Praveen Nagpal

In this exclusive interview with Iron&Steel Review, Praveen Nagpal, Chief Technology Officer of Shell Lubricants India discusses the latest trends and challenges in the metals and mining industry, technological edge provided by lubricants in metal industry, the business cycle of vendor partners and the new-age solutions to reduce the Total cost of Ownership. ‘

Shell Lubricants has its presence in India for quite some time. What do you think are the new trends and the technological edge introduced by lubricants in the metals and mining industry?

Ans: The metals and the mining industry is shaping up in India and the new technologies are bringing more efficiency. In recent years, the efficiency of a machine has been increasing in both metals and mining industry. And when this is increasing, it also increasing the challenges for lubricants.

Lubricants is an integral component of nay moving part within equipment. Efficiency canthus be increased either in hardware changes, or it can be done with a smaller sort of capacity of an oil reservoir and when that happens, it also starts increasing the stress on lubricants. There are two types of stresses, which come on lubricants -Mechanical Stress and Thermal Stress. The Mechanical Stress largely comes due to the heavy loads and Thermal Stress comes because of the temperature.

The metal industry also faces challenges related to water contamination and dirt, etc. So, we see the challenges and accordingly we develop the solution. Whether it is a hydraulic system or the gear system or the circulating oil system or a certain type of grease, we offer the right type of product to the metal sector and we continually see the opportunity to work on. So, if we take an example of circulating oil, the major issue of the metal industry is when the water mixes with that oil, it affects the performance of bearings and rollers. It also reduces the lifetime of lubricants and the component.

We are developing the new generation product, Morlina S2 BA, which has got a high grade super demulsibility. It exceeds what a typical industry requires. Similarly, with the greases, the development of the hydraulic oil and all these products give a very good technology competitive edge in a way that they go beyond the industry’s specification.

When it comes to the maximize usage of oil life and improving reliability, this comes as a technology edge of these products in the metals and mining industry. And we continue to develop this kind of solution for the metals and mining industry. And of course, we are happy to mention that JSW, JSPL, Bhushan Group and Tata Steel are some of our prime customers in the metal industry.

With several modern steel plants rising in the metals industry, what solutions Shell Lubricants can offer to these plants?

Ans: We must look from customers shoes to provide solutions for the metals and mining industry. What kind of solution they require? Is it the product portfolio or is it how we really help to improve their Total Cost of Ownership or is it how do they ensure longer lifetime of a component and meet the efficiency? Efficiency is the continual operation at the optimum usage of energy. Again, if there is any unexpected problem like leakages, which is quite common in the metals industry.

This can significantly increase their cost of operation and maintenance. We here at Shell Lubricants see what kind of solution we can offer through our product, people and services. We also look at the various key challenges of the customers within the metals industry. Hence, we do the survey of the plant, finding out the opportunity to optimize the total consumption by increasing the lifetime of a component. And, this kind of solution helps customers reduce the Total Cost of Ownership. So, Shell works only in that area with its customers.

How do you see the growth of the metal sector in India? How do you position Shell Lubricants within the related sector?

Ans: If you look at the growth of metal sector, India is probably the only country, which has been growing significantly in the metal segment. The reason is the huge investment happening in infrastructure by Government and Private industries. The construction projects in Indian cities are driving demand for steel.

From the industry data, the intent is to increase steel per capita consumption from present 60 kg to 160 kg by 2030 and a target of 300 million tonnes as per government projections. Currently we have ended around close to 100 million tonnes of steel production. So, this will significantly increase. Now, look at the global steel demand, which is typically growing at 1.2-1.5 percent. The biggest market like China is declining, whereas the India sees the typical growth of 7 to 8 percent. So, the demand in the metals and mining industry will continue to increase.

Looking at the future demand growth, Shell needs to be aligned with whatever new solution customers required in terms of product and services. Then, if new technologies are coming for lubricants. Accordingly, we need to collaborate with the end customer and the equipment manufacturer to develop solutions for that.

Thus, we are continuously connecting with our end customer, engaging with the OEMs in the metal sector, understanding what kind of challenges they anticipate with the future technology. Accordingly, we continue to develop solutions with them. This is how we really link our solutions with a typical industry. At present, we have a market share of 5 percent combining the industrial and automotive sectors.

How do you see the business cycle of vendors in partnering the growth of metals and mining industry?

Ans: When we talk about the business cycle of vendors, we continue to connect with all our vendors, understanding how they are going to shape up their new technology as per the current industry demand, what kind of lubricant challenges they anticipate and what kind of solutions we can jointly develop for the metals & mining industry. Yes, we are closing the loop by interacting with our customers and understanding the performance of our products. We also try to understand from them what when they see new technologies, what kind of new challenges they see for the lubricants.

That’s a very critical element in our new product development. We sit with the OEMs, we understand how the OEMs are improving the efficiency of their machines, what kind of hardware they are changing in their machines and how it is driving demand for the new generation lubricants. Then, connecting all the dots together, we start our development process. This development process depends upon a kind of product cycle. It can take one to three years’ time for a product to touch the ground. So. It means that have to realty work in advance before new technologies touch the ground. And that’s how we really work closely with our customers, vendors, OEMs to develop solutions for the metals and mining industry in India.

What are the operations and maintenance issues in the metal sector? How much has Shell Lubricants helped in maintaining the cost of operation in ferrous and non-ferrous metals industry?

Ans: A typical issue in the metal sector is operations and maintenance. From an end-user perspective, the most critical for the end customers that they cannot afford any unplanned stoppage. One breakdown or unscheduled maintenance incident can lead to significant loss of production. So that’s one area where reliability is the main concern. They want to use the products which ensure a reliable operation.

So, there would be no unplanned stoppages and no unscheduled breakdowns in the equipment. The second major issue of metal sector is leakages. The third issue is water contamination since the metal industry goes through several processes where leakages can be observed because of water mixing with lubricants. So, these are the major challenges of metal sector. The industry wants supplies to help them addressing these challenges.

Yes, we also focus on non-ferrous metals industry. We have clients like Hindustan Zinc, Hindalco and others. We continue to connect with them, understanding their needs and challenges in the lubricant sector. But again, I would say our primary focus in on steel.

How does Shell Lubricants integrate an E2E supply chain to develop sustainability in its operations?

Ans: When we talk about End to End supply chain, we see it from the inception. So, we start from digging, producing ore, transmitting ore to plant. In this end to end supply chain, there are several types of equipment’s used. One must really find out what kind of lubricants would be required, what kind of services would be required. I strongly believe the days are gone when people just talked about the product. Now people talk about the operating life cycle cost and that works intend to end cycle.

In the metals industry, starting from mining to end production, we, at Shell, have the right solution, right product offerings and right kind of services, which help customers reduce their total cost of operation. Within the metals industry, there are different types of applications, which need greases, hydraulic oil, circulating oil or gear oil. All these kinds of offerings and the services, which helps in monitoring the performance of products and the additional services, which compliment the performance of products in helping customers reduce their cost of operation is offered by Shell Lubricants.

However, the future is al about the Internet of Things. Today, we talk about the oil condition monitoring by taking a physical sample, but now we are also exploring by putting some census in the oil system, which is continuously monitoring the performance of oil, connected via GPS in our system where we can look 24x7 at the performance of lubricant and it can generate alarms if anything goes wrong with the machine and the lubricant; alarming customers that something wrong is happening and take corrective action before the failure occurs. Considering the long-term partnership with our customer, we improve the overall efficiency of their operation and minimize unplanned stoppages and that’s the area we are continuously working on for future development.

Source: Iron and Steel Review