Interview with KL Managers Ludovic Perrot and Markus Hermann in French Business TV

Energy saving and sustainability are getting more and more relevant for many industries. Lubricants can play an important role in reaching these objectives. This has also been recognized by French Business TV show “BFM Business #JMLECO”. They invited Ludovic Perrot (Managing Director of Klüber Lubrication France) and Markus Hermann (Sustainability Manager Klüber Lubrication Group) to speak about lubricants and sustainability.

                                                             See here the original video in French

Lubricants, a real asset for reducing energy consumption

The energy crisis is upon us. Against all odds, and if used properly, a lubricant can reduce the consumption of an industrial machine and thus reduce its energy costs. This is a significant benefit for the economy and the environment, as Klüber Lubrication has been advocating for many years. The international group manufactures high-performance lubricants that are recognised throughout the world and are used in many applications and industries. Ludovic Perrot (Managing Director of the Klüber Lubrication France subsidiary) and Markus Hermann (Sustainability Manager Klüber Lubrication Group) talk to us about the challenges of lubrication.

Can you introduce Klüber Lubrication?

Ludovic Perrot: Klüber Lubrication was founded in 1929. The company develops and manufactures high-performance lubricants, greases, varnishes and pastes for industry. Since 1966, it has been part of the Freudenberg Group. The French subsidiary, founded in 1962, is the third largest in the group, with headquarters in Munich. Klüber Lubrication France provides French manufacturers with Klüber Lubrication's tribological expertise, as well as marketing, training and support for products and services.

Our highly customer-oriented team has a wealth of expertise thanks to regular training and the sharing of innovations at group level. Our products and services are highly technical, innovative and make use of the possibilities offered by digitalization. For several years now, we have been focusing on the environmental aspects of our business, through the energy savings made by our lubricants at our customers' sites, and the reduction of the consumption of these lubricants.

This year, our French subsidiary is celebrating its 60th anniversary. This year is very important for us, because a year ago, a survey conducted among our customers revealed their satisfaction with our expertise and the quality of our service. We are now able to go further together, with a common focus on sustainable development. This anniversary is also an opportunity for us to thank our employees and customers for their trust.

What is the Cyclevia eco-organisation, of which you are a member?

L.P.: Until 2020, French companies in the lubricants sector paid the General Tax on Polluting Activities. When it was abolished, the lubricant industry created the Cyclevia eco-organisation. It improves the collection of used lubricants, promotes their regeneration and contributes to the financing of the sector in order to generate as little waste as possible and reuse them.

How does the lubricant help reduce energy consumption?

L.P.: When you want to generate a movement of two parts in contact, you have to make an effort to move one part relative to the other. The use of a lubricant creates a film between these two parts to reduce this effort. In a very simplified way, this is what happens in a gear, a bearing, a transmission chain, etc. Our vocation is to reduce this generation of effort, and therefore this energy consumption. This is possible thanks to the technical characteristics of our lubricants. They are not petrochemical mineral oils, but highly refined base oils to which we add additives. We speak of synthetic lubricants.

This mixture provides our lubricants with resistance to difficult environments such as low or high temperatures, or salty air environments. It therefore guarantees durability over time. Since lubricant consumption is reduced, we generate less waste. In addition, each lubricant is adapted to each application. This means that the machine requires less effort, reduces energy consumption and can therefore be used for longer.

Markus Hermann: Many people underestimate the positive contribution of lubricants to meeting the challenges of sustainable development. They are content to use basic lubricants. However, specialty lubricants, chosen with a specialist, would enable them to achieve economic, technical and sustainable development objectives. For example, on average, our customers reduce the energy consumption of their machines by 4%. This is how we were able to save 52,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2021. Even though this type of lubricant is more expensive to buy, you should not let it stop you. It saves more money after only a few months.

What does the EcoVadis gold medal rating mean?

M. H.: EcoVadis assesses companies in terms of sustainability. It looks at the environmental aspect, the respect for human rights, whether the management of the company is ethical, and finally whether the purchases made are sustainable. Companies have to fill in a questionnaire and provide documents before being assessed by EcoVadis. This French platform also searches for information about the company on the internet. The result is then expressed in points.

Last year, 90,000 companies were assessed by EcoVadis. Among them, Klüber Lubrication was awarded the EcoVadis Gold rating. This gold medal places us in the top 6% of companies. This external recognition is a concrete sign of our efforts in the field of sustainability. It also proves to our employees that our commitment is the right one, and it sends an important signal to our customers. Indeed, many of our customers ask for this type of rating when they audit their supply chain.

How do you offer the most sustainable products possible?

M.H.: A specialist always makes an inventory of the lubricants used at the customer's site. Our KlüberEnergy programme is based on a certified method, with which we demonstrate the positive effects of our lubricants. It allows us to dispel any doubts or misgivings our customers may have with simple measures. First, we carry out measurements with the lubricant used, then we carry out measurements under the same conditions with our lubricant.

After these two tests, the customer can only see the result: a reduction in energy consumption (and therefore CO2), with a reduction in lubricant consumption. For example, instead of using 5,000 litres of mineral oil per year, we suggest that our customers switch to synthetic lubricants and use only 1,000 litres per year. In this way, they not only take care of the environment by reducing their waste, but they also take care of their employees. Handling 5,000 litres of lubricant can be a strain on a factory. Reducing this volume therefore also has a beneficial effect on the staff.

How are you setting an example in terms of sustainable development?

M.H.: Klüber Lubrication was already the first site in Munich with a certified environmental management system 26 years ago. As our annual Corporate Social Responsibility report shows, we have maintained this commitment, and in 2011 we developed new products taking into account sustainability aspects throughout the product life cycle. This methodology is now applied to all products in our portfolio and is constantly being improved. Like us, our customers want to use products that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

L.P.: This is why we are vigilant about our own choice of raw material suppliers. They must be in line with this approach, by using as few solvents as possible, for example. In addition, we have also developed a range of hydro lubricants, for which water is used as the base product instead of refined mineral oil. With a well-chosen lubricant, the effects are positive for the company, but also for the environment.

In addition to our product work, sustainability and nature are always at the heart of our concerns. This is demonstrated by our team building action in 2019. We chose to replant trees in the unused land behind the company in Valence. This operation has been multiplied in other countries throughout the group. In addition, we are making our teams aware of their transport-related consumption, and we avoid printing documents as much as possible. Our work in favour of sustainable development is therefore part of a global approach, and our meetings always start with this theme.

M.H.: Moreover, 2022 is also the first year in which Klüber Lubrication achieves carbon neutrality for its production and sales sites. In 2019, we set a target of reducing our CO2 emissions by up to 75% by 2025. In three years, we have already managed to reduce them by 49%. In order to reach our final target, we are preparing to finance sustainable development projects so that our business activity is climate neutral.

Do you have any final words?

L.P.: Today, companies are focusing on their core business. They need suppliers to bring them a broader expertise. Beyond the development, manufacture and delivery of the lubricant, our role is to train our customers' teams in the right uses. They need to understand which lubricant to use for which application. They also need to know when to apply it, or when to relubricate.

Our TPM (Total Productive Management) programme can then help them. It allows them to analyse oils, greases, etc. on their own. Sensors can also be used to retrieve data on the condition of the oil and determine when an analysis or oil change is required. Our customers appreciate this support, in terms of knowledge, skills, training and related activities. For example, they avoid producing additional waste while the oil is still usable.

In conclusion, the choice of a high performance lubricant, with the right advice and service from the supplier, is a source of energy savings, which contributes to achieving sustainability and profitability objectives.

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