John Cummins is the vice-president of product technology for Hydrotex®, a manufacturer and distributor of high performance lubricant and fuel improver solutions. Over the past two decades, Hydrotex has evolved from its “cowboy” roots in the Texas oil culture to a company centered on scientific and engineering solutions. John Cummins spoke with Modern Pumping Today about maintaining that position in the new century.
Modern Pumping Today: How would you explain the benefits of Hydrotex products to managers or operators who have not yet used them for themselves?
John Cummins: The most cost effective method to reduce maintenance costs is to use better lubricants and establish a Lubrication Management Program. Hydrotex specializes in synthetic lubricants and greases with over 300 products. There is a big difference in the performance between conventional mineral oil lubricants and synthetic lubricants. The low bid price lubricant will cost more on an annual basis in overall maintenance expenditures.
You will not get the full benefit of any lubricant, especially a synthetic lubricant, unless you know how to use it correctly. This type of knowledge is sorely lacking today. Formal education and training are needed to implement a successful Lubrication Management Program which is a critical part of a complete Reliability Program. The first tenet of a Lubrication Management Program is to understand that lubricants are application specific. Knowing how to properly use the lubricant is just as valuable as the lubricant itself.
MPT: Hydrotex established its “Lubrication University” program to address the need for better understanding in lubrication’s important role in industrial machine operation. What were some of the biggest concerns Hydrotex has addressed and what issues have you discovered?
John Cummins: We established Lubrication University to educate our consultive sales force in the proper application of lubricants and keep them up to date with industry and lubrication trends. Realizing very quickly, that if we wanted our customers to become Lubrication Solution Partners they also needed education to understand friction and wear, which is called tribology, as well as the fundamentals of lubrication. This type of training is not widely available, in fact in the USA, only Auburn University offers a minor in tribology in their college of engineering.
Every quarter, we offer a three-day school at our headquarters in Dallas for our new people, customers and suppliers. Our customers send engineers, maintenance supervisors, shop foremen, and mechanics to attend and participate in an intense learning process. We also conduct regional training and customer specific training at their sites.
My biggest concern is that most people still believe that machine failure is an event. Failure is a process. Our training focuses on the “what,” “why,” and “how” friction and wear can be minimized so the people “who” are responsible for maintenance can take timely action during the process to extend the life and precision of equipment.
MPT: Hydrotex currently serves many markets, from agriculture to oil exploration. What are the benefits of servicing such a broad array of clients?
John Cummins: We have a $17 trillion economy in the United States of America. Roughly 10 percent of our GNP or $1.7 trillion is for replacement for things that wear out. About 10 percent of that wear, or $170 billion could be prevented with proper lubrication to reduce friction and wear.
Every market segment needs proper lubrication and lubrication management; therefore, we have customers across many different market segments that need our synthetic lubricants and training to solve their lubrication problems.
The worldwide demand for conventional lubricants is expected to grow about 2.3 percent per year for the foreseeable future. The demand for synthetic lubricants is expected to grow 15 to 20 percent per year, that’s why Hydrotex has chosen to specialize and stay focused on synthetic lubricants.
MPT: How does being an employee-owned company separate Hydrotex from other companies in the lubricants field? How has that influenced the direction the company has taken to date?
John Cummins: We all act like owners because we are owners. With individual accountability, we are able to push the decision level down to reduce response time and have an immediate impact at the customer level. We have a very lean high tech / high touch organization. If you want to directly call our CEO or me, we answer the phone.
Our sales force also participates in the ESOP. Not only are you dealing with an ESOP owner, you are dealing with an entrepreneur who is usually available 24/7. We have made deliveries in the middle of the night to assist our customers. This is how we can be ”Your Lubrication Solutions Partners®” at all levels of our organization. In many cases we are active reliability partners with our customers. ■
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