By T Murrali:
Freudenberg, a family-owned, value- based and diversified global technology group, has been strengthening its customers and society through innovation power. Together with its partners, customers and the world of science, the 11 business groups develop leading-edge technologies, and products, solutions and services for more than 30 market segments and for thousands of applications. They include seals, noise and vibration control components, nonwovens, filters, specialty chemicals, specialty lubricants, medical products, IT services and the most modern cleaning products.
Across the globe, the group’s products and services make a valuable contribution to the success of its customers. Without Freudenberg, for example, indoor air would not be as clean, cars would not drive, suits would not sit properly on shoulders, and wounds would not heal as quickly. The group’s offerings for its customers are spread across industries in the passenger car and commercial vehicle segments, mechanical and plant engineering, textile and apparel, construction, mining and heavy industry, energy, chemical, and the oil and gas sectors, and innovative technological products and services. Innovation, strong customer orientation, diversity and team spirit are the cornerstones of the Group. Commitment to excellence, reliability and proactive and responsible action, belong to the company’s core values since 168 years.
Freudenberg has held business ties with customers in India since 1920. To strengthen its position in India, the group opened its regional corporate centre in Bangalore in 2013. The centre acts as a key intermediary and shares important know-how across operating organisations in India.
Georg Graf, Head of Freudenberg Regional Corporate Centre India (FRCCI) and Freudenberg Regional Representative India, told AutoParts Asia that the group is present in India in more than 50 locations through 14 companies having production sites, sales and service offices and Research and Development centres. The group in India offers its customers innovative solutions in various sectors including automotive, chemical, energy, construction, medical, consumer products and many others.
Freudenberg Chemical Specialties Munich, was founded in 2004 as a new Business Group within the Freudenberg Group, in Weinheim, Germany. Its objective is to promote innovation potentials in its field of activities and to expand world-wide market leadership in special lubricants and release agents. The Business Group includes five largely independent divisions: Klüber Lubrication, Chem-Trend, SurTec, Capol and OKS. They are active in more than 50 countries
Klüber Lubrication is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of specialty lubricants, offering high-end tribological solutions to virtually all industries and markets worldwide. Most products are developed and made to specific customer requirements. Some of these products are exclusively and directly sold to the customers and some others through distributors to customers in almost all industries and markets.
Chem-Trend is a global leader for specialised release agents / related process chemicals. Its focus is on the formulation and manufacture of innovative products for use in the die cast, general rubber, composites, polyurethane, tyre, thermoplastic, and wood composite industries.
SurTec is a leading developer and manufacturer of value-added chemical specialties for industrial surface finishing processes such as metal pre-treatment, industrial parts cleaning, functional and decorative electroplating including plating on plastics.
OKS specializes in performance lubricants for repair and maintenance products. The OKS portfolio includes a high number of standardized products for the reduction of friction, wear and corrosion.
Capol is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of coatings for the confectionery industry and supplies glazes, release agents and sealing agents as well as other specialty products.
The products manufactured by these companies include oils, greases, pastes, bonded coatings, dry lubricants, anticorrosion products, chemo-technical products for maintenance, repair and overhaul, hydraulic fluids, cleaning and releasing agents, industrial parts cleaning and sealing agents.
Graf said, “One important current project which came as a part of the guiding principles is called “Project Odyssey” which is looking into a world of 2050 and into opportunities of a Freudenberg set-up more than 30 years later. It has identified business opportunities in several industry segments to be focused on. So, even this way of thinking shows our long-term orientation”.
Talking about sustainability, he said, “Freudenberg has introduced a group-wide definition of sustainability: We strive to minimise our footprint and maximise the handprint for our customers and end-users. That means we are minimising the environmental impact from the company’s manufacturing processes (footprint) and maximising our impact as a sustainability enabler at our customers (handprint) by providing sustainable products and services. The group is broadly diversified. Depending on their respective product portfolios and the production technologies they employ, our business groups necessarily have different areas with regard to sustainability. In the six issue areas of materials, waste, energy, emissions, water and health, there are many examples within the group of minimising the footprint and maximising the handprint.”
Innovation lies at the heart of the group and has been the leitmotif of its success for more than 165 years. For the group innovation has many facets. It arises from teamwork – from the diversity of its people and their ideas – as well as from the development of long-term partnerships with universities and research institutions right around the globe.
Speaking on innovation, Graf said,” “In 2016, the group initiated research and development activities of € 371.9 million. This corresponds to an R&D ratio of 4.3 percent – above the worldwide average. The effort is worth it and vital for the sustainable development of the environment and society.”
Klüber Lubrication has been present in India through its subsidiary since 1999. The company has its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at Mysuru in Karnataka. It also serves the Indian market with products from OKS Spezialschmierstoffe GmbH.
Klüber is one of the pioneers in providing solutions to tribological problems in all market segments. Automotive is one of them where the company is well organised worldwide and has also created internal teams to bring special focus towards the automotive industry.
Klüber caters to approximately 36 market segments including oil & gas, mining, steel, cement, food etc. Some of the lubricants offered are used in some vehicles for a life time when used in bearings and are maintenance free. Windmills are another application where such lifetime lubricants are used. Of the 500 products made in India, a few are specially designed for auto industry. Currently a major number of the products for the auto OEMs are imported. Most products meant for maintenance and repair(aftermarket) are manufactured in India. “Presently we are importing most of the auto products and trading in India while most of the products manufactured here go for maintenance and repair requirements,” he said.
On the products manufactured in the Mysuru plant, Kanakaraju T, Chief Technology Officer, Klüber Lubrication India, said, “The Mysore facility has been built with an investment of Rs135 crores and caters to various applications in the automotive, food, cement, steel, textile, and general industries for both domestic as well as global markets. Covering a surface area of 17,000 square meters on a site of around 40,000 square meters, the expanded facilities make this plant one of the biggest of its kind. We are supplying to the auto industry with TS certification, at the manufacturing site. As of now we are qualified for ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001.”
Klüber products are not always directly supplied to automotive OEMs. They also go to the Tier-1 and 2 vendors that eventually supply to the OEMs. These lubricants are used in several applications including window regulators, seat adjusters, steering, engines, and any moving part that is electrically operated. The quantities are less because it is used in precise pre-defined quantities based on the specific applications depending on customer need. We have contracts with many of the key global automotive customers where we merely import and supply to them for their Indian operations. We will undertake more local production in India of some lubricants in the near future,” Kanakaraju said. The goal, he said, “is to be closer to our customers wherever we are. We are trying to create a diversified team with global competencies, starting at the regional level, both for tribology and R&D, to create Centres of Excellence worldwide focusing on a particular segment. For example, the global centre of excellence for steel segment is in Brazil, while the global excellence team for the cement segment is based out of India.” Most automotive applications are closed gears, where the gears are encapsulated in a chamber like gearbox, drivetrain, differential pot etc. India is also the centre of excellence for open-gear applications.
Kanakaraju also said the company manufactures lubes for two-wheeler chains in India for the local market. The difference from its competitors is in the selection of raw materials. “We are extremely stringent in our selection processes for raw materials, to ensure the highest level of quality. Before a raw material is approved by Freudenberg it goes through many levels of screening process. We believe in SVHC (Substance of Very High Concern); items listed in the European chemical negative list of hazardous materials (ECHA –European Chemicals Agency) is not used here or elsewhere in the world. Our team here ensures that materials used are less toxic. In Klüber, during the DP (Development Process), unless a new product scores a definedminimum on a pre-defined scale of sustainability, it will not be cleared for development.”
“We continuously follow stringent norms to reduce toxicities in raw materials to make the product less harmful and more performance- oriented. We want long-term, sustainable vendors, so our selection process is very strict,” Kanakaraju said.
Specialty Lubricants For Indian Vehicles
New developments in the automotive industry are being made quickly and the brand-new developments of today are becoming the basic equipment of tomorrow. The car of the future is subject to rising demands: it is to be greener, safer, and more comfortable. For many new developments and their on-board operation, the one component that continues to play a key role is the specialty lubricants. Approximately there are 250 friction points in a car and all of them have very different tribological requirements
The global team participates in many working groups and committees, e.g. the German Automotive Industry Association (VDA), the German Society for Tribology, the European Lubricating Grease Institute (ELGI), the REACH Implementation Project and the German Association of the Chemical Industry to assess the requirements and takes part in decision-making and development processes affecting lubricants for the automotive industry at an early stage, ensuring that the OEM’s have a lubrication partner that understands the demands being placed upon the lubricants required. The certifications include ISO TS 16949, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and EMAS, and that testify to the quality of the products.
All vehicle need life-time lubrication in places that are not covered in the general service. Engine oil, steering oil and brake fluid are changed during vehicle service, whereas the motor in the window-lifter is lubricated for life and can withstand stringent atmospheric conditions from minus 40 degrees Centigrade to plus 50 degrees Centigrade. This is the case with several parts including wiper motors, recliners, latch systems or a batch of 50 plus small motors of fans that cool the seats of high-end cars. There are many application points like this from exterior to interior, chassis, brake, clutch release bearings, latches, locks, etc that are all lubricated; including the spring of the seat belt which is lubricated with a bonded coating. All these require specialty lubricants as the ordinary greases or conventional oils will not work.
Addressing the two-wheelers segment, Klüber has recently developed greases for steering step-cone bearing. The brake systems also require lubrication, particularly the chains. Commercial vehicles also need specialty lubrication in most of the places a passenger car needs. However, it needs additional lubrication in slack adjusters for brakes. Klüber India has been supplying specialty lubes to many chain manufacturers in India, as first-fill in their products. When their chains go to the OEMs they are lubricated with Klüber products.
Klüber invests a large amount of research and testing in the development of lubricants that meet the customers’ requirements. The company has more than 100 test rigs designed to determine the compatibility and performance characteristics of each individual lubricant, by means of tests according to DIN ISO standards and tests made specifically for original components and materials. As safety considerations always play a role in the automotive industry, these efforts are fully justified: only with the right lubricant can trouble-free operation of all components be ensured throughout the specified lifetime.
The production of specialty lubricants is a process that requires utmost precision: which substances are to be added in what quantity is accurately laid down in the manufacturing instructions. But this is only one aspect of the manufacturing process at Klüber Lubrication. Many factors come into play to ensure that lubricants made by Klüber can be obtained with the same high quality level worldwide.
“The first step when making a grease”, explains Kanakaraju, “is the manufacture of the thickening component, the so called thickener.” Klüber Lubrication makes own thickeners for the greases, a process which involves some chemical reactions. To make sure that these reactions take place exactly according to plan, the employees need to have the required technical knowledge and have to adhere meticulously to the process instructions. Large kettles with special stirrer mechanisms are used for lubricant production. The technology used for the kettles is developed by Klüber’s engineering department, and all of Klüber’s production sites worldwide use it as a standard. This is necessary to ensure that Klüber lubricants can be manufactured to a constant quality standard worldwide – a prerequisite for successful global player business with international customers. If kettles are of different shape or have walls of different thickness, the temperature curves during production may vary, which can eventually affect the characteristics of the finished lubricant. When the thickener is ready, base oil and additives are added. The additives, in particular, must be weighed accurately before they are added: they serve to “refine” the lubricant, i.e. they impart the desired high-performance characteristics. Once all substances have been added, the mixture is stirred until it is homogeneous. This is a seemingly simple process, but it ensures that each gram of lubricant has the same composition of substances. There is a special production room that is reserved for machinery processing those special lubricants where maximum homogeneity and purity are essential – e.g. those applied in minimal quantities: the rolling bearing in a computer fan receives just 0.06 grams of a lubricant! In such applications, even tiny impurities or deviations in viscosity can cause problems in operation, e.g. noises in a CD drive.
During the whole production process, samples are taken and tested to monitor the product quality. All test results are documented and archived. This ensures a constant high lubricant quality, and the causes of any problems can be eliminated. Finally, the finished specialty lubricant is filled into drums, canisters or buckets, depending on what the customer requested. This is done under constant supervision. Klüber lubricants can also be obtained in small packages. The various small-sized containers are filled in a separate production sub-section: these can be ½- and 1 kg cans, 400 g grease cartridges, one litre canisters, 20 ml bottles and many more. One can witness the same processes at the production sites in Mysuru, Querétaro or Salzburg; Klüber speciality lubricants are produced at 15 production sites worldwide, each according to the same standards. The production sites are located in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Austria, Spain, Turkey, the USA, and China.