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AUTOMOTIVE Innovation is one of the main parts in our strategy

Jan 31, 2020

Stefan Joksch, Member of the Board & Director Technical and Ulf Meyen, Head of Subsidiary Operations, Oemeta Chemische Werke GmbH in this tête-à-tête with Juili Eklahare, talk about managing business challenges concerning chemical legislations, the international market business becoming pivotal for the company and the role the Indian market plays for them. Excerpts…

Oemeta was recently awarded as one of the most innovative German SMEs by the Top 100 contest. Tell us more about that and how Oemeta built this culture of innovation.

Joksch: The innovative award is not just about proving products to be innovative but also proving company structures and processes to foster innovative ideas & technology. That was the main reason why we decided to be a part of this award, because we wanted to test ourselves. To generate innovation, we have several ways and sources. Of course, the most important way is to have this innovative mood in the employees and the staff. So, you have to be kind of ‘error tolerant’ for this to workout. We also have a new system where everybody can supply new ideas to do something better in a certain way and the idea is evaluated and then the person will be awarded accordingly. This is something we already have in a written form in a process, and now we will also put it on a software tool, so that we can use this system worldwide, and collect all the good ideas. Also, we have a close cooperation with our customers, because mostly the best ideas about something which optimises the production processes come from the customers. We also believe in open innovation, in terms of cooperation with universities and institutes.

Sustainability has become an important topic of discussion in the manufacturing sector globally. What are the initiatives from Oemeta in this area? How do you educate the customer about sustainability?

Joksch: We have developed a product portfolio, which uses a lot of renewable ester oil. Compared to mineral oil, ester oil helps us deliver superior performance. Also, we develop products that are internally recyclable, which means it can be reused and recycled within the factory. Pertaining to customer education, there are two main areas for us – firstly, we have bilateral cooperation, which means, we have a lot of skilled engineers who are skilled in process optimisation and they talk directly to our customers. Secondly, we conduct seminars in our core markets to bring customers together and to transfer knowledge from us and other stakeholders in the metalworking market.

Legislations around chemicals (metalworking fluids) are becoming stringent; however, there is not the kind of harmonisation in the legislation as the industry expects. How has Oemeta been able to manage business challenges concerning chemical legislations so well?

Joksch: We are lucky that we are from Germany, because Germany is known for the most stringent chemical regulations. It has changed a bit since the European Union has had its own laws, but before that, we had high standards. And it was helpful, because we could transfer all these standards to the other countries. But this will not work anymore as all regions have their own legislation. To cover that, we ramped up our workforce. We have hired chemists, who are focused only on this topic of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS). Plus, we have a very powerful software tool, which helps us with the classification and labelling of products for all the regions where we are active. This is backed-up by a big database, where all this worldwide regulations have been introduced. Also, there is an expert group behind that which is ready to consult us concerning classification. Besides, we want to use certain raw materials which are possible to use worldwide. So, they have to comply with stringent regulations. This is possible for production in Europe, the US and Asia.

Oemeta was amongst the first companies to launch Gas to Liquid (GTL) based neat metalworking fluids. Tell us more about this technology and how the OEMETOL GT range brings benefits to its customers.

Joksch: The GTL based oil is synthetic-based oil, which is generated out of natural gas. So, the gas coming from the ground is chemically transferred in a base oil with unique properties. The main advantage against mineral oil is that we have lower evaporation rate, lower foam production and a higher flash point. Because of this, we have health, safety and economic advantages. Also, the density of GTL is lower than that of the mineral oil. This means for every litre of fluid in the machine, the pump has to move less weight, and this saves energy. So, the power consumed by the pumps is lower, compared to mineral oil.

Meyen: Highlights like high flash point bring an increased safety for customers. So, when with standard mineral oil, the machine starts to burn; in this case with the oils, the risk is very much limited. The misting/evaporation rate is far less than the standard oil. The workers do not breathe so much of the oil but more of the air, and for the operations, we have properties with high lubrication so that tool life of the customers’ tools increase.

What are Oemeta’s initiatives concerning Industry 4.0?

Joksch: Industry 4.0 is a focus point for us. We have a lot of data that we have to handle everyday and transfer to our subsidiaries. While we are on the way to install a new computer-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, we have all the customer reports and data from our customers all over the world. We are also just on the way to program a new Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that will enable us to see any data developed. Plus, we are working on an online monitoring and controlling system for our customers.

Meyen: On the customer side, data management becomes more important for them. What we are about to provide them will give them a complete transparency of their own data. Besides, it won’t just be storage and management system but also a system that can measure the condition of the coolants online and see to it that the customer always has the latest information about the stages of the coolants.

What are your products and market expansion plans, in India and globally?

Joksch: We want to have a pertinent market share in all relevant metalworking markets, which also include China, India, Brazil in South America, the US and the whole of Europe. So, we want to be on the top supplier of metalworking fluid in all of these markets.

Meyen: When it comes to India, we find highly developed industries here already, like aerospace, automotive, oil & gas. These kinds of industries are our target industries, where we, with our premium coolants, can contribute to their success.

What are some of the key initiatives by Oemeta that will drive the future of cooling lubricants? How do you see the demand for it evolving, globally and in India?

Meyen: Innovation is one of the main parts in our strategy. That’s why we invest a lot in our research and development in order to really strive for the target and to maintain technology leadership. We are making our contribution in helping the focus industries to step into the next level of the future. With this, we are supplying them service, software and measuring devices and more, which are supposed to help the customers to modernise their production process to strive for zero CO2 footprint.

Environment-friendly and green production is becoming more and more important everywhere. Plus, legal requirements are forcing coolant manufacturers more to go for ingredients that do not cause people and the environment any harm. Additionally, with new industries and materials coming up, we have to deliver our best performance to our customers and follow the environmental, human health and safety demands.

Could you tell us about your export operations and global distributions? Is Oemeta looking at any collaborations & partnerships in India and globally?

Meyen: For over two decades, we have had subsidiaries in North America, China and Great Britain. The international market business is becoming even more pivotal for us. So, following the trend of globalisation has been a focus for us, which our customer base, like multinational companies such as BMW and Volkswagen, expect us to follow.

On a global scale, we are looking for promising partners. In India, we are still at the beginning stage; it’s a huge country and market, and it’s not easy to cover the entire country just from the start. That’s why we already have distributors in India and are open to finding new ones. Plus, we are also looking for technology partners that can help us produce our products locally.

Can you tell us about the company’s operations in India? How important is the Indian market in Oemeta’s global operations?

Meyen: Many of our key customers are located in India as well. Being able to supply to them in India is important to us and there is enough potential around this. The Indian market is one of the biggest single markets we find on a global scale. And, as it is one of the key markets in the world, there’s great opportunity to grow.

Joksch: What’s more, our multinational customers expect more presence in India. There are a lot of OEMs and big automobile suppliers like Schaeffler Group that have plants in India. They tell their suppliers that if they want to be a preferred supplier to the group, then they have to be able to supply products and services in India, as well.

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  • Stefan Joksch holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Applied Science, Hamburg. He is the member of the executive board at Oemeta Chemische Werke GmbH. He is also Chairman of Metal Working Fluid Committee of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) & member of the Technical Advisory Board of the Union of German Lubricant Manufacturers (VSI).

  • Ulf Meyen has a degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Applied Science, Berlin and has been with Oemeta Chemische Werke GmbH since 2011, where he was the head of international sales from 2011 to 2018 and has been the head of subsidiaries since 2018.

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