is the world's largest bearing manufacturer, and employs 44,000 people in 108 manufacturing units. It has the largest industrial distributor network in the industry, with 17,000 distributor locations encompassing 130 countries. SKF is one of the largest companies in Sweden and among the largest public companies in the world.
Sven Wingqvist, at the time a thirty-year-old plant engineer responsible for repairs and maintenance at Gamlestadens Fabriker, was dissatisfied with the performance of the ball bearings then in use. These were rigid ball bearings, imported from Germany, and if the long shafts on the machinery in a textile mill were the least bit misaligned, the ball bearings would become overheated and break down, bringing production to a costly halt. In spring 1907, Wingquist presented a breakthrough – a double row self-aligning ball bearing with a spherical raceway in the outer ring, shared by both rows of balls. This allowed the inner ring to align freely in relation to the outer ring, with no negative impact on the function of the bearing. The new bearing solved the problem associated with misalignment of the shafts and thus did away with the frequent production stops. Self-alignment was particularly useful in the less-than-perfect machinery of the times and in buildings with subsidence problems, which was the case at Gamlestadens Fabriker, since much of the land on which Gothenburg has been built is clay.
On 16 February 1907 on Sven Wingqvist's applied for Swedish patent No. 25406, a multi-row self-aligning radial ball bearing. The Patent was granted on 6 June in Sweden coinciding with patents in 10 other countries. The new ball bearing was successful from the outset. Three years after SKF was founded, the company had 325 employees and a subsidiary in the United Kingdom. Manufacturing operations were later established in multiple countries.
SKF began its operations in India in 1923 by establishing a trading outpost in Calcutta. The early operations involved importing of automotive bearings. SKF India Ltd was incorporated in 1961 following a collaboration between AB SKF, Associated Bearing Co. Ltd and Investment Corp. of India Ltd. In 1963, SKF set up its first bearing factory in Pune, Maharashtra.