Hugh Dowding, director, Motultech, on how lubricants lead to efficient production lines.
BY TEAM MT
What are the key drivers of the metalworking fluids industry?
The automotive components sector and regulatory framework are two main growth drivers of the metalworking fluids industry. India has transformed dramatically in the last few years and everybody is of the opinion that it will become the global centre of automotive components. Globally, the regulatory framework such as REACH, GHS dictates more and more the ingredient technology that formulators of metalworking fluids are allowed to use and this drives the industry forward.
Do you manufacture products specifically for the Indian market?
We have our facilities in India, US, France, Italy and Vietnam. We make formulations for the Indian market and a lot of them are made specifically for the Indian customer. This is typically because we cannot source exactly the same raw material used abroad. Also the climate in India is quite different from that of Europe and the products made here have to be more robust.
What are the risks associated with improper handling of metalworking fluids?
Metalworking fluids can cause adverse health effects through skin contact. A variety of cancers have been associated with exposure to these fluids and therefore, using personnel protective equipment while handling the fluids is a must. We conduct several training programmes for our customers in this regard. Also, apart from the health hazards it is necessary to teach people to use the product optimally. If people do not use the product properly then their process becomes less efficient and maximium benefit cannot be availed.
With new materials coming in, how is the industry aligning its R&D to the changing
Titanium is a new metal that people have started using and machining. It is extremely difficult, brittle and suffers from corrosion and is totally in contrast to high magnesium alloys, which present completely different challenges in terms of machining. However, manufacturers are switching to titanium as they are striving to achieve lighter products. This presents challenges for us in terms of adapting our formulations to constantly meet the variations of the new materials and making them cost effective.
What are the challenges that the industry faces?
The metalworking industry grows really as a function of other key industries such as consumer, power, nuclear and automotive industries. Since, India is extremely price sensitive the lubricant industry faces threat from the unorganised sector, which constitutes almost 60% of the market. Having said that it is also necessary to mention that the Indian consumer is becoming aware of what is good and bad and therefore is in search of a productive product and that is where we can help them.
It is imperative to note that metalworking fluids form a tiny proportion of a factory cost — maybe about 1%. If people would stretch just a tiny bit for that 1% it could offer significant gains to their product by improving and maintaining the life and care of the machine, tool, etc. Wastage can be avoided by investing intelligently in something that is less than 1% of the operating budget and yet people tend to ignore this just on the basis of cost. In optimising the process a company should think of the benefits and not per litre cost of the lubricant in general.