ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - 31
willing to go the extra mile. PolySi,
for instance, trims down or enhances
packaging to accommodate customer
needs instead of forcing clients to
buy in quantities that don't suit their
"We'll turn around a sample in a
couple of days," Leuth said. "We're a
small, nimble company. That's the kind
of stuff we kind of hang our hat on."
Leuth believes that old-fashioned
word-of-mouth still remains the best
marketing strategy. Professionals
who leave the automotive industry
for other sectors are taking their
knowledge with them, applying
synthetics-based solutions to age-old
problems in manufacturing.
Manufacturers of synthetic lubricants are change agents, and change
agents encounter resistance until
potential clients can experience the
benefits, Cummins said. Lingering unfamiliarity with synthetics
prompted Hydrotex to launch
Lubrication Science and Management
University, a three-day course at its
Dallas headquarters, teaching basic
synthetic lubrication principles to
customers and suppliers.
"People get a real awakening,"
Cummins said. "It's all physics and
chemistry and mechanics."
Synthetic lubricants are shedding their
old-school reputation for leaks and drips
in older equipment, noted Garguiolo.
On the wholesale manufacturing side,
synthetics have become a "big player,"
in demand by purchasers seeking longtime value.
However, the retail side remains
hampered by confusion and misperceptions over pricing, Garguiolo said.
Buyers recoil from the highest-priced
synthetics on the shelf but don't
believe that any lower-priced versions
could offer the same quality, even
if they're produced under the same
formulations and stringent standards.
The price gap must narrow, and
sellers must educate customers on
the advantages before the consuming
public is ready to pay more upfront
"Until you get that price point closer,
you'll still see people wanting to get the
cheaper oil change," Garguiolo said.
THE FUTURE OF SYNTHETICS
Anything new coming up in synthetic
lubricants? "Hard to say, other than that
it will continue to grow," Leuth said.
More mergers and acquisitions are
on the horizon. Leuth's PolySi recently
acquired SSP's silicone grease product
line to open new channels on the West
Coast. As larger players plan growth,
they will seek niche players to expand
their rosters of services and products,
such as FUCHS Group's acquisition of
Cummins sees opportunities for
growth in industry, food-grade lubricants
and, especially, in synthetic greases, where
faster bearing speeds are demanding
higher performance. In Japan, about
28% of greases are synthetic, compared
to 13% in North America.
"We're playing catch-up with these
guys," Cummins said. "Just look at the
reliability of Japanese and Korean cars.
They pay greater attention to lubrication technology. Their machines
that make the parts don't wear out as
quickly, so their tolerances are tighter."
Garguiolo predicted big leaps in base
oils, particularly as the chain of used
oils elevates itself by starting with better
base oils and ending with sophisticated
hydrotreating processes that return
them, good as new, to market. The
cycle promotes growth possibilities for
synthetics, especially as OEMs press for
better lubricants and IMO 2020 caps
sulfur content in marine fuels.
Constantly, machinery is asked to
do more in less time. Designers are
pushing gearboxes to produce increasing power. Canning machines that
once produced 1,000 units a minute
now churn out 3,000.
It's all part of the atmosphere
empowering synthetic lubricants
and greases, with their customizable
nature, to continue driving innovation. Researchers with grease and
lubricant manufacturers are widening
the scope of characteristics and, in
an "If you build it, they will come"
scenario, presenting their findings to
"You can always offer the suggestion
to the customer and say, 'Look what
this applies to,'" Kurosky said. "Sometimes they're asking for something,
and the usual isn't what they need."
As Cummins put it, "The neat thing
about America is that we're a nation of
tinkerers. We still have more patents
than everybody. We're always trying
to tweak it. It's never good enough. If
people want bigger and faster, they're
going to want synthetics."
McCormick is a Pennsylvania-based
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