Solutions for today and tomorrow

The shortage of wood as a raw material on the one hand, the increasing demand from the furniture industry on the other... Although the outbreak of the corona pandemic briefly put a brake on these developments, the wood-based materials industry is under enormous pressure. All the more reason for it to need reliable partners who stand by its side in the current challenges, ideally offering it future-oriented solutions. Thomas Krammer, Head of Global Business Team Wood, discusses what Klüber Lubrication, as a globally active manufacturer of specialty lubricants, can do here.

What makes Klüber Lubrication so suitable for the role as a partner in all demanding situations of the operators of Conti presses?

Thomas Krammer: Our trump card is our decades of experience with the constantly changing requirements of the industry. As early as at the beginning of the 1980s, we supplied specially developed high-temperature oils for the first Conti presses in Europe. This is where the success story of the production of wood fibre boards on continuous presses began. Short distances between raw material, production and further processing in the furniture industry characterised the business. But for more than two decades now, production has shifted more and more to the East. Raw material procurement and further processing are now globally networked. The market share of Chinese wood panel manufacturers is now a solid 30-plus per cent of the global business. In the past 15 years, the number of presses in China has increased tenfold - to around 300 at present. Numerous new projects are planned there. A local Chinese press supplier has also established itself over the years. For a long time, the goal of the operators and plant manufacturers was to jointly operate plants that run faster, meaning at higher temperatures, and achieve the highest possible capacities. This has changed in the meantime; maximum efficiency is the measure of all things.

Is the ever-increasing throughput of the plants the biggest challenge that specialty lubricants from Klüber Lubrication have to master?

For the plant operators, certainly: Yes! Because the plants have to be working to capacity, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week without interruption, in order to be competitive. Even under these demanding conditions, our high-performance lubricants reliably protect components from friction and wear and thus from premature failure or operational malfunctions.

What other requirements from plant operators and machine manufacturers does Klüber Lubrication have in mind?

Quite a few - short-term ones and others that are meant to make the industry fit for the future. First, a rather topical issue from China: In recent years, many Chinese operators have had to shut down their plants after the authorities detected blue smoke among many other emissions. This phenomenon is well known under the term "blue haze". Klüber Lubrication immediately addressed this urgent local issue with a new development, developing and presenting a new high-temperature oil with the latest innovative raw materials. The results were so convincing that we decided to introduce this oil to the rest of the world. Initial trials in Europe have been running for several months.

The oil is offered under the name Klübersynth CP 2-260.

Do you also have an example of longer-term relevant requirements for the operators of container presses?

In my view, the issue of sustainability is at the forefront. Conserving resources and avoiding emissions is becoming increasingly important for the industry - everywhere in the world. Here I see Klüber Lubrication as an important ally of the woodworking industry - in many respects. The fact that more and more wood substitutes made of straw or rice straw are gaining in importance is already at an advanced stage. We also take this into account in our further developments.

I'll illustrate this with the aspect of high-temperature resistance. If a special lubricant hardly evaporates at a system temperature of well over 200 degrees, this leads to two effects, both of which contribute to sustainability. On the one hand, it remains at the friction point longer, thus reducing oil consumption. Secondly, it protects the friction point better, which leads to lower friction values and lower energy consumption. In addition, there is less waste oil to dispose of. The residues and deposits in cleaning systems are also significantly reduced, which reduces the maintenance effort. As a supplier of specialty lubricants, we also see ourselves as a provider of lubricant-related services. This is accompanied by professional analyses, electronic measurements and modern documentation, increasingly in digital form.

You just gave me an important keyword. Are Industry 4.0 topics such as digitalisation also relevant for wood processors?

This is more a matter for the OEMs, with whom we have been working closely for many years regarding first fill, and who are constantly optimising their systems. For the plant operators, it is more relevant that they do not only receive a precisely fitting lubricant, but package solutions. This means that they increasingly want products for several applications and also appreciate our services more and more. Our team in China has purchased mobile measuring devices for measurements at the plants specifically for the "blue haze" problem described, and has also installed a particle measuring device in our laboratory in Shanghai. In the USA, we are currently gaining experience with modern inspection cameras that can document our maintenance and repair services and transmit them live. This massively increases the efficiency of our operations at the customer's site.

In short: We solve current problems in the industry, but at the same time we always look to the future!

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