How coolants and lubricants are seeing new roles
The market for coolants & lubricants has evolved and continues to see newness every year
Coolant and lubricants manufacturers often find themselves perturbed. Though most of the suppliers to manufacturing units are home-grown companies, most coolant and lubricant manufacturers are MNCs. They are mainly concerned with the fact that the large number of manufacturing units (mainly comprising SMEs and MSMEs) are willing to compromise on quality to control their cost. There are also a similar number who are unaware of the quality of products available in the market.
Jayanta Ray, GM, industrial and OEM, GS Caltex India, says, “The manufacturing industry is always trying to improve on production efficiency; everybody is demanding more from existing resources. Re-examining the lubrication process is a simple and easy way to improve equipment reliability and performance. At GS Caltex, we have technical experts who routinely conduct plant audits and suggest measures to improve production and reliability. This translates, in the long run, to more savings and profitability.”
Lubricants protect, cool and clean machine parts, and reduce friction. Upgrading the specification of lubricants also helps in improving efficiency. However, there are many, different variables associated with improving the performance of lubricants and the health of machines. Choosing the right lubricants plays an important role in improving operational performance. In addition to choosing the right products and applications, lubrication systems must be proactively maintained to improve machine performance.
Munish Garg, CEO & founder, See Lube Technologies, says, “We have couple of products that could be a benchmark for others. We have converted so many operations, which used straight cutting oil or vegetable oil, with water soluble technology. It provided not only immediate cost cutting, but also ease of operations too. Many industries have made it mandatory to use our products for those operations.”
Most manufacturers have a range of products on offer. Grauer & Weil (Growel) have the range of products in its product basket. Yashwant Mahajan, DGM-R&D Lubes, Grauer & Weil (India), says, “Most of the products are manufactured by a simple blending process which consists of 70-100% base lubricant/oil and up to 30% chemical compounds known as additives. Rust preventive oils, wire drawing oils, metal working fluids, stamping, deep drawing oils are the performance-oriented speciality products and the manufacturing process is also different from the regular blending process.”
There are several constant-changing complex and exacting formulation requirements in the lubricant manufacturing industry. This is true even if the material is processed in an in-line blending system or a batch process. This calls for a control and information system that offers a great deal of flexibility in making changes constantly to the formula and procedures. While the standard product is in demand, customers these days always look for customised products.
The reason why R&D plays an important role in manufacturing. Ray says, “We began base oil production in November 2007 with a capacity of 16,000 BPSD. The production capacity expanded to 23,000 BPSD in 2010 and to 26,000 BPSD in 2011, following the revamping of the base oil plant. Our R&D facility, located near Seoul in South Korea, has developed many award-winning lubricants, which has helped us forge partnerships with major global OEMs. It is the reason we aim to be the dominant supplier of high-quality base oil in Asia through further expansions and the use of cutting-edge hydrocracking technology.”
Garg has a concern. According to him, lubricants are not yet a tailor-made product. Except for certain routine operations, most operations need a different approach of tribology. Many generic products are now losing their sheen. For example, mist oil will soon take over cutting & milling operations, thus giving a blow to water soluble cutting oils.”
R&D has become a regular practice. “Earlier R&D meant developing a new product, today it’s part & parcel of production utility. One has to be ready to offer better products to one’s customers. Gone are the days when a single formulation served different customers; today demands are unique and this can only be addressed through R&D.”
Companies are also looking at manufacturing units close to customers. GS Caltex’s high-performance lubricants are blended at a state-of-the-art lube oil blending plant near Navi Mumbai and are distributed across the country through a network. Ray says, “Our industrial segment caters to consumption sectors such as mining, power generation, road construction, automobile manufacturing, metals, and general engineering. We have invested in developing our PAO-based Kixx range (Kixx DX EURO 15W40– API SJ4) to meet future demand. Product categories meeting the API CK4 and API FA4 standards are also ready for launch and will be launched in the market as India moves to stricter emission norms under BS-VI.”
Additionally, it has expanded its hydraulic oil portfolio to launch long-life hydraulic oil (Kixx Hydro HVL) as well as zinc-free hydraulic oil (Kixx Hydro AF). The company has also expanded its synthetic grease portfolio to focus on high-temperature grease (Therma 2), moly grease (Molytex 2) and steering grease (Multifak EP2).
Quality improvements are a constant in this sector. Besides pricing, sustainability is another factor that needs to be looked at closely. Garg says that cost per component, lesser quantity for disposal, a and overall cost reduction are some of the challenges.
But if the government’s Make in India programme works well, it will lead to greater demand for lubricants. Infrastructure growth combined with road construction and mining is driving growth of construction equipment, which, in turn, is seeing an increase in demand for lubricants.
The increasing number of public-private partnerships and initiatives such as smart cities, ‘housing for all’, port connectivity, coastal roads, and
railway safety will also grow the market for construction equipment in India, and this bodes well for business.