Success factors of our quality lubricants. Since 1847.: Meguin
Success factors of our quality lubricants. Since 1847.
The human factor
We have the products. We have the technology. We have the capacity. And above all: We have the people. Their ideas, their creative power and their commitment form the basis for our continual growth. In order to safeguard this, we regularly create new jobs and continue to commit ourselves to the location of Germany. Quality lubricants made in Germany. Manufactured in our state-of-the-art production, filling and packaging plants at our Saarlouis location.
The progress factor
Development means teamwork. We involve our customers and work together to advance projects. Our oil specialists are valuable partners in the event of requests for special products. We also maintain close contact with the automotive industry because only those companies that satisfy the specifications of the vehicle manufacturers obtain manufacturer approval for the motor oil. There is a reason that our oils have the most current approvals. Progress also means always looking at least one step ahead. We therefore continue to develop innovations in order to start building tomorrow’s success today. Together with you.
The environment factor
Environmentally sound manufacturing processes and compliance with the strictest environmental specifications are of the utmost importance to us. A striking example here is the complex pigging technology in our central recipe storage tanks with matrix distributor. Here the lines of our eight main production lines are cleaned with the greatest efficiency upon every recipe change before filling the new oil. The result: considerably less flushing oil. An investment that has positive environmental effects. Environmental compatibility is also the highest priority for our products. We maintain close contact to the Federal Environment Office for this reason. Further proof: The Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology has proven the environmentally friendly effects of additives on oils and fuels.
In order to properly describe Meguin’s current power and performance, we must take a closer look at the development over the last 14 years. Meguin Mineral Oil Works, founded in 1847 by Gustav Meguin and taken over by Ernst Prost in 2006, suffered from an investment backlog until the takeover.
Although improvement measures had been implemented in certain areas, these were not sufficient to provide the targeted future growth. This only changed with the new management. Rapid growth ensued from 2006 onwards.
This growth is illustrated by a few figures from a production perspective: The production tonnage in the lubricating oil area was 43,000 t/a in 2006, increasing in the following years to 65,000 t/a by 2010, then to 70,000 t/a in 2015 and to the current production volume of 81,000 t/a. In addition to the increased production volume, the technical requirements of the oil grades have also changed considerably. In 2005, we were still able to cover 80% of our sales volume with about 5 to 6 types of oil, but today we need more than 30 oil grades. In total, we produce 350 different formulations at Meguin. These 350 types of oil are in turn filled, packaged and palletized in 3,500 different packaging formats from 0.5 l to 1,000 l IBCs. In addition to the growth in tonnages and the increasing oil diversity, there was also a large increase in the number of containers.
And so, in the years leading up to 2010, approx. 65% were filled in large containers (20 l to 1,000 l). Since 2010, this ratio has reversed. Today, the proportion of small containers is around 65%. To a large extent, this certainly results from the successful marketing concepts and worldwide advertising. In 2010, we still filled a total of 15 million containers, and this number has now increased to 26 million containers – with a further upward trend. Our plant itself was originally designed for approx. 40,000 t/a. So it was only logical that measures had to be taken in 2010 to achieve the growth planned at that time.
The initial situation
The size of the entire works comprises 27,000 m² in Saarlouis-Fraulautern and 7,000 m² in the industrial port of Saarlouis. Starting in 2011, the works in Saarlouis has been successively and continuously repaired, expanded and modernized in the course of major projects. A total of around 30 million euro has been invested to date. In addition to the expansion of the laboratory and the newly created social areas, investments were mainly made in the production-related area.
A new base oil tank farm is built
The first major project began in 2011 after one year of preliminary planning with the laying of the foundation stone for our new base oil tank farm in the industrial port of Saarlouis.
This tank farm consists of 10 tanks of 18,000 m3 each. Up to that time, the necessary base oils from Mannheim were delivered by tank truck directly to the Meguin plant in Fraulautern and the largest quantities were stored in the eight 100 m3 tanks then located there. This dependence on the forwarders as well as the renting of bulk storage tanks and the associated costs prompted us to build our own large tank farm. After all, with the River Saar as a waterway and an industrial port only five kilometers away, we actually have everything right on our doorstep. In the works itself, the oil blending facility was expanded by a further 20 m3 mixing plant, and the construction of the 10.5 formulation tank farm with six100 m3 tanks initiated. Both projects were successfully completed in 2012.
The central formulation tank farm 10.6/10.5/10.1 is built
Based on the positive experience with the previous project “tank farm 10.5”, the planning began for a further formulation tank farm. The plan was to build a storage facility with 28 tanks of 100 m3 each, with the aim of combining the finished blends, which at that time were stored redundantly, in a central tank farm. In order to make this possible, the existing tank farms 10.1, 10.5 and the new tank farm 10.6 had to be converted by means of a matrix distributor to form a contiguous tank farm.
In total, a tank farm with 34 x 100 m3 tanks and 28 tanks with various capacities between 25 m3 and 50 m3 was then realized. The total capacity today is approx. 4.8 million liters.
As already mentioned, we currently produce 350 different oils. Of these, each of the 34 most common varieties is always stored in a permanently allocated tank. The remaining 316 types of oil are produced as required and temporarily stored in one of the remaining 28 tanks. From there, they are filled into containers after a sufficient cooling period. This centralization enabled us to organize the growing number of formulations well in terms of storage logistics and, at the same time, to bring more raw materials into tank farm 10.2 through the tanks that became free there. Furthermore, this created the required space for one of the follow-up projects “modernization of tank farm 10.2” and the installation of an inline blender.
A particular highlight of this project was that we were able to lay the foundation in modernization using automation as the cornerstone. This automation is intended to support people, not replace them. A modern control system was introduced to regulate this new plant intelligently. This control system communicates with our MES (Manufacturing Execution System) “SamCo”, an in-house development. It serves as a front end for the colleagues and as an interface to the various subsystems. In addition, the stock withdrawals and additions relevant for accounting are automatically transferred just-in time to the ERP system. The employee is guided by intuitive menu navigation and no longer needs to be afraid of complex machinery. Wrong entries are no longer possible. For example, the data of the tanks are compared in advance with the oil of a production order, as stored in the bill of materials, and the correct tank is then opened automatically. Input errors, where an incorrect density is entered in the check weigher, can be excluded. The same applies to the correct printer data for carton labels. This data is sent to the printer by way of an electronic comparison. This makes it impossible to print faulty labels. The age of Industry 4.0 has thus also begun at Meguin.
The new piggable piping systems installed in this project serve to enhance quality assurance. The storage tanks are filled from the mixing units via these lines and the tanks are connected to the filling lines via a matrix distributor. The flushing oil produced during a product change could thus be reduced by approx. 80%. This investment therefore not only improved quality but also reduced the cost of raw materials. By saving flushing oil, fewer raw materials have to be brought in. The proportion of flushing oil in the total production volume used to be approx. 2%, whereas today it is only 0.4% of the filled production volumes. In this way, ecological aspects were taken into account at the same time.
Every liter that does not need to be flushed does not have to be produced beforehand. This project was also successfully completed in 2016.
The filling section is modernized and humanized
After the storage capacities for base stock and finished blends had been expanded, it was time to create a central filling section. Until then, the filling, packaging and loading had been carried out at a wide variety of locations in the plant, which was certainly due to the historical development and the rapid growth of the previous few years.
In 2016, the planning of the central filling section began. It is located in the heart of the plant: in halls 10 and 12. The first thing to be done here was to create a peripheral infrastructure to unite halls 10 and 12 to form one large connected space. This project was divided into two phases. The first phase was named “end-of-line” and had the goal of turning the production flow direction in the plant towards the Shipping department. The aim was to also make it possible to convey the pallets from the filling lines out of the hall to the forklift drivers for removal. In addition, the production processes were also to be humanized. By having the physically heavy operations performed by machines, the work of the colleagues at the machines is made much easier. For example, the packing of containers into carton boxes was replaced by modern case packers. Moreover, the heavy packing of the boxes onto pallets was handled by five robots. This gave the colleagues more time to carry out the necessary quality controls, to adjust the machine performance correctly and to feed the plants with the necessary base stock, auxiliary materials and operating supplies. Camera monitoring and traceability were implemented for additional quality assurance. This traceability is achieved by serializing the individual packs, boxes and pallets. As a result, we are now in a position to check an individual container afterwards, to see when and where it was filled. This sub-project was successfully completed in 2017.
Now it was time for the second project phase. Here, the existing filling lines of 2018 were largely standardized. Two filling lines were installed in hall 12, which are capable of filling containers from 0.5 l to 1 l. Furthermore, two modern drum filling plants were purchased as pallet fillers. The pallet filler has the advantage that drums no longer need be heaved onto the pallets after filling. Instead, the drums are placed empty on the pallets and are then transported to the filler by means of a conveyor system, after which they are then transferred ready-filled to the Shipping department via the “end-of-line” section. Three more filling lines were installed in hall 10; these can fill containers from 0.5 l to 5 l. The installation of an additional fourth line, which can even fill 20-liter containers, was completely new. The ability to fill almost all formats and container sizes on almost all lines offers us maximum flexibility today. We are therefore well prepared for future growth in this area as well.
The raw materials tank farm and oil production facilities are restructured, modernized and automated
As the last major project, the oil blending facility and the tank farms 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4 are currently being restructured, modernized, automated and extended by an in-line blender. Since 2012, we have been able to store large quantities of base oils in our external raw materials tank farm at Saarlouis industrial port. Now we needed a solution that would allow us to stockpile more additives. Additives have to be stored hot, as they are very viscous (> 40,000 mm2/s at 20 °C) and otherwise not pumpable. Up to this point, however, we only had 16 insulated and heated additive tanks with a total capacity of 443,000 l. To make matters worse, 14 of these 16 tanks had a capacity of only 25 m3. The challenge is that the additives, which are delivered in tank trucks, have to arrive just in time. A tank truck load is usually also 25 m3. This means that the tanks must be empty at the time of delivery, which is difficult to plan ahead, because additives usually have to be ordered up to 4 weeks in advance. This makes it difficult to hit the exact spot. There is also the risk that a tank truck is no longer available and the additives cannot be delivered on time. This inevitably leads to delivery bottlenecks or production downtimes as sales increase. So the storage capacity of the additives had to be increased. The 100 m3 tanks in tank farm 10.3 were previously only filled with the base oils. However, this size of the tanks was no longer required, as our large tank farm is located 5 km away. This gave rise to the idea of converting the 100 m3 tanks into additive tanks and to call off the base oils from the large tank farm only “just in time”, so to speak. In addition, another eight tanks in tank farm 10.2 were prefitted as additive tanks in order to be able to store the growing variety of additives. After completion of the project, we will be able to store additives in 31 tanks with a total volume of 1.4 million liters. This means that, assuming a 30% additive content in the lubricant, we can produce approx. 4,130 t of lubricants. With a targeted annual production of 120,000 t, this corresponds to an inventory coverage of almost 8 to 9 working days. By expanding our blending capacities and assembling an in-line blender, we will be able to produce oil batches of unlimited size in future. The restriction imposed by the volume of a mixing unit will no longer apply. This unit will produce batches of up to 100,000 l, which will then be stored directly in our central formulation tank farm 10.6. The proportion of formulations produced by the in-line blender is approx. 50-60% of the total production quantity. The freed-up capacities of the four large blending plants (16,000-20,000 l) and the five small blending plants (3,000-5,000 l) are used to produce the technically more complicated and time-consuming special oils. Here, a highly modern control system is used, as for tank farm 10.6. This system is fed with the blending instructions or formulations required by our Research & Development department and is executed automatically by the control system. All the necessary quality data that are used during the manufacturing process are recorded and documented. For example, it will no longer be possible in future for a colleague to accidentally open the wrong raw material tank. The pig lines used to connect the raw material tanks with the blending tanks prevent any cross-contamination and thus reduce the correction of mixing preparations to a minimum. In total, we can then store 25 different additives and 33 different base oils. Another eight base oil tanks have been set up as additive tanks. The capacity of the in-line blender is 30 m3/h, so we can produce 100,000 l of oil in just over three hours.
This manufacturing approach is thus three times faster than the conventional mixing vessel process.
Botom line: FULL PRODUCTION AHEAD!
Meguin is now able to produce some 480 t of oil per day. Five small mixers, four large mixers and an in-line blender are available for this purpose. The finished blends produced here can be stored temporarily in 62 formulation tanks with a total storage capacity of 4.8 million l. From these tanks, the eight filling lines are fed with the required oils via a piggable matrix distribution system. The filling lines can process the great variety of our product portfolio, comprising approx. 3,500 articles, in three shifts. At 80,000 tons per year, this corresponds to 26 million containers or 104,000 containers per day. Extrapolated to a production volume of 120,000 t/a, this corresponds to 37 million containers per year or 148,000 containers per day. The great advantage of our production process lies in the high degree of flexibility. We are able to produce up to 70 different products in a single day. We achieve this through our short set-up times and our highly motivated colleagues – starting with the machine operator, shift supervisor, setter, automation technician and master craftsman, right up to the entire production management team. All work is done “hand in glove” and everything is organized down to the last detail. From a production point of view, nothing stands in the way of further growth!