For speciality lubrication producer, Klüber Lubrication India Pvt Ltd, electromobility offers some unique challenges. The company is not proactively involved with electric vehicles or hybrids yet, but the one challenge it intends taking head-on in the years to come, is in the lubrication of electric motors.
Electric motors have bearings and produce a lot of heat that needs to be lubricated appropriately, and that is where the challenge lies, said Hermann Siebert, Head, Marketing and Application Engineering, Klüber Asia Pacific (R), and Dinkar Pande, Head, Automotive and Bearing BU, Klüber India (L) during a recent interaction. “This is a typical application, where Klüber can provide solutions,” said Pande.
Interestingly, Klüber is involved with BMW’s electric vehicle programme, lubricating the bearings that have gone into the i3 and i8 models. The Munich-headquartered company also offers lubrication solutions for sockets, which owing to their very nature, is liable to fail without appropriate lubrication.
On the domestic front, Pande said the company would continue to provide tribological solutions for all automotive segments. While production and sales of automobiles in India has witnessed a slide in the past few months, Klüber has continued to post growth. Pande is counting on the immense scope the passenger car segment offers in India.
The automotive industry contributes 20-22 % of the company’s total revenues in India, with only a tenth of that coming from OEMs, while suppliers contribute the remaining 90 %. Of the products manufactured in India, 30 % is exported to other South-East Asian countries. Pande said maintaining a balance between all the market segments helps the company cope with lower revenues from a certain segment, by making up through better business from another one.
FOCUS ON R&D
The R&D centre at Mysore, near Bangalore, carries out R&D activities for all of Klüber products in India and South-East Asia. To maintain strict global standards, and to meet specific customer requirements, the company regularly invests in its facility and production machinery, said Siebert. It is always been Klüber’s strategy to have a development facility closer to the customer, so that new solutions that are required can be understood, and delivered easily and quickly.
For Klüber, India is an important market that is in need of speciality lubricants. Major investments are being made on equipment used for testing newly developed products. This is very crucial for the company, said Siebert and Pande unanimously, adding, “We need advanced equipment to test parameters like low friction, behaviour at low and high temperatures, compatibility, NLGI consistency, and others.”
Decisions with regards to R&D are taken on two bases – know-how and availability of raw materials. The company believes that knowledge and resources found locally will make it easier to judge a problem at that location, and find suitable solutions faster. These solutions can then be passed on to the headquarters in Munich, and can be deployed in other locations as well. The raw materials needed in providing solutions for certain issues can also drive the R&D process, either by driving it ahead or restricting it due to shortage.
Besides the manufacturing plant and R&D facility in Mysore, Klüber India has one office in Bangalore. The plant produces about 200 products, many of which also meet the lubrication needs for various industrial equipment applications.
Some of the interesting new products developed for the automotive industry by Klüber in recent times, include wheel hub bearing grease for three-wheelers, steering stem grease for two-wheelers, and CV slack-adjuster grease for trucks. Another newly developed application is for the lubrication of air conditioning knobs in passenger cars, so that the adjustments made to the air conditioner are easy and noise-free.
Klüber does business with most Indian OEMs and parts suppliers, including Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai Motor India, Ford India, General Motors India, Volkswagen India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, Tata Motors, and Mahindra & Mahindra. Bosch, Johnson Controls, Delphi, Denso, Brembo, Suprajit Engineering, Aditya Industries, ZF and Inteva count among Klüber’s clients in the automotive components industry.
“Klüber is in the business of providing specialised lubrication products and treatments to components within a vehicle, which result in low friction, low NVH levels and longevity of the components themselves,” said Pande. The products offered by Klüber help OEMs and part suppliers adhere to the NVH standards set by the industry.
The lubrication provided by Klüber for various components lasts for the complete lifetime of the product, said Siebert. “Our products need to be capable of working at extreme temperatures, and in dusty conditions, since these components may be put to use in various regions. Our products need to be neutral towards plastics so that the materials do not react in any unwanted way,” he explained. Noise and vibration damping, good surface adhesion, and possessing a neutral smell are some of the other critical requirements.
Text: Naveen Arul