In the economic slowdown techno¡logy plays a role where one becomes more profit conscious and looks for someone like Shell. Our solutions are based on delivering value, says Akhileshwar Jha, Vice President-Technical, Lubricants, Shell India Markets. Excerpts from the interview:
Could you elaborate on your recently launched hydraulic oil for Putzmeister concrete machines?
We have launched this product which is formulated and designed for Putzmeister machines. The construction sector has its own challenges in terms of working environment, stress on oil, and t expectations from OEM and customers in general regarding reliability and equipment availability. Keeping this in mind, this hydraulic oil has been designed and approved exclusively for Putzmeister. It is called Shell Putzmeister Premium HO 68.
What are the technical features and advantages of this oil?
We call it TWOHF. 'T' stands for thermal stability, as this oil offers excellent thermal stability. It does not break down at high temperatures. Construction equipment oil systems operate at high loads and temperatures. So basically the mineral oil might break down and start damaging the system and the efficiency will become lower. However, this oil because of its excellent thermal stability does not get thermally degraded. 'W' stands for anti-wear. It protects the pump components against wear because they are high load high pressure piston pumps. They operate on a thin film of lubrication. There can be direct metal-to-metal contact which leads to the shortening of the pump's life. So this oil offers extended pump life because of anti-wear. 'O' stands for oxidation stability. Any mineral oil beyond a temperature of 60oC tends to oxidise faster and for every 10oC increase in temperature, the rate of oxidisation doubles. This oil has excellent oxidisation stability so that it will resist oxidation which will again extend its life. It will also improve the filter change and filters will stay clean. 'H' stands for hydrolytic stability. The presence of moisture tends to attack the additives in the oil and break down the same and hydrolyse them. This oil has the unique feature of resisting hydrolysis. Therefore even if there is humidity or moisture, it will not affect the oil and all its properties will be retained. It will resist any onslaught of water in the oil. 'F' stands for filterability. Oil has excellent filterability. Even a normal oil may have a good filterability when it is dry and sans water. The moment there is some water in oil, it becomes sluggish. Calcium and calcium salts may be present in water due to dust in the industry. We have seen that many other oils perform very poorly in filterability. We have designed this oil so that it performs excellently even if there is the presence of calcium. Besides, it has excellent air release values so any air in the oil will be released quickly without leading to excessive foaming. It also has excellent demulsibility. If there is any water, the oil will separate quickly. These are the technological features of this oil that makes it stand out as compared to the other hydraulic oils available in the market.
What is the reason for your association with Putzmeister?
We have a major focus on B2B and we work very closely with OEMs. In Shell there are three pillars of technology: innovation, partnership and application. Innovation is what we do in terms of research and development (R&D) which brings new ideas to the table which are then passed through a smart screen test, statistical and frictional model etc with the partnership we understand OEM needs. Hardware designs are changing, external requirements are changing in terms of emission, energy, efficiency, total cost of operation, reliability of equipment, etc, people want equipment to be more reliable. So understanding OEM requirement is an important part of the partnership. Then we apply this in the field. Putzmeister is one of the leaders in the construction industry. So we partnered with Putzmeister and identified areas where we could help them and develop a hydraulic oil which will meet all their requirements and ultimately benefit the end-users and the industry.
How will this partnership benefit the Putzmeister customers?
We have come out with this exclusive product for Putzmeister equipment and by using it the customer will benefit. Putzmeister was looking for a technology partner who can help them in addressing some challenges in terms of uptime and extending the life of oil and equipment and making operations more efficient.The construction equipment industry actually wants to get more out of the fleet size. The role of oil is so important today, but people do not realise this.
OEMs and Shell have come together and will co-create or co-engineer lubricant and hardware. We wanted to make India more aware of technology. We are working in that area to get Putzmeister and their service and marketing team to get the benefit of training. Through them we will train customers and work together to help them realise the value of the services we are providing.
How are you planning to take this partnership forward?
It is about working with the Putzmeister team, reaching out to their customers, making sure that product is reaching them and seeing to it that people are getting the benefits. That will actually create more of an impact in terms of what we do and how it adds value. With Putzmeister, we work closely for their customers to get more value out of the lubricants used. Of course, services will only add to the value.
What is your assessment on the evolution of the lubricant industry specifically for the construction equipment sector? What are the trends?
The construction equipment sector needs engine oil, hydraulic oil, transmission oil and grease. These are the four categories of lubricants that are used in construction equipment. Traditionally people have been using products made according to industry standards and specification but may not get be getting the desired performance. At Shell, we are investing heavily in R&D and trying to develop products which can give maximum benefits. We study the requirements of the construction industry. We have around 300 experts in the field globally who are working closely with customer and OEMs to understand their requirements. They bring all information about the requirements back to the technology team. Then we look at what can be done to raise the benchmark. We want to develop a product that does not just meet the standard but also addresses the requirements of the industry.
How has Shell Lubricants responded to the market demands in India? What is the impact of the economic slowdown on the lubricants market?
With regard to the construction industry, we think the situation is much better as there is an increased focus on infrastructure projects. So unlike other industries and consumer markets, this is doing relatively better. The slowdown has not impacted Shell much. Business is growing and doing pretty well. The construction sector is growing and there is a requirement for more infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, ports etc. Looking at the overall requirement, we do not see any challenges in terms of growth.
In the economic slowdown technology plays a role where one becomes more profit conscious and looks for someone like Shell. Our solutions are based on delivering value.
We are working on extending oil life. If we can extend oil life, you can save by doing just two oil changes instead of three in one year. Because of all the properties I mentioned earlier, we extend the life of the components which is a major cost advantage. The increase of life of the bearing or engine leads to cost savings. Efficiency is also important. If the frequency of break downs lessens, you have more time to make more trips and carry more loads in a day. So you make more money for your organisation. We are also working in the area of saving energy or energy efficiency. Shell is the first company in the world to launch energy efficient hydraulic oil. In fact, we have been working in this area of energy efficiency for many years.
How do your products meet emission norms?
One of the external causes for technological changes and new emerging technology coming in from the OEM side is emission norms. As emission norms are becoming tighter and India catches up with global emission norms in line with Euro norms, there is a need to make a lubricant which is able to cope with stringent emission norms. To give an example, in future you will have diesel particulate filters fitted on the exhaust side of the engine to reduce the level of particulate matter in the air to meet emission norms. Therefore, you have to design the lubricant in such a way that it minimises the amount of particles going into the exhaust. Otherwise, the diesel particulate filter will get choked quickly and that will be an added cost. So, there is a need for a lubricant to cope with the increase in stress.
When you talk about emission, it is basically about CO, CO2, NOx, SOx and particulate matter. SOx has been controlled and it is no longer a major issue because the refineries have reduced the level of sulphur and diesel. The OEMs are designing engines which are making compression more efficient reducing CO. The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system helps to reduce NOx. But when the exhaust gas re-enters the engine, it cools down the compression chamber. So, NOx formation is higher at a high compression temperature. Therefore, NOx generation comes down. If the exhaust gas re-enters the engine all the suit particles which were going away comes back loading the oil lubricant. We call it suit loading. The challenge is for the engine oil to perform in same way or better in presence of the additional extra suit. The Putzmeister Premium HO 68 is designed to stay at high temperatures and will not degrade in terms of thermal degradation and oxidation. It will increase the pump life. It will keep deposits at a lower level because of excellent filterability and very good thermal stability. So, filter and valves will open and function very efficiently.
How do you ensure that OEMs and users are using the right lubricants at the right intervals and at the right quantity?
In addition to the technology that I talked about and the technology that goes into making lubricants, we also have a number of services. We have a web-based service called LubeMatch which is a 24/7 online self help service. One can go to the website and mention the equipment make and model and it will give information on the suitable lubricants, parts, change frequency and everything. It has a database of more than 70,000 models. Secondly, there is LubeAdvisor, a service where our engineers go to customers and do a survey on site and based on that recommend the most efficient lubrication practices right from storage, handling, dispensation and disposal and how to make the lubricant use more efficient. Third service is the LubeAnalyst which helps in oil and equipment condition monitoring. It is based on a test oil sample and we have a 200 to 80,000 sample database globally. There are many diagnostic labs around the world under LubeAnalyst. A customer with a user name and password can log in and access reports online. It comes under amber, green and red zones. Green means fine, amber means some action needed and red means urgent action needed with appropriate diagnostic comments. We also have LubeCoach which is the training service in Shell. We train customers, operators, mechanics and engineers and we also certify making them more trained in handling equipment. Using all these services will really help customers choose the right lubricant and get the maximum benefit out of that lubricant.
What is your take on issues like the devaluation of the rupee? To what extent has it impacted the import front specifically for additives?
There are ups and downs but we are here for the long term. Long term prospects are looking good and we are conscious of the volatility of the cost side of the supply side of base oil etc. This is a concern for everybody and at Shell, we are not here for the short term.
How did Shell Lubricants perform last year and what are your expectations in future?
We are on the growth path and our business is solid. We are working closely with the OEMs and helping them realise where we can add value to their business. So, I think we are in very good shape.
Could you elaborate on your manufacturing and R&D facilities in India?
We have a manufacturing facility in Taloja near Mumbai and this is a robotised plant which is spill proof and it is one of finest plants in Asia. It is certified with the highest level of quality and environment management systems. We will be further expanding the facility in terms of bringing in more automation. This plant will cater to mainly the Indian market. In addition to this, we are also exporting and have some third-party arrangements. So we believe in bringing more synergy and optimising various options.
Our R&D centre in Bengaluru is working in the field of upstream and downstream sectors. Recently, we have inaugurated the expanded technology campus, Shell Technology India Bangalore, which is going to be one of the top three technology campuses in the world. Therefore, we are making a very strong statement in terms of what we intend for India in the sphere of technology.