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There is more to lubrication than meets the eye

Lubricants are true all-rounders. They reduce friction and dampen vibrations, prevent corrosion, have a cooling effect and ensure less wear. In addition to the product itself, however, the corresponding lubrication management is at least as important. Especially when it comes to Production 4.0.


In the well-lit production hall, metal processing machines are lined up next to each other like trucks at a rest area. The production facilities mill, grind and turn with high precision and use extensive automation to manufacture key components for aircraft and automobile production. Everything runs smoothly. Modern lubricants, which ensure that metal filings are safely removed from inside the machines and do not damage the workpiece or the systems, are also to thank for this. “For the most part, lubricants are invisible, yet they play a key role,” says Christian Eckert, International Application Engineer at Castrol and therefore a true expert on the subject. “If contaminants get into the works, the entire production comes to a standstill.” To ensure this doesn't happen, the appropriate monitoring and handling of fluids are an integral part of their efficient use.


Fluid management is increasingly important

The smart factory is characterized by connected sensor and measurement technology. This applies to both the production facilities and the peripheral processes such as fluid management. This allows the condition of the lubricants to be monitored precisely and transparently, the alkalinity to be measured and the blends to be adjusted or exchanged as required. What does “Fluid Management 4.0” actually refer to? Measurement data, analyses and documentation are processed on a digital platform and provide a complete overview of the condition of the fluids; any necessary actions can be managed more precisely and adapted as required. Christian Eckert: “By managing fluids according to their condition – through ferrographic analysis, for example – unscheduled stoppages can be prevented thanks to predictive maintenance.”

“The company’s goal is to produce as little waste as possible and, by doing so, to take a step towards sustainable production.”


Sustainable production

Aside from the productivity of a factory, there is also an ever-greater focus on its sustainability: “The company’s goal is to produce as little waste as possible and, by doing so, to take a step towards sustainable production,” says Christian Eckert, outlining the industry’s expectations. After all, safety, health and environmental protection are an integral part of all processes. The lubricants used should therefore be kept in top condition and ensure process reliability for as long as possible. Engineer Eckert is also aware that “many industrial enterprises have stringent environmental regulations and the sustainable use of resources is at the top of their agenda. At the same time, there is potential for savings, be it through an extended service life of the fluids, which is typically between three and five years, or through fewer machine stoppages and therefore increased productivity.”

The factory as a system

Castrol and Leadec work in close collaboration on a wide range of projects for Fluid Management 4.0. Angelo Urias, Service Line Manager for Production Maintenance Services at Leadec, sees two interlocking fields of expertise: “Our partners from Castrol come with product know-how, while we provide the customized services. As the two companies are strong in the field of digitalization, we even have the option of providing suitable, integrated IoT solutions from a single source.” One example is Castrol’s SmartControl system. The unassuming metal cabinet is packed full of sensitive sensor technology which can test the condition of fluids in real time. The system measures parameters such as pH value, concentration, conductivity and even temperature, and thus provides insights into the condition and performance of the lubricant.


Up into the cloud

The recorded data alone, however, is just a “raw material”: “Together, we are generating real added value via the Leadec IoT-Home-Cloud, which creates an interface between Castrol’s SmartControl system and the individual cloud environment of our industrial customers,” says Dr. Bernd Voelpel, Global Head of the Smart Factory Group at Leadec. To achieve this, SmartControl collects and documents the analysis results and stores them in the Leadec IoT-Home-Cloud, where both these data and data from other production facilities are meaningfully combined, enriched and visualized. This provides a new level of transparency as well as continuous process documentation for the end customer too. According to engineer Voelpel, “further analyses relating to the performance of the facility is possible in terms of machining and also the condition of the tools used.” The Head of the Smart Factory Group goes on to say: “Via the cloud, we also have the technical ability to transfer the information to the system manufacturers themselves, who use it to further develop their systems.”


Close cooperation

Knowledge transfer – in both directions – is an important component of this partnership. The Leadec teams are on site at the customer’s production facilities. They are familiar with the processes and have a deep understanding of the challenges and goals of a modern production facility. The insights gained from the services provided – for example the preventive maintenance of systems – are taken into account in the product development of Castrol’s high-performance fluids, for example. For their part, Castrol trains the Leadec staff to create even more synergies. “We see this as a real win-win situation,” sums up Angelo Urias when he thinks about projects currently underway from the UK to Poland. “We from Leadec have the manpower, while Castrol contributes with its strong market position thanks to excellent products which our joint customers can rely on.” And this should also be the case in future, as topics such as sustainability become even more important.


Christian Eckert has an optimistic view of the development: “We come with an understanding of modern production technologies and component manufacturing. And here, we will – not least through our cooperation with Leadec – actively advance the issues of energy efficiency, the service life of machines, sustainable production through waste prevention and water treatment, and quality inspections and assurance.” Voelpel also sees future potential: “IT connectivity will become even stronger, which requires intelligent sensors at all points in production. We are continuously working on this, creating interfaces between the sensor technology, the manufacturing companies, the system manufacturers and partners such as Castrol via our Leadec.os platform and the IoT-Home-Cloud to generate real added value based on data.”


More about the cooperation between Castrol and Leadec: Press release