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Process Industry

The coolants & lubricants industry addresses tribological issues arising from continuous use of machines to help manufacturers enhance productivity and return on investment.

Considering the huge investments in capital equipment and machine tools, it is natural that manufacturers look to extend machine lifespan as much as possible. But machine wear & tear is imminent. One of the reasons for this is the high residual stress on tools and machine parts. Tribology or the study of friction, heat transfer to surfaces, cooling requirements, wear and lubrication is therefore becoming more relevant in the modern manufacturing environment, and tribological issues in moving machine parts are gaining more attention than ever before. As a result, coolants & lubricants vendors are offering product solutions to help address these issues, much to the delight of manufacturing companies.

Some studies on wastage of resources due to friction and wear estimate that direct and consequential burden to industries in the US could be anywhere between 1-2% of Gross Domestic Product. Therefore, one might imagine that these would be much higher in emerging and developing economies. The smooth and productive operations of most mechanical, electromechanical and biological systems seek the involvement of design engineers in order to understand applicable friction and wear values. At current levels of investment and cost of operations, the savings that one can accrue from corrective actions such as the use of the right coolants & lubricants would be tremendous.

It is easy to see then that tribology has a significant role to play in manufacturing. This is particularly true during metal-forming operations, where a friction would cause the tool to wear as well as require extra power to machine a component. Friction wear would also result in changes to tool tolerances and more frequent tool replacement, along with greater energy resources being needed for machining. However, appropriate lubrication would go a long way to minimise direct surface contact and reduce the tool wear as well as power requirements. Well lubricated and engineered surfaces of machine tools and machine parts will definitely enhance the productive life of any equipment, thereby reducing frequent breakdowns, leading to savings on repairs, and conservation of expensive material, energy as well as the environment.

Choosing Right
Choosing the right lubricant for the right application is half the battle won. Most engineers of mechanical, electromechanical and related disciplines do not have sufficient academic knowledge of tribology issues and do not get any real time experience in these areas until they get posed with these questions during their industrial careers. Therefore, the understanding of tribology, mechanical properties on machining surfaces, and micro to nanoscales of the materials used in the construction of components and devices is relatively below favorable levels.

The question that normally arises then is how does one decide the appropriate type of coolant or lubricant for different industrial applications where the materials of surfaces are different and methodologies vary. To get the best performance and results, hydraulic systems are used in practically all industrial and commercial market sectors, ranging from machine shops and general manufacturing to power plants, construction and mining.

In fact, Shell Lubricants announced the launch of Shell Tellus S2 MX and Shell Tellus S2 VX, earlier this year. The Shell Tellus range of hydraulic oils have been developed to enable equipment operators to select the fluid that will help to deliver optimum value to their operations through: wear protection, long fluid life, and system efficiency. The company has invested in R&D to upgrade the previous formulations and is now ready to roll out the next generation hydraulic oils that offer significantly improved performance in these three areas.

Speaking about Shell Lubricants’ latest offerings, Hans Gerdes, brand manager, Shell Tellus, said, “As a global leader in hydraulic oils, at Shell, we take great pride in working closely with the leading OEMs, and developing products to fit their needs. For decades, Shell Tellus S2 hydraulic oils have set the industry benchmark for dependable lubricants that are trusted to deliver reliable equipment operations.”

He further added, “Changes to equipment technology and operating conditions, in recent years, have placed increasing demands on the hydraulic oil. For example, demand for increased power output means equipment is often operating under higher loads and temperatures, which places increased stress on the hydraulic oil. In light of this, we have developed two upgraded formulations of Shell Tellus S2 hydraulic oils that deliver dramatically improved performance over the previous generation.”
On the other hand, we have ExxonMobil. The lubricant giant also suggests that choosing the right lubricant and a proper used oil analysis programme is the key for maximising any hydraulic system’s performance. In this context, the company points out that as compared to their predecessors, today’s hydraulic units are far more sophisticated. The need to improve productivity and lower costs has led to significant changes in hydraulic component technology and system design, creating systems that are more compact, yet more powerful.

In fact, modern hydraulic systems feature reservoirs that are about 60-80% smaller than those of older systems, operate with sophisticated computer controlled valves and use ever increasing system pressures. The team at ExxonMobil believes that these smaller, more power-dense systems have limited residence time to reject contaminants, such as solid particles and air, and operate at higher temperatures, both of which stress the fluid and system components. Precision hydraulic components, especially servo and proportional valves, are also sensitive to contamination and even a small amount of contamination or fluid degradation by product can quickly damage the equipment.

ExxonMobil recommends the use of a high-performance hydraulic fluid, institution of a proactive maintenance and used oil analysis plan so as to enhance the performance and durability of their hydraulic system. They also advise that as part of routine maintenance, the engineer responsible should be rigorous in checking the health of the hydraulic oil and the hydraulic system itself. The oil analysis should include a measurement of fluid viscosity, water content, particle count and dissolved metals to determine how well the system is operating.

Customer, Support, Service
Examining changes in the used oil analysis data over time, referred to as ‘trending’, is necessary to assess the condition of the hydraulic fluid. As a part of their customer service and support, ExxonMobil has a proprietary Mobil Serv Lubricant Analysis programme, which delivers the full spectrum of analysis on Mobil branded lubricants.

ExxonMobil has announced the launch of this new mobile-enabled used oil analysis service, in India. The new service helps enhance efficiency and simplifies the user experience by replacing a paperwork-heavy approach with a simple, intuitive mobile-enabled service platform that reduces the number of steps in the used oil analysis process.

“Our discerning customers are looking for easy-to-use tools that can help them reduce costs, boost productivity and prioritise safety,” states Imtiaz Ahmed, Mobil SHC brand manager, Asia Pacific, ExxonMobil Lubricants. “Mobil Serv is an initiative in that direction and demonstrates ExxonMobil’s continuing commitment to providing best-in-class lubrication solutions, leveraging a combination of advanced lubricant technologies, expert technical services, and extensive industry expertise, to help customers achieve their safety, sustainability and productivity goals,” he further says.

Seeking constant guidance from its customers on changing business requirements and challenges faced, the leading industry players have structured programmes on customer interfacing. As a part of their customer interface and support system, Shell organises technology forums for the benefit of their customers in industries like metals, mining etc. In one such forum on Metal Technology that organised last month, the company invited leading industry experts in the metal and steel industry, to discuss the challenges faced by the lubricants industry and find solutions for the same.

In addition, the forum was aimed at showcasing Shell Lubricants’ innovative technology and its holistic solutions, with a special focus on offerings for modern day steel plants. Commenting on the occasion, Akhil Jha, VP, technical, Shell Lubricants India, professed, “At Shell Lubricants, we recognise that even one break-down or unscheduled maintenance can lead to stoppage of a steel plant, therefore resulting in significant loss of production. High temperatures, high load and wet conditions can place significant demands on the metal processing equipment.”

Walking Together

Shell Lubricants had earlier organised a similar Technology Forum for the Mining sector, which was attended by prominent industry experts from CII and OEMs. At the time, Jha pointed out, “Our constant endeavour has been to engage with our customers, OEMs and industry bodies through various knowledge-sharing initiatives and platforms like the Shell Knowledge Webinar Series, sector-specific Technology seminars, and OEM-specific Technology Days, among others. The knowledge gained from such initiatives, coupled with our global expertise in technology and innovation, helps us deliver market-leading products and services.”

Like most major players, Shell understands that maximising machine availability and driving down maintenance costs in tough conditions and remote areas can be difficult. But it is the customer’s requirement and they have to help deliver. To this end, Shell Lubricants has introduced a wide range of specialty products and services designed to add value to its customers’ businesses by decreasing electricity consumption, reducing downtime, preventing plant stoppages and reducing operating costs, while also helping to meet the other lubricant challenges faced.

Customers seem to welcome such efforts as they assist them in achieveing their own business objectives. Mukesh Dubey, senior VP, mechanical, Kalyani Steels, who attended Shell Lubricants’ Metal Technology Forum summed it best, saying, “Considering the competitive industry landscape, we recognise the value addition that a lubricants company like Shell Lubricants brings to the forefront, given their focus on reducing the downtime and ensuring longer equipment and oil life.”

With technologically advanced products and services on offer, coolants & lubricants vendors are going the extra mile in aiding their clients to reduce the total cost of ownership. Such a dynamic vendor-customer relationship bodes well for the industry, not just as a means to eliminating wastages in the industrial environment, but also in the long-term benefit it has on business productivity and economic development.

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