Technology, regulations, health and safety are some of the factors that manufacturers of coolants & lubricants are looking at in order to service customers better.
Every so often, manufacturing firms receive feedback from customers for superior products. Sometimes, customers come up with specific suggestions and it makes the manufacturer’s work easy to collaborate with his R&D head for the innovation. But there are those trying times when a customer could come up with a vague suggestion and if the vendor company is unable to satisfy the customer, it is possible that the customer will look elsewhere.
Such is the state of the market for the makers of coolants & lubricants. The manufacturers of coolants and lubricants say that this industry offers some of the most advanced products that can compete with international standards. However, there is always some new demand from customers.
Yatendra Kumar, business head, MOTULTECH India, Atlantic Lubricants & Specialities, says, “The Indian metal working fluids industry is moving to robust products with respect to bio stability, sump-life, machine cleanliness, machining performance and, most importantly, the disposal of used oil and emulsions. Globally, government regulations are a highly influential factor in development of metalworking fluids. Though regulations in India are still not as tough as Europe/US, many users are keen to follow global regulations due to their own interest since they are global organisations and sensitive about human and environment safety or serving customers that have similar requirements.”
He cites an instance when working in south central India and a customer approached them to know how they could save/accrue carbon credit by using MOTULTECH’s lubricants. “Since we are also a global organisation and present across the five continents, we offer products that not only suit the application but also meet or exceed local regulations. One such product is ‘BOICOOL 3740’, which is biocide free and approved by SNECMA for Titanium machining with high coolant pressure up to 600 bar. This is most suitable in titanium machining where conventional high lubricity/tool life products can’t offer the required performance as it reacts with titanium or is unable to sustain the high pressure required for machining such-difficult-to-machine alloys,” adds Kumar.
One of the major issues that manufacturing companies are always charged with is the issue of environmental and effluents discharge. That has had a significant impact on the metal working formulations. Gulshan Kumar Sachdev, MD, Quaker Chemical India, says, “We have taken significant steps to totally eliminate the carcinogenic substances and are also reducing and are also eradicating unfriendly material that could cause any kind of damage.”
Quaker Chemical India has been working at eliminating mutagenic substances and also reducing or completely eliminating reprotoxic and eco-toxic chemicals from its formulations. This has enabled the company to enhance the safety and health of the operators as well as the machines. “Safety and health is a concern for all manufacturing companies and one wants to improve the effluents characteristics and make it more environment-friendly,” adds Sachdev.
With customers demanding superior performing, high technology products that offer sustainable benefits, most manufacturers of coolants and lubricants believe that superior performance is a comparative word. Kumar says that it could also mean that the user is looking for improved performance from the current level. “It is now our job to get the right information about the stated/expected needs and wishes of the customer. In my experience, we came across two customers in a similar industry and the region who have different expectations of performance. All of them are keen to lay their hands on products that will help them stay competitive in a market that they share with competitors,” he adds.
As a company, MOTULTECH has worked across a gamut of industries and has catered to customers’ needs by offering products that meet their requirements. These could range from an increase of sump-life from weeks to months or months to a year or reduction in cycle time or allowing them to eliminate a couple of smaller minor processes in manufacturing. All of these are examples of superior performance with higher technology products, says Kumar.
There are times when customers could also complain about the odour of the coolant. S Ganesh Mani, VP, production, Hyundai Motor India (HMIL), says that quality of coolants must commensurate with intended output. “Moreover, maintenance should be easy and the coolant management system should throw up warnings at regular intervals that will allow the user to undertake periodic checks. Most often than not, fluidity is a problem and coolants should be spillage-free, and not contaminate the shop floor area,” says Mani. Interestingly, HMIL says that advancements in lubricants has helped increase the replacement cycle of engine oil which used to be after every 5,000km and now works up to 10,000km. “The lifespan of coolants and lubricants has certainly increased. However, I think this sector should also look at changing the odour of the fluid and offer some fragrance,” adds Mani.
Kumar of MOTULTECH reiterates an instance when a customer in western India, reported an instance of an odour emerging from the machine after the coolant was loaded into the machine. “They tried a global/specialist brand as well as local ones, but were unable to resolve the problem. When we got in touch with them we offered them our premium product (STABILIS 822 Ultra) and helped them to not only resolve the problem but also reduce consumption by 66%, besides offering six times sump life and lower top up, and additional reduction in disposal cost through lesser use of water treatment chemicals,” he adds.
So how are makers of coolants and lubricants addressing this problem? Sachdev says that his company has taken recourse to chemistry and have replaced petroleum-based mineral oil with bio-degradable natural and synthetic esters, and purchases vegetable oil from ecologically certified resources. He again comes back to offering sustainable products and the reason why it is making green chemistry its motto.
It is also known that most makers of these fluids are also developing formulations that will offer users’ machines a longer life, reduce requirement of dumping and allow for effluent treatment. A strong benefit of such steps will help in reducing the demand for water. For instance, if a company handles five tonnes of effluents each year, they could handle the same every two years if they changed the sump system. “So within two years, they will have five tonnes of effluents and will have used less water because making a new emulsion requires a lot of water,” adds Sachdev.
Coolants and lubricants can also be used to reduce sump-life. Sump-life is one of the important factors in selection of the right coolant (and for neat cutting oils in highly demanding environment). “Nowadays, customers insist on coolants that offer a sump life of one year or more. They do not want to attend to the chore of changing the oil sump frequently, and instead consider changing at the time of planned shutdown. “It is important that we offer a product that has in-built bio-stability, although the life of a coolant wholly depends on the maintenance of the tank, including the frequent health check of the coolant in the tank, regular and right top-up and right quality of water,” says Kumar.
It is well known in the industry that catering to the manufacturing sector requires the coolants vendors to offer complete solutions that also include tank maintenance and training of customers’ technicians that will allow them to get the best not only out of their coolants & lubricants but also from machines and man power. What few understand is that before offering any training, they glean the right information of the metalworking process.
Coolants can also be recycled and so Quaker Chemical India has come up with a new technology, called 2-pack. The pack consists of oil phase and water phase, wherein when making the emulsion, the user can use the oil phase first which is a lubricant and then add the water that will have certain additives which is supplied separately. “This allows users to save plenty of water and one doesn’t have to recycle the products. The user only needs to make the emulsion, use water, and this is a good chemistry solution what we call congruent chemistry,” says Sachdev.
Most manufacturers of coolants and lubricants have a global network of OEMs and machinery manufacturers and work closely with a team. They interact with the OEMs and machine tool makers and seek their assistance on requirements, innovation, especially for high speed machines as they require better lubrication and better cooling characteristics.
The hard work however seems ruined when one considers tha large presence of the unorganised market that is having a field day pushing dubious products.