Will you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Oelheld?
I am from Germany, and I’ve been living and working in the U.S. for about 30 years. I have started and built-up two foreign-owned entities. One company formulated and manufactured printing inks, while the other manufactured automotive interior parts. I have been with Oelheld for nearly four years, and my responsibilities include general management, sales, and production.
Please give us a brief history on Oelheld.
It was 1887 when Carl Christian Held founded Oelheld in Stuttgart, Germany. To put this in perspective, Grover Cleveland was president, the Star-Spangled Banner had 38 stars, and the Ford Model T was 21 years away from hitting the road. In these 129 years, Oelheld became one of the most prolific specialists for coolants and lubricants to the metal fabricating industry. Groundbreaking developments in the field of EDM and grinding fluids, as well as forging lubricants, combined with consciousness efforts for the health of its users and the environment, have made Oelheld a worldwide success.
In addition to its headquarters in Stuttgart, Oelheld has subsidiaries and manufacturing sites in France, the U.K., China, and the U.S. Its products are sold in 34 countries. Oelheld’s clientele includes the tool grinding, automotive, gear, aerospace, medical, stamping, mold-making, and forging industries.
Describe the products Oelheld offers that are specific to the gear manufacturing industry.
Gear grinding was and still is an industry that is close to Oelheld’s heart. Millions of cars in Europe and the U.S. cruise the highways with gearboxes containing gears ground with Oelheld products. Not only does the automotive industry benefit from Oelheld’s expertise, but also earthmoving, locomotives, mining, and oil production equipment are dependent on gears made with Oelheld’s grinding oils.
Oelheld’s most popular products that have garnered accolades from our customers include: DiaGrind 535-1, a universal gear grinding oil proven to speed up production by up to 10 percent while achieving unparalleled surface finish to Ra 0.6 µ. SintoGrind 353 is a fully synthetic product that meets the challenge of the hardest Rockwell. And, DiaMill 1100 HEF is a popular product when it comes to grinding alloys while keeping their shine.
What are the biggest challenges you must address in the areas of lubrication?
Formulating lubricants requires a lot of know-how. Oelheld’s chemists understand the chemistry along with the tribology of grinding very well and can, in turn, formulate excellent metal lubricants. The challenge is to strike a balance between performance and economics. There are excellent base oils and additives on the market, but their use might be cost-prohibitive. The otherwise-perfect product may not be affordable to the average user — and that is the challenge.
What is it about Oelheld that sets it apart from others in the same industry?
A pioneering spirit is what sets Oelheld apart from its competitors. Oelheld has spearheaded the use of synthetics in metal lubrications and made headlines with its IonoPlus EDM fluid spiked with satellite electrodes. These are just a couple examples of Oelheld’s innovative thinking on a product level.
Moreover, Oelheld adopted a program called Human Technology, which means to care for man, environment, and machines. It is all geared toward a better future. Oelheld products are all dermatology-tested and certified, are free from heavy metals, and are low misting. Oelheld meets all requirements according to the EU’s chemicals policy (Reach), and Oelheld facilities are certified to DIN EN ISO 14001.
Can you give us an example of how you solved a problem for a customer?
We are solving problems for customers almost on a daily basis. Most are common problems, which are easily solved with the right fluid selection and recommendation or an adjustment to the machine tool. Where it is getting interesting and challenging at the same time is when existing customers stretch the envelope beyond what their product can do. We have an internationally operating gear manufacturer who is constantly pushing production output boundaries beyond what our average clientele does. As a result, we have to reformulate our product to avoid burns and finishing flaws. This requires some serious efforts in terms of time and manpower. The end result, however, is rewarding for both parties. The customer is happy that they can produce faster, and Oelheld ends up with another performance offering that was not necessarily on our development schedule.
What is in the future for Oelheld?
Oelheld will continue to do research that is cutting-edge. Currently, we are testing a new family of base fluids that holds a lot of promise for further enhancing production speed. Oelheld will continue to crusade new ideas, even if it is not the easiest way to get new business fast. Also, we are busy putting up a new lab and technology center at our headquarters in Stuttgart, while here in the U.S., we are building a brand-new manufacturing facility.
What’s your opinion on the health of the lubrication industry related to gear manufacturing?
There is a lot of talk about dry hobbing and grinding, and there is no doubt in our minds that these technologies will gain traction for a number of reasons. Cost, space, and environment are some of the drivers. However, the latest major expansions some of the big players in the gear industry completed in recent years and months all involved the installation of wet machines. Given the amount of money invested, we believe that the gear industry will not turn on a dime and go all dry.
For Oelheld, we will continue our quest for developing performance products to further enhance production speed and output. And our advice to readers is: Don’t bury your head in the sand. Go out and evaluate new products. Increased output may save you thousands if not millions a year.