Fuchs investing in the future

FUCHS’ $1.5 million regional lubricant laboratory and technical centre which opened in May is designed to advance research and development of the company’s lubricants, while enabling Fuchs more access to local equipment and expertise to service its mining industry customers.
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Managing director Wayne Hoiles and Dr Georg Lingg at the opening of the laboratory and technical centre.

Staff Reporter

The opening of the centre, which is located in Sunshine, Victoria, was a culmination of a two-year approval stage, four-month planning stage and a nine-month building stage.

This new centre complements the Technical Centre in Newcastle, which has expertise for research and development of longwall fluids.

According to Fuchs managing director Wayne Hoiles, the company has already spent about $500,000 on plant and equipment and is predicting it will spend the same amount in the future.

The centre will enable Fuchs to ramp up its research and development of lubricants and will strengthen its ability to take a leading role in the formulation and application of lubrication technology.

Australian Longwall Magazine spoke with Hoiles about forthcoming developments at the centre, which he believes will cement the group’s commitment to the Australian mining industry.

Hoiles described Fuchs’ R&D ability at its previous facility in Melbourne as “limited” because it was carried out in a small facility before the new centre was opened.

“There was no real room for growth,” Hoiles said.

“Now this centre allows room for growth, it allows us to put in more specialised equipment and to develop the new products in the future.”

Fuchs’ Lubricant Laboratory and Technical centre has been equipped with some groundbreaking equipment to ensure it is able to undertake top quality R&D.

Hoiles revealed that the latest technology will give an edge to Fuchs’ technical expertise and will also enable Fuchs to keep up with the greater demands put on modern lubricants.

“The demands on lubricants are increasing at a rapid rate, especially with increasing environmental emission restrictions and performance requirements of modern equipment,” Hoiles said.

“So we needed a lot more equipment just to be able to have the controls to make sure all the products meet the correct specification.”

Having more advanced equipment will also allow for quicker turnaround times in R&D because Fuchs will no longer have to send samples over to Europe or the US.

With the mining industry continuing to expand, a key issue in the lubricant industry is cleaning standards.

Hoiles said the expectations of lubricants to be extra clean is increasing, and is something that Fuchs will continue to fulfill.

“As far as the production process is concerned, having better filtration systems and lab equipment that ensures all products meet the cleaning standards that the mining industry requires is essential,” he said.

While cleaning standards are rising to the top of the importance list for the mining industry, the high consumption of grease is also something which Fuchs is discovering.

The boost for potential R&D provided by the new centre will therefore focus on the advancement in grease products.

Fuchs has been a long-term lubricant supplier to the mining industry, especially with longwall fluids, with a large market in Australia.

Hoiles said to progress further in the mining industry, Fuchs identified grease as a critical area that required additional focus.

Over the past three years Fuchs has invested about $3 million on a grease plant in Melbourne to manufacture grease.

The new laboratory will allow the next stage of grease development to occur.

“In our grease area we’re doing a lot of research and development activities for the mines at the moment, and we got a few large projects which will launch new products shortly,” Hoiles said.

The centre gives Fuchs the opportunity to create and develop new and innovative technologies that cater for the future.

“It’s part of our global process and we expect over the next couple of years there will be some exciting new [grease] products coming in the mining industry from Fuchs,” Hoiles said.

“We’ve got plans over the next two to three years to develop even more new grease products for the mining sector.”

Stage one of this process should be finished, with all Fuchs’ products in the field, in the next couple of months.

Hoiles said Fuchs aimed to meet the “continual challenge” to keep up with the demands of the mining industry.

“We’re developing the best products we can to meet the needs of the mining equipment that’s being produced. With their specialised longwall products being produced at their Newcastle location, new developments for the industry are not far off,” he said.

“We’re working on trying to improve the current formulations of longwall products, but we can’t go into too much detail, it’s confidential.”

Although remaining tight-lipped on longwall developments, Hoiles revealed there would be some new products for the industry launched in the near future.

Developments are on the horizon for Fuchs and with a new world class research and development centre behind it, Hoiles said the company is in a strong position.

“We’re here to look after our customer requirements and continually look at how we can improve our products and our services to the industry,” he said.

“We are the team of lubricant specialists and we’re here to stay.”

Published in the September 2011 Australian Longwall Magazine