Lubricant Industry

Changes in technology and increased pressure from consumers to increase productivity is challenging a traditional industry to transform and innovate rapidly

Cutting fluids such as coolants and lubricants ensure that the machines operate smoothly, and last long
Cutting fluids such as coolants and lubricants ensure that the machines operate smoothly, and last long

Machines play a very important role on the shopfloor. From making products to simply doing repetitive work, reducing manpower, role of machines is extremely crucial and hence, it is of utmost importance that these machines are well looked after. Cutting fluids such as coolants and lubricants ensure that the machines operate smoothly, and last long. Manufacturing companies pay special attention towards what kind of coolants and lubricants they invest in as that decision, alone make a lot of difference. While coolants are cutting fluids designed to reduce the effects of heat in machining operations, lubricants are, often, oil-based fluids that are formulated to reduce friction at the tool-chip and tool-work interfaces and reduce temperature among other things.
Coolants provide ideal cooling and friction resistance, prevent corrosion and provide physical, organic and industrial constancy during use. They do not have destructive effect on the environment and do not have disproportionate frothing. Lubricants, on the other hand, have a high boiling point, high viscosity number, are highly resistant towards rust, provide hydraulic constancy, have a low cooling point and help in preventing corrosion.
With times, the trends in machining liquids have also changed. Earlier, neat oils, which contained specialty base oils and additives but did not have any water content, were used for machining. However, over a period of time, operators have substituted neat oils with water soluble oils.
From being cost-effective to getting the best results, the manufacturing heads of companies pay close attention to quality of the cutting fluid that will be used on their shopfloors in order to gain optimum results.

Yatendra Kumar, business head, MotulTech India

Elaborating on what parameters are considered when buying coolants and lubricants, Anil Singh, operations head, Hyderabad & Vietnam & Lead Asia, water borne paints stream, AkzoNobel India, said that lubricants' usage locations, type of machine, speed, temperature, load of parts of machines, and viscosity are some of the important factors that are closely looked into.

Changing Structure
Explaining the changes in the purchase pattern of coolants and lubricants, Yatendra Kumar, business head, MotulTech India, explained that the change in coolants and lubricants is done with the focus to the overall equipment efficiency and overall equipment process. “This is done so that the head of manufacturing or the plant head is able to get much better value from their machines by using the right quality cutting fluids at the right price,” Kumar said. Keeping cost, efficiency and quality at the epicenter of it, there is continuous change and development in the field of the metal working fluids in order to produce better products that give optimum results while at the same time do not have any adverse effect on  the health and environment. Over the years, companies are paying close attention towards hazards of the cutting fluids that they use. Changine perspective from just cost and output to cost, output and health, safety and environment (HSE), companies now prefer coolants and lubricants that reduce carbon footprints by bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.

Anil Singh, operations head, Hyderabad & Vietnam & Lead Asia, water borne paints stream, AkzoNobel India

Manufacturers are inclined towards using synthetic coolants and lubricants that have lower oil content as this is economically and environmentally feasible. Historically, lubricants with high oil content were used which resulted in inefficient operations while dramatically increasing the risk and exposure of workers to health hazards.

Munish Garg, MD, See Lube Technologies, said, “Earlier, manufacturers were using conventional lubricants, but this trend is now changing gradually. This is because manufacturing companies now need increased productivity from lubricants, irrespective of the cost. With high quality lubricants and coolants, the productivity can increase up to two to three times.”

Complications and Solutions
According to most manufacturers and vendors, price is considered as a prime factor for any decision making in India. Buying low quality coolants and lubricants, keeping cost in mind results in loss of high value machines or high value equipment. The outcome of adapting to a low-price approach can cause damage to the machining tools and it not only harms the productivity of the machines but also can result in great loss to humans who are handling these fluids on a day-to-day basis. 

R Kedia, VP, works, JK Tyre and Industries, said there are several parameters that their company considers when buying coolants and lubricants for machining at their shopfloor. These parameters include low cost, easy availability, low evaporation, safe for humans, low viscosity and density, and corrosion resistance.

Further adding to the list of issues faced, Singh said, “Vendors of machines and lubricants do not specify the exact kind of lubricants for particular machine usage purpose. There is no support for immediate testing of lubricants to get real running condition—wear debris trend and lack of timely material availability. These problems can be rectified easily with proper agreement before placing order.”

However, choosing the right vendor who offers the best solutions comes with time and experience. Substandard quality coolants and lubricants can result in diminished life of the machining tools, faster evaporation and faster deterioration of properties. It goes without saying that the low-quality coolants and lubricants can prove to be highly hazardous to humans, as well.

To over these problems, Kedia said, “It is best to outsource this operation fully to the coolant manufacturer and let the manufacturer maintain and operate at our factory premises. These manufacturers are then paid based on usage (Rs./Kg. of production). In order to use the coolant/lubricant for maximum RoI, it is advisable to call a filtration expert and filter all coolants/lubricants and reuse them.”

Munish Garg, MD, See Lube Technologies

Agreeing with the cost-centric approach of most manufacturers, Garg said that unfortunately, several Indian manufacturers still hang on to low cost lubricants. This is because for high productive lubricant not only do the prices go up, but they also need to have skilled manpower, who can use these cutting fluids in the right manner. Continuous monitoring is required for high-end products. However, manufacturers do not want to invest in high quality lubricants as awareness is low on the manufacturing floor and companies think that both high-end products and conventional lubricants will be used in the same manner. However, for manufacturers to keep up with the changing times, they should understand the benefits of high quality lubricants and permanently make the shift towards these products.

Illuminating on the ways on how right vendor can be selected, Preethi Elangovan, general deputy manager and plant head at Kirloskar Brothers, explained, “It is important that we work closely with vendors, who can provide us with data for long term usage of coolants without having to change completely the lot we are currently using so that it is a win-win situation. In an ideal situation, effectiveness should be achieved merely by topping up the fluid.”
Elangovan further added that among the ways in which RoI can be maximised is to first top-up the fluid and only then replace the contents of the coolant tank.

Preethi Elangovan, general deputy manager and plant head at Kirloskar Brothers

Upcoming Trends
Innovation is the key to any business that wants to survive change and competition. Most vendors and manufacturers require a lot of customisation based on their specific needs to create new products or tweak existing ones depending on the value and expectations. New trends in machining, electric vehicles, electric motor manufacturing, etc. is changing the landscape of the industry in terms of the demand of what coolants and lubricants are required.
Kumar said, “There is a suppressive effect on the uses of metal working fluids, coolants to be precise, in the industry because we are moving out of many engine parts. So most of the engine parts which are being machined today is consuming lot of coolants, which is going to be reduced but nevertheless there is also a silver lining into it because once you go for the electric motor manufacturing which is the hub for electric vehicles and lithium ion batteries, there are many more metal working fluids, greases and lubricants which is going to be in higher demand in future as we move towards electric vehicles.”
Citing an example of the automobile industry, Garg said that the major consumption of lubricants in any automobile is engine oil. However, with the rise of EVs, which do not have engines, the requirements for such products will reduce drastically when electric vehicles start becoming main stream. Talking about innovations in his field, he said that being a research-based company, it has started working on new products that will service operations like rigging, boring, threading and gear hobbing.

“These innovations will reduce the consumption of lubricants in the system or increase productivity with the same amount of lubricants. We have to also keep health safety and the environment in mind because limiting lubricants reduces the hazard and makes disposing smaller amounts easier thereby, protecting the environment,” Garg concluded.


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